Why Schema is the Future of On-Site SEO

Schema.org

Believe it or not, this statement is accurate. Schema has been the project of major search engines since 2011. Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex have thought it over – and they’re using Schema markup even today. Let’s go through its benefits – SEO and otherwise – and how you can apply it for your website, in this post.

Webmaster’s note: Before you go on, why don’t you check out our previous post on Why Schema Might be the Next BIG Ranking Factor (Written June, 2011) to enlighten yourself about the Schema code and where you can find more information about it. This entry is an update to that post.

Questions that will be answered in this entry:

  1. What makes Schema so special?
  2. How does it affect SEO?
  3. How can I apply it in my website?
  4. Bonus: Some Schema Tricks

So let’s head on to the topic, shall we?

What Makes Schema so Special?

Schema is simply a markup that will help major search engines become smarter by feeding them data in a structured manner. It’s like feeding chopsuey to a 10 year old kid and asking that kid to identify each vegetable – it’s really tough (and not just because kids don’t like veggies!). But if you identify each vegetable to the kid, what it’s for, and then feed each one individually, the kid would be able to identify the veggies much easier.

Search engines want to be fed in a structured manner where you would identify each ingredient to it. How Schema does it, is that it would categorize items in your website that it can describe to the search engines to categories. Let’s take the “Thing” item for example:

Thing

The most generic type of item.
PropertyExpected TypeDescription
additionalTypeURLAn additional type for the item, typically used for adding more specific types from external vocabularies in microdata syntax. This is a relationship between something and a class that the thing is in. In RDFa syntax, it is better to use the native RDFa syntax – the ‘typeof’ attribute – for multiple types. Schema.org tools may have only weaker understanding of extra types, in particular those defined externally.
descriptionTextA short description of the item.
imageURLURL of an image of the item.
nameTextThe name of the item.
sameAsURLURL of a reference Web page that unambiguously indicates the item’s identity. E.g. the URL of the item’s Wikipedia page, Freebase page, or official website.
urlURLURL of the item.

 

Note: You can click on the links to check out their correlated properties and to know further details on how you can use these properties.

This item type has properties such as additionalType, description, image, name, sameAs and URL. These properties are used to further describe to search engines what the item is all about. It also tells the search engines where to find more relevant information about the item by linking to the page that contains that specific info.

Take for example the property image – this is a URL that points to a source of the image of the item. A normal HTML code of an image will look like this:

<h2>Site Speed</h2>
<img src="/Speed-up-your-website-with-CDN.jpg" />

Wherein integrating the Schema code, will make it look like this:

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/ImageObject">
<h2 itemprop="name">Site Speed</h2>
<img src="/Speed-up-your-website-with-CDN.jpg" 
itemprop="contentURL"/>

What’s the difference?

The normal HTML code will tell the search engine that this is generally an image and its most probably about site speed and the file name of the image is speed-up-your-website-with-cdn.jpg. While the Schema code will tell the search engines that this is particularly a segment about an image and the name of the image is exactly “Site Speed” and the actual URL of the image file itself is “/speed-up-your-website-with-cdn.jpg

Notice the difference? There’s one where the search engines would have to guess and rely on its semantic intelligence rather than being told particular details about what, where, when, how, etc. Making guesses from its semantic intelligence’s data gathering is not something that search engines would like to conclude from and therefore display to end-users. Search engines would rather have the particulars and facts – and show these to the end-users.

Schema is exactly for that purpose. It makes search results richer and surer for the average searcher.

This is an important development because it makes the web a more comprehensive place for search engines. If Schema will continue on and become the norm in the code of all websites, it will make the search engines wiser by feeding it more data in a structured manner. It’s already happening now. Schema is being implemented in a good number of websites. You should too.

How does it Affect SEO?

Consequently, search engines will be able to serve users better by churning out the structured data they’ve gathered into their search results page – usually in the form of rich snippets. Here’s an example of an event Schema in action:

Schema Events Rich snippets

The Schema code helps the average searcher by showing the scheduled event dates and locations right in the search results page and you can click on the specific event date and/or location that you want to attend to. How this affects SEO is by first increasing your Click Through Rate with users. Rich snippets show relevant results in a manner that is useful, easily digestible and quick (the info is right on the SERP).

Another way that Schema affects SEO is a direct ranking increase.¬†Basically there’s a claim that feeding the search engines structured data, therefore helping them understand your webpages quicker, will result it ranking increase.Read Jay Jersey’s case study on Schema microdata here.

How can I apply it in my Website?

There’s the easy, not-so-hard, and hard way. The hard way is by studying Schema documentation and hardcoding it in your HTML. Here are some resources to get you going:

Getting Started with Schema

Different types of Schemas

Schema FAQs

Schema Data Model

Schema Discussion Group

From there, you can know the Schema markup and apply it in your website’s code Mano-a-mano.

The not-so-hard way to implement this is by using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.

Google Structured Data Markup Helper

It’s not that hard if you know your HTML, really. You just need to select your structured data type, enter your URL and start tagging.

Highlight and Tag
Once you’ve completed your tagging, the right sidebar will look like this:

Google Schema ToolClick on the Create HTML button on the upper-right and scroll down to the parts with the yellow highlights in your scrollbar.

Scroll to GSDM

Copy the parts with the yellow highlighted code. That’s your Schema markup. Then paste it at the place where it should be located as indicated by the demo source code you’re seeing. It’ll be easier if you simply download the HTML source but if you’re using PHP and other scripts in your page, you might just want to install the code manually.

Copy Schema Code

After you’ve entered the code, make sure to check if your Structured data is read correctly by Google through their Structured Data Testing Tool.

The easiest way to apply Schema in your website, however, is through plugins. Since most people are using WordPress, here’s a sweet tool that will take off all the burden of manual coding for you:

Schema Creator by Raven looks very promising. Get it here.

Schema by Raven

And then there’s All in One Schema which you can get here.

All in one Schema

Some Schema Tricks to Leave you With

Schema.org & Genesis 2.0 - Joost De Valk talks about tricks using Schema with Genesis theme.

Schema Markup: How to Make Your Content More Clickable and Shareable - Ana Hoffman’s take on Schema and how you can make the best out of it.

Tips for Keeps: Those who are serious with their On-site Optimization should strongly consider implementing Schema NOW. It’s time – and everyone’s getting into it.

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Comments

  1. Jason Jersey says

    Thank you for citing my case study Sean. This is definitely a really good topic for all webmasters to take note of. In my own opinion, structured data is critical to modern day on-page SEO more so than the majority of people understand. We are simply providing the search engines what they need in order to improve the search results, and therefore they generously reward for such. One important note is, the content marketing strategy ultimately determines how generous they reward.

    • h3sean says

      It’s a pleasure Jay!
      Your post opened my eyes to the fact that structured data works really well with great content. Perhaps this can be likened to the meta tags of the 90′s – but this is much more sophisticated to the modern search algorithms.

      • Jason Jersey says

        Glad I could help. I have many more things I’ve discovered, but they are on the hush hush right now while I continue to compile the results data.

  2. EnggTechFest.com says

    thanks Sean. thanks for the post. got to know term and website schema. heard about it many times, but get to know about it now.

  3. Ana | Traffic Generation Cafe says

    I so agree, Sean – Schema markup is too important to ignore at this point.

    Markup Helper is a great tool; unfortunately, since you have to do each post by hand, it’s virtually impossible to go back to all your posts, if you’ve got a few.

    Also, All in One Schema plugin doesn’t seem to support “Article”.

    Thanks so much for the shout!

    • h3sean says

      Ana,
      Yeah – if only there was something that will automatically integrate Schema into ALL your posts – something smart that would know what kind of markup a post needs. That’d be awesome!

      Yeah all in one schema is still lacking some.

      It’s a pleasure Ana. You always have great stuff in your blog ;) and thanks for dropping by!

      • jupiterjim says

        Sean,
        great article. Ok, so if you had to choose between the two schema plugins listed, which one would you use. I understand that neither is perfect at this point. Also, I am still learning this, but apparently the new Thesis 2.1 has schema features built right into it. So that is something you might want to investigate and share with your readers as well.

        Sincerely,

        Jupiter Jim

        • h3sean says

          Jim,
          Thanks for sharing about Thesis. I’m using Genesis right now though and they too have a good Schema integration going on. Although right now I feel that it is still under development. If I had to choose, I’ll go with Raventool’s because it has more Schema types to choose from.

  4. Mike says

    Hey Sean,

    Thanks for another great read! In your article “Why Schema Might be the Next BIG Ranking Factor” you mentioned in the comments (from about 6 months ago) that you had removed the Schema test code from your site and that the Schema code was most effective for review sites. I’m assuming this isn’t still the case and it’s effective for a broader variety of sites than just review sites, correct? also have you placed the Schema code on all your site’s pages? Like I said before, I’m assuming the answer to the previous questions is yes, but can you confirm?

    • h3sean says

      Mike,
      Schema has improved since I last put that comment. Now I’m trying to figure out how to AUTOMATICALLY put Schema in all my pages without me having to go through them one by one. I’m researching into this so as to save time. If there’s a code existing to do this, that’d be awesome, if not, Raven’s Schema tool is your best shot.

  5. Debojyoti Ghosh says

    Thats a nice piece of information Sean. I have also
    used review ratings as schema in my website and its performance has
    increased tremendously. Schema markup is a very effective way to attract visitors.

    Thanks for sharing this information.

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