What is schema markup?
In short, schema is a little bit of code that’s only visible to search engine crawlers (Google, Bing, and the like). The code tells the crawlers information about the content on the website. Each page has information attached that’s easily collected and categorized for search engine results. Schema is also commonly called “structured data”, “rich snippets”, or “microdata”. We’ll stick with the term “schema” for our blog.
On the user side, schema shows up as short answers (those big, bold, first-result entries on SERPS) product previews, local maps, and organization information, among other representations (like ratings and reviews for new movie releases). The information is pulled directly from data placed there within the CMS to indicate what the site, or more specifically, what specific content on the site is about. More on how it gets there—soon.
Why is schema important?
Because every website is built differently, schema was created to give crawlers information directly—like a shortcut to buried treasure for any web search query. When a website is created, the developer “tells” the search engine the exact info that should be displayed for specific search queries in the results for the business. It’s vital to have schema on your website to ensure that your business is represented correctly (and in full) when your customer base is searching for you.
If you’ve ever searched for a customer service number (for example, when you have an airport delay) you want to find the customer service number quickly and easily. Simply search for “customer service American Airlines” and the number will come up right away as a short answer, thanks to the schema markup AA applied on their website.
What are the types of schema?
There are many different kinds of schema markup; the top three schema types that are most used are organization, local, and article schema.
This is arguably the most important schema of all, as it pertains to a business site. It shows your business’s founding year, phone number, services, name and anything else you’ve chosen to tag. On the flip side, it doesn’t really apply if you have a website that represents a person (author, actor, etc.)
Local business schema markup gives search engines the information to correctly display your location, your service types (and departments), and your hours of operation for easy, at-a-glance results. Along with this, you can include reviews for your services within this category.
This commonly used schema markup data is ideal for blogs, articles, and similar long-form web content. You can even indicate the featured image along with the title (should Google choose to show it) and then your article should appear similarly to how you’d like it to show up.
Beyond these three common schemas, there are a number of schemas that can be used, depending on your website goals.
If you’re an e-commerce website, product schema will help portray the items you have for sale, with the appropriate image, price, availability (whether it’s in stock) and where it can be purchased. If you’ve ever searched for a specific product, you’ve likely seen an image result that shows each of these details, built from different companies’ website product schema.
If you have a position opening, career schema will come in handy for posting job information. Career opportunities available can appear in search results (as short answers) showing the jobs available for anyone who is searching for an “IT Developer position” or something similar.
Another important schema type is one used for FAQs and is one of several reasons we often recommend FAQ pages. Indicating questions and answers on your website through schema gives the search engine crawlers a quick heads up that when a searcher is asking a question in the search query, you are a great fit as you have that question and a quick answer the search engine can show in the search results. As more and more people search using questions (rather than a phrase), this has become more important for those vying for ever-crowded space in the SERP.
How do I apply schema?
For the most part, the most common ways to apply schema are through plugins for WordPress such as Yoast (the most popular) SEOpress, or All-in-one SEO. These can allow you to dynamically apply a set of schema to a group of pages. Keep in mind that having the free version of these plugins may not include schema as part of the package. Using these plugins, the web designer can set up the “formula”: create categories (like articles, products, and contact pages), and apply schema for a specific category. Then, each time you create a page within that category, the schema will be automatically applied. Even if you create a schema after creating multiple pages within a specific category, that schema will be retroactively applied. You pick the categories and rules, and the schema follows suit. For example, organization schema will go on the home page, and article schema will go on your blog pages.
This method is helpful if you have a fully customized site that doesn’t allow plugins or automation and you can only edit the code manually. It’s also useful when you have a single page that doesn’t fit into your ready-made categories, but you’d like to optimize it for search with schema markup.
In order to find a code generator for your purposes, you can google the type of schema you want to apply + code generator. Once you find the right generator for you, just type in what you’re looking for and copy and paste the bit of code that you need. For example, search “career schema JSON generator”. Schema.org also provides info on how to create the code yourself, but plugging in the data for a code generator will take considerably less time, and may help you avoid errors along the way.
When do I apply schema?
Schema can be applied at any point, but it’s best to map out schema before you create or redesign your site. This gives you the opportunity to build out certain categories, also called “taxonomy” or “post types”. (Tip: If you’re using a Shopify, Wix, or a Squarespace site, these CMS will have their own list of plugins or apps that can help you accomplish this.) Once you decide where to apply schema, a web developer can execute on your strategy.
Did I apply schema markup correctly?
Is your information consistent? Did you set up your categories the right way? Are your search results showing your business the way you wanted? In order to know that your schema is applied correctly, use a schema test tool (free from Google). We prefer the rich test results, which is more user-friendly, as it gives a list of green checkboxes, warning signs, or red exclamation points, depending on whether you have something missing (or if it’s completely wrong), so you can fix it piece-by-piece.
Schema markup can be a huge benefit for your website visibility. It offers users an easy way to view correct data pulled from your site, and it boosts your SEO in a major way. Using schema can help your organic search results with social proof via star ratings and reviews that show up with your search result entry. Schemas add color (in a sea of black and blue) and answers to your entry on the results page, and help you physically take up a larger amount of space in the SERPS than your competitors. Bottom line? Schema’s good digital business strategy.