Whether it’s your preferred social networking site, your go-to technology blog, or the place where you buy your socks online – websites are constantly evolving to offer their user, simply, an easier experience. Search engines are no exception. In fact, if they weren’t evolving, the ease at which we find things online wouldn’t be as fast and accurate as what we’ve become used to today. I mean, can you even imagine the world if Google was slow, inaccurate, and didn’t have endearing, seasonal doodles? So 1997! Today, search engines are keen for websites to utilise a form of HTML markup to further help them understand the information on the pages. Introducing, Schema markup data!

Schema refers to a type of code that a website can use to explain to the search engine more about what exactly it crawled. For users, the search engines can interpret and present information to us in ways that help us find what we’re looking for much more simply.  Interestingly, Schema.org (a site dedicated to providing a universally supported markup vocabulary) came about after major search engines collaborated to create a richer web. Thank you, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex!

So, schema markup: what does it do? If SEO refers to creating an optimal site for search engines to read; then schema markup literally points out the information and describes what it is the search engine is reading.

Schema Markup Data: Who is it for?

Frankly, Schema markup is useful for all websites. However, the purpose of a website should influence the type of schema markup data they choose to implement. For example, a website which sells shoes is classed as a transactional website – in that the purpose of the site is for customers to purchase something and complete a transaction. On the other hand, a website that offers users the latest health-conscious recipes is classified as informational, as they generate revenue through adverts or other traffic based monetization methods. It’s these purposes which should dictate how to present information to the user as to not negatively affect CTRs and traffic; something which we will touch upon further down.

Structured markup data can generate rich snippets in the search engine results page.  No longer do consumers even need to browse a website to find what they are looking for. These rich snippets can vary depending on what type of markup has been used. Examples include price and stock data, reviews, and contact info – all available from the search engine results page.

Google Rich Snippet ratings example for hotel

How Does Structured Data Help SEO?

For webmasters, the benefits are beyond simply maximising kerb appeal within SERPs. In fact, utilising schema positively affects organic SEO efforts.  By providing more information, the search engine crawlers are more accurately able to understand your website and its context on the internet.  The search engine is then more likely to provide your website to searchers who genuinely are looking for you, or something that your site is able to offer.

There’s a great example over on the Schema site which uses the film Avatar to demonstrate the usefulness of its structured markup data.

Example of Schema Markup Data

In this example Schema elements “itemscope” and “itemtype” markup the data on the website. The itemscope element specifies that the HTML contained within the <div> block is about something. Itemtype gives further information by explaining that the item is, in fact, a movie. The search engine will now be able to read this information and interpret that the data is about Avatar the movie and nothing else associated with the word avatar.

Structured Data: Are There Any Disadvantages?

It may seem bizarre to even consider the fact that something which is positively affecting SEO could pose any negatives. However, as mentioned earlier, informational websites which rely on content to build a steady traffic presence must be careful about how they choose to implement this type of HTML markup.

Let’s enter the mindset of a searcher who has turned to their favourite trusty search engine to pose a simple but immeasurably important question – easy pancake recipe?

Structured data can present the information to the user on the SERP as a rich snippet.

For example:Rich Snippet Recipe Example

For the searcher, they don’t even have to click on to the website to fulfil their request. The search engine results display all the ingredients, method and previous pancake-maker ratings directly to the searcher. So, question is, does the searcher need to click on the website? For sites which rely on income through ad monetization, this could seriously affect their traffic. You could argue, however, that the rich snippet is an excellent preview of the site’s content. Some people would then be more inclined to click through and browse because of a more trustworthy, and accurate to what they are searching for, experience.

We first touched upon Featured Snippets in a previous article that highlighted the oft-misleading, and potentially unreliable, nature of the information they can provide.

How to get started with structured data

The SEO landscape is constantly evolving. That’s what makes it so interesting. Chances are, what worked a few years ago, now does little to impact SEO efforts. Though structured data wasn’t considered a ranking factor, perhaps why only a staggering 0.3% of sites had added it to their web pages, it has been more than hinted that in the future it could be.  It’s a good idea to jump on the bandwagon fast with this one, grasp the different types of schema markup that can help your website and see what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t.

Google has created a helpful tool dubbed the Google Structured Data Markup Helper. No prizes for guessing what it does! The tool is great to quickly markup data on your website and hand-holds you through the process. You then simply copy + paste it into your CMS.

It seems unusual that search engines gave us schema markup vocabulary, and Google literally walks you through adding it to your site. Yet most people haven’t taken the hint by marking up their data. By learning more about how it can help your site’s SEO now before it becomes popular, or perhaps even necessary, you will benefit in the long run.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

  • Structured data increases the search engines understanding of your site.
  • Can help enhance search visibility via rich snippets in the SERP.
  • Various types of markup data can help all different sites.
  • Google’s Data Markup tool will walk you through applying it to your website.
  • Rather we did it for you? Contact our team for a chat.