A Short (But Exhaustive) Marketing Guide to Schema Markup

TL;DR

  1. Plan out the Schema Markup strategy
  2. Generate JASON-LD code
  3. Customize and test the code
  4. Add code to a web page
  5. Monitor and measure the business impact

What is Schema.org?

Schema.org is a standardized semantic vocabulary of tags (or microdata) used to mark up web content and make it machine-readable. Marking up a webpage will drastically improve search engine’s understanding of the content and increases the possibility of appearing in knowledge panels, voice search results, answer boxes, rich snippets and featured snippets such as these:

featured snippets-rush-media-agency

Why Schema Markup Matters?

You should care about schema for two reasons.

The first reason is that schema markup is an efficient and underutilized marketing tactic. Content discovery and improved SERP-placement leads to higher click-through-rates and higher customer engagement.

This study by Schema App showed a 160% increase in YoY click volume after the SAP website was marked up.

Today less then 1/3rd of the websites have schema and only 12.29% of search queries have featured snippets in their search results. With the growth of digital voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri and Google Home consumers are shifting to voice search and 40.7% of all voice search answers come from a featured snippets.

The second reason is philosophical. Schema markup semantically connects and describes data by adding meaning and context. It facilitates machine-understanding and supports a creation of knowledge graphs which are the foundation of the semantic web, a future global brain of the internet.

In his seminal 2001 article The Semantic Web, Tim Berners-Lee, imagined a Magna Carta for the future web 3.0, where semantics, structure, and shared standards will allow humans to speak with intelligent machines in order to access automated services. Where the “day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines”.

musical knowledge graph

What are knowledge graphs?

A knowledge graph is a knowledge base that describes real world entities and their interrelations, organized in a graph. It acquires and integrates information into an ontology that allows both humans and machines to understand. In 2012, Google introduced its Knowledge Graph, as a semantic enhancement of Google’s search that does not match strings, but enables rich representations in SERP as well as to answer voice questions by Google Assistant and Google Home.

Google’s  Knowledge Graph, was leveraging DBpedia and Freebase and later incorporated microdata formats from the pages they index, based on the vocabularies published by schema.org. Today major companies, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Airbnb, Microsoft, Amazon, Uber and eBay have created their own “knowledge graphs” that power semantic searches and enable smarter processing and delivery of data.

Further readings:

Ehrlinger, Lisa; Wöß, Wolfram (2016). Towards a Definition of Knowledge Graphs

McCusker, James P.; McGuiness, Deborah L. “What is a Knowledge Graph?“. www.authorea.com. Retrieved 21 March 2017.

 

What is JSON-LD?

Microdata and RDFa can be used to output structured data on a website , however we will focus on Google’s favorite format: JSON-LD (JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data).

JSON-LD is a method of encoding linked data using JSON in JavaScript and other Web-based programming environments. It is easy to edit, to customize and to add as a snippet into a head or body of a page.

JSON-LD Rush media agency

I recommend using JSON-LD syntax for the following reasons:

  1. JSON-LD is considered to be simpler to implement, due to the ability to simply paste the markup within the HTML document.
  2. It’s both machine and human understandable.
  3. Search engines like Google are creating enhancements and some rich results are only achievable with mark-up implemented by JSON-LD. This means that as search engines roll out newer, fancier search features, your Schema markup will be ready for these in the future.
  4. JSON-LD is also much easier to scale and work with than other formats.

For more here is a great MOZ article about JSON-LD for beginners. 

Part 1: Choose a “type” and its “properties”

There are over 840 schema “types” (classes or entities). Here are the most popular “types”: Article, Event, JobPosting, LocalBusiness, Organization, Person, Product, Recipe. “Types” are defined and connected with “properties”. For examples schedule can be added to an Event type with the eventSchedule property, ticketing information may be added via the offers property etc.

Properties are either required and recommended.

  • Required properties for NewsArticle schema are: headline & image.
  • Recommended properties for NewsArticle type are: datePublished, author, publisher, dateModified, description, MainEntityOfPage etc.

To be noted that for “types”, schema.org uses PascalCase. Properties are written in camelCase.

Also, remember that Google rewards websites that are structured like academic papers where a sitemap is the table of contents, your pages answer specific questions and your links act as academic references.

A very basic strategy would be find out what is a simple question in your market space. Then, come up with a straightforward answer that is summarized in a short paragraph or with a bullet point list. Also add a relevant image. Then implement the FAQPage schema.

See Appendix 1 for the most popular Schema Types.

Part 2. Generate JASON-LD code

Choose a generator that is the best fit for the schema you would like to implement. Some of it comes to personal preference and some generators have options that others dont. Keep in mind that you can always easily modify and customize the code once its generated.

Schema Markup Generators

  1. Schema Markup Generator by Merkle.
  2. Google’s Structured Data Highlighter allows you to visually tag elements of your web page so that Google can generate the appropriate schema markup.
  3. RankRanger Schema Markup Generator
  4. Steal Our JSON-LD Generator
  5. Microdata generator
  6. JSON-LD Generator by Hall Analysis.
schema markup generator rush media agency

Part 3. Test and customize your code

Once you generated the code paste it into the Google’s Structured data testing tool and verify if there are warnings or errors.

schema testing rush media agency

You can also use the testing tool to customize your schema. You add additional properties and make your schema extremely rich. For example for LocalBusiness schema you can add propreties such as:

  • “sameAs”  to add social media listings
  • “hasMap” to connect maps to the business
  • “areaServed” to add a wikidata entity for the region
  • “geo” for geocoordinates
  • etc

To get the map link for “hasMap” locate your business listing in Google Maps. Use the menu top left search bar and select share or embed.

get map link rush media agency

You can use this geographic tool to get the lat long coordinates from an address. Type the address which would include the name of the city/town, state and street name to get more accurate lat long value.

For “areaServed” use a Wikidata link. Wikidata is a collaboratively edited knowledge graph hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation. It acts as central storage for the structured data of its Wikimedia sister projects including Wikipedia, Wikivoyage, Wikisource, and others. Wikidata is important because it is one of the structured data sources that allows Google to provide logical answers is rooted in the semantic connections provided by structured data entries across the web (like Wikipedia, Wikidata and the CIA Factbook) and within Google’s private Knowledge Vault.

You can also leverage Wikidata to gain a Google Knowledge Graph result:

  1. Create a Wikipedia profile.
  2. Create a profile on Wikidata.org profile
  3. Implement organization schema markup on your website and specify the Wikidata and your Wikipedia page links using the SameAs elements.

Part 4. Implement schema markup on your website

Schema JSON-LD markup can be implemented by:

  • Manually adding the JSON-LD Schema markup: adding it  manually doesn’t scale, but if you don’t have too many pages, it shouldn’t cause a problem. Google’s Data highlighter will be useful here.
schema markup implementation
  • Your Content Management System (CMS): If you’re adding Schema to many pages, it makes sense to have functionality for that in your CMS, re-using your existing fields for Schema purposes. My favorite plugin for WordPress is: the Markup (JSON-LD) structured in the schema.org plugin.
JSON-LD plugin
  • Tag Managers (not recommended): SEO experts like implementing Schema markup through Tag Managers, because it doesn’t require going through development to implement it. We don’t recommend adding Schema markup using Tag Managers because this relies on JavaScript to be executed, and Google has limited resources available for this. In practice, this means that it will take a lot longer for your Schema implementation to be picked up and shown by search engines. After you make changes, it will again take a lot longer compared to implementing it directly in HTML. On top of that, several search engines – Yahoo, Yandex, and Baidu – don’t execute JavaScript at all. It appears as if Bing is slowly starting to execute Javascript, but they are still far from where Google is right now in terms of their scale and abilities.

When implementing structured data, don’t forget Google’s guidelines to being accepted for enhanced snippets, and to prevent a possible Google penalty.

Part 5. Monitor and measure the business impact

Once you implemented schema you can evaluate the impact by looking at individual page metrics such as these:

  1. Traffic
  2. Click-through-rate %
  3. Bounce rate
  4. Time on Page
  5. Search Features: rich snippets, answer box, etc.

You can measure the impact of the markup with Google Analytics or Google Search Console that will provide you with:

  • Total clicks
  • Total impressions
  • Average click-through rate
  • Average position

When you log into Search Console click on “Open Report”.

GSC Rush Media agency

You can choose a specific page:

You can add a date filter and compare periods:

Compare the click-through rates of pages with schema to the click-through rate of the page before schema, or with the site as a whole or with pages without schema.

Schema FAQ

Do Bing and Yahoo’s support for Schema.org?

In March 2018, Bing began supporting Schema.org. They support the following Schema types via Microformats, RDFa, and JSON-LD (similar to Google):

  • Breadcrumbs
  • Business / Organization
  • Event
  • Person
  • Product and offers
  • Recipe
  • Review / Aggregated review / ClaimReview

If you need more information, it can be found in their help section about marking up your site. Yahoo’s webmaster resources don’t specify their support for Schema.org, but they do support it. As it is powered by Bing, Yahoo Search seems to support the same Schema types as Bing does.

Yandex

Yandex supports the following Schema types, via Microformats only:

Find more information here at the Yandex Webmaster Support section on Schema.org.

Baidu

Baidu doesn’t support Schema.org yet, although in 2017, they mentioned that they’d be aiming at supporting it.  Different search engines have different requirements. If you depend on multiple search engines, you might risk running into some compatibility issues. Different search engines require different properties, so remember that search engines may want to see different, or more complete data. Again, here we suggest to use as much data as possible, so that the search engines can grab as much information as possible. It doesn’t hurt to add more!

Does structured data such as Schema.org lead to higher rankings?

Yes and no. Although structured data is not a direct ranking factor, it does impact your rankings within searches. Structured data allows you to get more clicks on your snippets, which leads to a higher CTR. Many SEOs believe that CTR impacts rankings by sending a quality signal to search engines.

Google’s figured out my content type on their own. Do I really need Schema?

It is rare that Google can figure out content types without help from structured data. You still need Schema in order to increase the chances of showing enhanced or featured snippets for your content. Remember, your competition is using every trick in the book, so to ensure you’re stating competitive, you want to use every tool you can!

Can I force Google to enhance my snippets after I implement structured data?

Unfortunately, no. It’s up to Google’s discretion to enhance your snippets. Remember that it can take weeks before Google recognizes your structured data, and it still may not be valid, so they may end up disregarding it.

Why isn’t Google showing my reviews for the homepage?

Google does not show review data for the homepage for any websites. They will, however, show review data for other pages (aside from the homepage).

Appendix 1: Most common schema types

Schema type: Article

The Article schema type is the generic heading for NewsArticle and BlogPosting.

 Article is the generic definition for an article, making it too broad to gain many clicks. You want your content to be as specific as possible: enter NewsArticle and BlogPosting.

  • NewsArticle: is used by publishers.
  • BlogPosting: is used for blog articles.

The NewsArticle schema can be used with Google, as it shows advanced snippets for this type of search. To qualify as a NewsArticle  using Google, there are a number of checks in place for your article to be shown in the results. 

Please note that even if you don’t mark up your news articles with the NewsArticle Schema type, search engines may still show an enhanced snippet if you’re included in their news results. In Google’s case, there’s a vetting process you have to go through in order to be included in those results. Just marking up your articles with the NewsArticle Schema type does not mean you’ll automatically get into the news results. If you are included, we always recommend implementing theNewsArticle Schema type. Search engines are able to identify your news article to a certain extent, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, and implement that NewsArticle markup!

Important properties for NewsArticle

Google analyzes required versus recommended properties when dealing with Schema. Some properties are not a requirement from Google, but they are strongly suggested to give as much detail as possible, regarding your content type. Google also recognizes AMP and non-AMP news articles, requiring more properties for AMP marked up news articles.

Here are the main differences between required and recommended properties:

Required properties

The properties below are required for NewsArticle:

Property Type Description
headline Text The article’s headline – a maximum of 110 characters.
image ImageObject or URL One or more images, at least 696 px wide.

Recommended properties

The properties below are highly recommended for NewsArticle:

Property Type Description
datePublished Date The date when the article was published.
author Person The definition of the author.
publisher Organization The definition of the publisher.
dateModified Date The date when the article was last modified.
description Text A description of the article.
mainEntityOfPage CreativeWork or URL Indicates a page (or other CreativeWork) for which this “thing” is the main entity being described.

Please note that in July 2018 Google changed its documentation on the NewsArticle Schema type to explicitly state that they recommend defining the properties “datePublished” and “dateModified”.

Additional reading about the NewsArticle Schema

For more information about NewsArticle, check out:

Schema type: Organization

For information about an organization, including the website, logo, social media outlets and contact information, use the Organization Schema type. (This schema type is only used for organizations without a physical address. Otherwise, the  LocalBusiness schema type should be used.)

Enhanced snippet of Organization

A knowledge graph card (the block on the right hand side of a search engine result page) reflects the enhanced snippet of an organization. These profiles are only awarded to well-known brands or online businesses. 

An example follows:

Enhanced snippet

Important properties for Organization

The following will describe the required and recommended properties for Organization.

Required properties

The Schema type Organization only uses one required property: the URL. This does very little to improve the traffic to your website. However, using schema to give as many details as possible will drive traffic much more effectively. 

Property Type Description
url URL Your homepage URL.

Recommended properties

The more recommended properties you include, the better the search engine will be able to give specific information about your organization. 

Property Type Description
logo ImageObject or URL The URL for your company’s logo. Additional requirements: it must have a minimum of 112 x 112px, and it must be in .jpg, .png, or .gif format.
sameAs URL Used to define one or more of an organization’s social media profiles. Supported platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Myspace, Pinterest, SoundCloud and Tumblr
contactPoint ContactPoint One or more contactPoint records.

Additional reading about the Organization Schema 

If you want to read more about Organization, check out:

Schema type: Person

Schema type person

The Person Schema type is, of course, referring to a person. Frequently, this schema type is used to define the author of an article using Author, but can refer to a person’s role within an organization.

Enhanced snippet of Person

The enhanced snippet for Person is the knowledge graph card, just like with Organization. Here’s what comes up when we search for “Steve Jobs”:

contentking-schema-person-knowledge-card@1x

Important properties for Person

Person does not have many required properties. As previously mentioned, the more details, the better, so it is strongly encouraged to implement recommended properties in addition to require properties. 

Required properties

The Schema type Person  has one required property. It won’t help much to include only this information if you want to increase your website’s clicks. 

Property Type Description
name Text The name of the person.

Recommended properties

These recommended properties help to describe the person in clearer detail. 

Property Type Description
url URL URL for the person’s website.
sameAs URL Used to define one or more social media profiles. Supported platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Myspace, Pinterest, SoundCloud and Tumblr
birthDate Date The person’s date of birth.
birthPlace Place The person’s place of birth.
affiliation Organization The organization that the person’s affiliated with.

Additional reading about the Person Schema

If you want to read more about what you can do with the Person Schema type, check out these resources: