Schema optimization has been a big subject in SEO circles, yet very few businesses are using it. In fact, only about 1% of websites on the Web are using Schema markup. Why? It’s too damn technical!!!
Fear not; Brady D. Callahan does a great job of making all of this geeky terminology (itemscope, itemtype, etc.) as accessible as possible. Brady is currently running SEO at Home Depot, and is one of the top technical SEO experts I know on the subject of Schema and markup.
Below you can find the full chapter from my book, “SEO Like I’m 5: The Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Optimization,” which was entirely written by Brady.
Stick with us, because the results will pay off for you big time!
Schema Optimization Basics
What is Schema? Schema is the preferred markup search engines — Google, Bing, and others — recommend webmasters use to ‘mark-up’ their website’s HTML pages. Its purpose is to increase the major search providers’ understanding of the web in order to create better, more in-depth search results.
The search engines rely on this microdata to improve and diversify search results, helping users more easily find the best webpages for respective search queries. Google wants users to find the best answers as quickly as possible, and schema helps them sort and rank web content more efficiently.
In short, websites that implement schema markup help search engines help users by serving higher-quality search results.
Microdata from schema.org is important because of the heavy impact it has on search engine results pages (SERPs). When you mark up certain content on your website with schema, you’re helping the search engines understand ‘exactly’ what your content is and how it should be treated.
For example, when a search engine bot crawls your site and finds a page about ‘the Iron Horse,’ how does it know if you’re referring to the band, the 1924 silent film, or the bicycle company?
Schema data helps search engines categorize the different ‘iron horses’ into entities they can grasp and understand, creating a more relevant SERP that better serves users.
This creates unique ‘snippets’ — additional content under or along with the main listing — in the SERPs that stand out in a dramatic way. There’s even data that shows these snippets attract more attention and clicks from users than links that do not include them.
One of the most obvious examples of the importance of using Schema is the Google Knowledge Graph, a SERP feature that is fed by a complicated link graph that understands entities and the relationships among them.
Using schema markup enables your web pages to appear with a variety of different snippets, helping them stand out from the rest of the results, receive more clicks, hopefully leading to additional business.
Do you care about increasing traffic to your website, expanding your customer base, and growing your business’ online revenue?
Then you should care about schema.
How Do I Add Schema to My Website?
Like other microdata formats, schema is added directly into the HTML code, providing search engines with additional context when they crawl a web page. Schema.org provides a real-life example by using the 2009 blockbuster hit movie, “Avatar.”
The following screenshots of HTML show a basic comparison of a snippet of plain-HTML code versus a snippet that’s full of schema markup to help search engines understand exactly what “Avatar” is, who is involved in the project, and the genre of film.
This is done using three of the most common elements of schema: item scope, item type, and item prop.
While these terms may currently have no meaning to you, they’re quite simple for beginners to grasp. They represent the hierarchy by which all schema data is incorporated into HTML on a webpage.
By adding the itemscope element, you’re notifying the search engine that the following block of information is about a particular item. You’re defining the item’s scope, if you will.
Second, within the itemscope element is the item type, allowing you to tell the search engine what type of item the following block of information is. In this example, ‘Avatar’ is correctly categorized under the movie type.
Finally, itemprop allows you to drill deeper into a particular itemtype, providing details on other people, places, and things related to the respective item.
At the end of the example, the search engine not only understands that “Avatar” is a movie, but it knows that James Cameron directed the film, and it understands that it falls under the science fiction genre.
These details will go a long way to help Google and other search engines return a better result for the search queries relevant to this page. The information may even be included in the Knowledge Graph or in an answer box, a “pop out” result at the top of the SERP that gets a significant amount of a SERP’s impressions and clicks.
‘Movie’ is one of thousands of itemtypes — and their corresponding itemprops — you have at your disposal. Your business, regardless of the industry or niche it’s in, or the content you create, has an opportunity to use schema markup.
Useful Schema Resources:
The Future of Schema, Machine Learning, and Snippets
The schema vocabulary will only continue to grow. Search engine understanding — we’re essentially talking about machine learning here — is an endless endeavor that will never be ‘complete.’ The number of itemtypes and itemprops will expand and multiply in the name of further understanding of entities and the relationships among them.
Schema markup can produce snippets for a variety of content — recipes, videos, reviews, and more — but Google is also always tweaking their SERPs, adding and removing snippets as their algorithm sees fit.
However, I maintain the biggest benefit to adding schema to your website now is to be ahead of the curve. As of the summer of 2014, according to Searchmetrics, less than 1% of U.S. domains have schema markup implemented.
The good news is that it’s amazingly easy to implement schema on your WordPress site through a Plug-in. I recommend the All in One Schema.org Rich Snippets Plugin from Brainstorm Force.
Once you’ve installed it, you can customize micro-data from within the editing window for each of your site’s posts or pages in just a few seconds.
Whether you’re an owner of a business big or small, an experienced webmaster, or a novice SEO, it’s time to join the effort to build a smarter web!