Why you should be using Schema markup

SEM can be one big rush to the summit of search results, but there is a little known method of adding a little extra something to your listings which can give your SEO a boost.

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What is Schema markup?

Schema markup is similar to that piece of chocolate you give your children to get them on your side. It’s not the only method of winning them over, but it can be that much needed incentive to make them play ball.

Obviously Schema markup isn’t chocolate, it is a shared vocabulary used to help search engines understand the content of a website, using meta data and structured markup. Search engines use this code to generate rich snippets to be displayed in SERPs. But you see what I mean about the chocolate, right? It can be a way of convincing search engines to ignore your competitors, in return for some sweet knowledge.

What does Schema allow a user to do?

Schema allows webmasters and marketers to inform search engines of the most important pages or parts of a website, which in turn can be displayed as rich snippets in search results. It is not a ranking factor, but it can improve a website’s SEO performance.

But what is a rich snippet?

A snippet is a listing displayed in any search engine, and a rich snippet has more information than a standard snippet.

Rich snippets are often found in the results for recipes, reviews, and how to guides but realistically any search can result in a rich snippet being displayed. I have used a search for taco recipes as an example, which has a decent number of rich snippets results, which include reviews, calorie information and so on. Information like this can be a real deal breaker for click through rates.

Take the two beef tacos for example: One has 447 calories and the other only 120. Dieters are not going to be interested in Mr. Oliver’s calorific tacos, so they probably won’t click. But non-dieters are likely to be less concerned with the number of calories, so may be drawn in by the 5 star review. Can you see how it works?

How to check if you are using Schema markup

The Google Structured Data Testing Tool is all you need to check for structured markup. Simply copy and paste a URL into the box on the site and hit ‘run test’. The results will be displayed with the HTML code on the left hand side of the screen, with any detected Schema on the right. If you find some Schema results, simply click on the box and expand it to see more information.

How to use Schema markup

IMDb is a fantastic example of how to use Schema markup. If you search for any movie in Google you are likely to see an IMDb result near the top of the page, which shows a star rating, how many people have voted, and includes clickable links. I tried it myself by searching for Commando:

Running this page through the Google test produced these results.

Expanding the Schema titled ‘Movie’, displays exactly what IMDb is telling search engines about this particular page. But I will let you see the results for yourself as there’s quite a bit in there – from the movie title and description, to date published and user reviews.

However, when you run the IMDb home page through the test, there is no Schema markup at all. Presumably because they know people will search for the movie in a search engine, as opposed to searching for IMDb and then searching for the film.

What can you do with all this knowledge?

Schema can be used for a number of different websites and in a multitude of ways, a list of which can be found here. The markup can include details of a recipe or review similar to the examples I provided above, but it can also be used to improve local SEO, provide product details or set a specific industry type – the list really does go on.

Finally, Google has a nifty tool to give you a hand if you are looking to add structured data to your website.

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