What is Schema Markup?
Schema.org structured data markup is a way for companies to customise and improve the way that pages are displayed within the search results. Essentially; it’s relevant content on your website that is marked up for search engines. This markup, although not visible to users on your website as it’s in the code view, is read by Google and used to create ‘rich snippets’, ‘rich cards’ or to populate the Knowledge Panel.
What is Schema.org?
Schema.org is a collaboration between the major search engines such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex to create a standard set of schemas for structured data within web pages.
What are Rich Snippets?
Rich snippets are generated from structured data markup and help users to better understand your content within the search results. The rich snippets can display a lot of information in an eye-catching way and examples of elements that can be marked up include products, videos, events, recipes, movies and reviews. If you’ve ever seen a review rating or price next to a URL in the search results, that is just a couple of the ways that companies can use structured data markup to their advantage. The Knowledge Panel is a panel on the right hand side containing brand information for business related searches.
The primary goal is to encourage Google to use the data you are marking up to create more eye catching and useful search listings that will encourage more click-throughs and increase visibility. For example, If your product search listing has a price and review rating it will be more visually appealing and informative than a competitor’s listing on the same page for the same product.
It’s important to make sure that the appropriate schema or structured data types are chosen and implemented correctly for your business. In this article we will go through three popular types and how they can impact the look of the search results.
Businesses & Organisations Schema Markup
Marking up your business details on your website such as address, phone number and social links can encourage Google to use that information to populate the Knowledge Graph. This box is seen on the right hand side for brand searches and will display all the information that Google has available for your company.
The main schema markup chosen for companies will often be LocalBusinessor Organization. However, you should try to be as descriptive if there is a schema type that more accurately reflects your business.
The old way of implementation was to use the Microdata option. This involved adding code directly to the HTML elements on a page. This commonly causes issues and can cause web developers a lot of headaches trying to add the appropriate tags within the code. Luckily there is a better option. Google now supports and recommends using JSON-LD for certain schema types such as LocalBusiness and breadcrumbs. While this type isn’t supported yet for every type of schema, it is growing all the time and should be the preferred option if available.
Within your JSON code all visible and relevant elements should be marked up. Google allows many different items to be specified. Most companies include local information within their footer such as address details, social profiles,phone numbers email. We would recommend that a JSON LocalBusiness snippet is added to the homepage. It’s beneficial to only include it on the homepage as Google does not require it to be repeated across the website and it may clash if you have other schema code on other pages.
A very simple example of a LocalBusiness schema snippet containing basic company information.
Add any available social profiles to the code using the ‘sameAs’ type. This includes any links to wikipedia if they are available. If there are multiple locations and these are specified in the footer you should mark all these up and add links to their individual contact pages if they exist, for example: /contact/london/
You should also add markup on a contact page especially if there are multiple locations for a business. The JSON code on these pages would contain details specific to that location only. For example if you had a London Office with it’s own social profiles and Google plus page you would mark up these details on the London contact page. Make sure that all content specified exists on that page. If you are specifying links to Youtube, opening hours or adding a description, that content must physically exist on that page.
Schema is just one of the sources that Google uses to populate the Knowledge Graph. Google My Business can be used in conjunction with schema to provide specific business information. Please note that any information specified within Google My Business will take precedence over any information marked up on the website so it’s important to make sure that both contain the right content (if your knowledge panel contains incorrect info, it’s worth double checking Google My Business). Being able to populate the knowledge graph and map sections will improve how users see your brand in search results. Not only will it increase trust in your business it will also provide helpful information that will encourage clickthroughs to your website and your social media channels.
The product schema is one of the most important schema types to include if you have an e-commerce website. As mentioned above, being able to have reviews, stock status and price mentioned on the listings can be a huge benefit and help the decision process for users in the search results about whether to visit the website.
Example of a website using product schema
The markup can only be added to single product pages so make sure that if you’ve already implemented that it is not used on listing or category pages. The most common elements of a product page that can be marked up include the title, image, price, stock status and reviews. Since February 2016 Google supports the JSON-LD data type which can make implementation easier as shown by the Google example below :
Breadcrumb Schema Markup
Breadcrumbs are used to help users understand where they are within a website’s hierarchy. They assist by allowing users to easily see and navigate to other sections of the website from the page they are on and are also useful for search engines to understand the current structure.
Breadcrumbs can have schema markup applied to change the look within the search results. As you can see from the below with schema markup the URL in the search result changes from a single URL to instead showing how it is grouped.
With breadcrumb schema markup
Without breadcrumb schema markup
This can help users to better understand the categories the page is in especially if the URL isn’t as friendly as it could be. The JSON-LD format is now the recommended implementation method by Google and would look like the below example:
The required schema asks for the position, URL and the name of the breadcrumb. The name of the breadcrumb is what will appear within the search results for each section so make sure it is relevant to the category.
Event Schema Markup
If your business includes events listing you should definitely make sure that you are using the Events markup. Having the correct markup means that your event listings will show within the search results and even the knowledge graph.
Example of events within the knowledge graph
Example of events showing for an events listing page
This is extremely useful and it provides a listing of the events before the user has been on the website and contains direct links to the events or listing page. The recommend schema format for events is JSON-LD and should be applied to event listing pages.
How do I check my schema markup?
There are strict rules set out by Google on what elements of a page can be marked up and how. If your markup is incomplete or wrong, chances are that Google will ignore it entirely and leave you scratching your head as to why the search results have not changed.
To help, Google has provided a Structured Data Testing Tool which is incredibly useful at checking and debugging your schema code. The markup doesn’t even need to be online to check although you can give it a URL if you wish. Just add your code into the page and it will check it all for you. This will help give you greater peace of mind that Google will pick it up when it is added to the website.
After the schema code is online you can check that Google has found it by checking the Structured Data report in Search Console. This will notify you of the pages it was found on and also if there are any errors. If you see your pages in this there is a good chance that your URLs will be displaying your all important rich snippets.
What are Rich Cards?
On May 17th Google announced the introduction of Rich Cards which are an evolution of Rich Snippets. They also use structured data to display content in a more visually appealing way.
The visual difference between the rich snippets and rich cards can be seen below:
With Rich Cards the results can be displayed within a carousel at the top of the search results which can be browsed by scrolling left and right and stand out a lot more than the standard listings. Currently Google has only rolled out these changes for recipes and movies and for mobile searches on google.com but more types will be added in future. Google has said that websites already marked up for those types can keep the current code but there could be additional fields that could be used for Rich Cards so its worth checking the extensive Google documentation.
A new ‘Rich Cards’ section has been added within search console so if you have have either of those two types already marked up up on your website you will be able to find those within there.
Structured data markup is a fantastic way to encourage Google to create friendly and enticing search results which can bring more people to your website. While it is not a ranking factor at the moment, Google has hinted that this may change in the future meaning schema should be high on your Technical SEO to-do list. If your website already has some in place, it’s definitely worth reviewing for improvements and any new types that could be used, the more information you can give to Google, the better!