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How to Use Schema Markup for SEO: Making Your Site Easier to Find for Stupid Machines

March 20, 2014
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SEO Marketing

Including schema microdata in your web pages is a lot like eating well, exercising or getting a good night’s rest – you know you should be doing it, but actually following through can be harder than it sounds. Unless you’re a health nut, in which case please stop telling us about Crossfit.

Although schema and other structured markup formats have been around for several years, relatively few sites bother to include schema microdata, and even fewer people actually know what schema is or what it’s for. However, there’s no need to be embarrassed – we’re going to answer your questions about schema and why you should make it an integral part of your SEO strategy. Pay attention – there’s a test at the end*.

*Not really

What is Schema?

Schema is a type of microdata that makes it easier for search engines to parse and interpret the information on your web pages more effectively so they can serve relevant results to users based on search queries.

What is Schema.org?

Schema.org is the centralized home on the web for the Schema project, a collaboration between Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Russian search engine Yandex (the one trying out search without links) to standardize structured markup.

How Does Schema Work?

As with other markup formats, schema microdata is applied to the content of a page to define exactly what it is and how it should be treated. Schema elements and attributes can be added directly to the HTML code of a web page to provide the search engines’ crawlers with additional information.

In the example below from schema.org, which focuses on content about James Cameron’s 2009 movie, “Avatar”, you can see that adding the itemtype attribute to the relevant <div> block makes it easier for search engines to identify that this content relates to a movie, as defined by the schema.org type hierarchy. Similarly, the addition of the itemscope attribute specifies that everything contained in that particular <div> block references a specific item – in this case, James Cameron’s $237 million remake of “Fern Gully.”

Let’s look at another example from schema.org:

Times and dates can be very difficult for search engines to interpret correctly. This is due to differences in how dates are formatted, whether the event in question took place in the past or is scheduled to occur in the future, and the fact that search engines (like all computers) are actually pretty stupid. In this example, the inclusion of the Event itemtype attribute makes it clear that this is an event taking place on a specific date (as you can see by the addition of the startDate and datetime attributes), making it easier for search engines to return relevant results to the user. This eliminates any ambiguity for users searching for information about the 1984 film of the same name, which is arguably one of the finest movies ever made. Unlike “Avatar.”

Can Schema Improve SEO?

Including schema microdata in your HTML code can help search engine crawlers interpret the content of your pages more effectively. This, in turn, can increase your visibility. However, it’s important to note that including schema (or any other structured markup format) in your code is not a quick and dirty SEO “hack” – instead, think of schema as a best practice to make it easier for search engines to find and display your content.

Does Schema Improve Search Rankings?

No, not at this time. Google claims that the inclusion of schema microdata is not currently used as a ranking signal. However, it does improve your site’s rich snippets, which can help your site appear more prominently in SERPs.

What Else Can Schema Do for Me?

Aside from making it easier for search engines to properly categorize your site’s content, marking up your pages with schema microdata can also be used to define and display rich snippets of your content in SERPs. Contrary to common misconception, Google does in fact use schema markup to display rich snippets. Clear, concise rich snippets can result in higher click-through rates, as users can quickly and easily determine whether the content on your site is what they’re looking for.

Image credit: Google

How Do I Markup My Pages with Schema Microdata?

Okay, I’ll level with you – marking up your pages with schema microdata can be kind of a pain, especially if your site has hundreds (or thousands) of pages. The markup has to be added manually to each page, which is a lot of work for larger sites. However, if you’re still in the planning stages or have a smaller site (lucky you), then adding schema microdata will be less hassle. Follow the steps outlined in this guide to get started. Once you’re satisfied with your markup, use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to check that everything is working correctly.

Do I Have to Markup Every Property on Every Page?

No, but the more properties you apply schema microdata to, the clearer the nature and purpose of your site’s content will be to the search engines. Also, it’s worth remembering that you have to apply schema markup to a certain number of properties before Google can create rich snippets using your microdata. You can check what information can be extracted from your markup using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

What About Facebook Open Graph and Twitter Cards?

Some marketers mistakenly believe that including Open Graph tags (and Twitter Cards, to a lesser extent) is all they need to do to ensure that their content is as shareable as possible. However, schema microdata can be used in conjunction with social media tags to provide search engines with even more detail about a page’s content. Include schema markup alongside your Open Graph tags to make your content shareable and highly optimized.

Does Schema Support Other Markup Data Types?

Yes. When Google announced the schema.org project, a lot of webmasters were dismayed to learn that information types supported by other structured markup formats weren’t compatible with schema microdata. Google listened, and now schema plays nice with data types featured in RDFa and other formats.

Can I Add to the Schema Vocabulary?

Kind of. Schema’s type hierarchy contains many commonly used item types. Most have relevant subtypes, but the extent of these subtypes can vary. In some cases, you might want to add your own item types to your markup. You can do this by using extensions. To create a custom item type, simply add a slash at the end of an existing item type, and enter the new term.

Person/Engineer/ElectricalEngineer

In the example above, Person is the existing itemtype, while Engineer and ElectricalEngineer are the custom item types. Details about naming conventions and extending existing properties, classes and enumerated items can be found on schema.org.

Do you use schema microdata or another type of markup format? If not, why not? Let us know in the comments!

Comments

Scott @ Kawntent (not verified)
Mar 20, 2014

I'm not much of a big user of other types of markup formats. I can go by without them so far. It's more of a case by case situation. That might change soon though...I'll be keeping this in mind.

-kawntent.com

Dan Shewan
Mar 20, 2014

Hey Scott,

I agree that, for now, adding schema is a case-by-case issue for most sites. However, I think that this will become increasingly important in the near future, particularly as Google (and others) make progress in moving toward a truly semantic web.

i have build and dawnload the html code of schema data marker in google webmaster tool

  but i cant understand that  how do past it in my site plz suggest me

 

 

 

Shikha Singh (not verified)
Nov 21, 2014

I want to use schema.org for tender related website. Can you please tell me what willl be itemscope, itmetype and itemprop.

Hi Dan,

Thanks for a great article.

Irony: It was not marked up with Schema (except for the breadcrumbs). Don't feel bad. As far as I can tell, schema.org is not marked up with schema either.

I'm trying to mark up a glossary.

One would think that glossaries, dictionaries, and other reference work would be obvious candidates for schema, but I can find no itemtypes that fit. 

Do you have any ideas where I could find a dictionary or glossary that has been properly marked up?

Or any ideas for cobbling together itemtypes that make sense to define a glossary?

Many thanks,

Harry

 

I am not big user actualy I am unable to use schema microdata so may you assist me 

How to use it?

Thanks in advance

 

 

Nov 18, 2014

Great insight to schema tags and very well laid out.

Its Really Amazing and useful Article.Thank you for sharing with us

Shikha Singh (not verified)
Nov 27, 2014

I want to use schema for tender related portal. Please suggest which category it will fall into or whether I can create new category. 

I have a quick question for you regarding the schema.org markup.

Should one apply schema.org markup on both archives and single pages or only single pages. What is the most effective way to do it?

In Google Webmaster Data Structure tools I can see about 6 entries for a recipe but only one of them points to the actual recipe page and the rest to the archives.

Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day and week.

Hi Shikha

That all depends on what the item is you are working with. Have a look at schema.org for the different items and their properties. You will most likely find what you are looking for under "Creative Works" unless it's of a different kind. Here is a full list of the different scopes you can use: http://schema.org/docs/full.html.

Mar 20, 2014

I definitely agree with you that Schema is a best practice used to improve overall visibility and SERP display. However, I do hope Google will "reward" properly coded sites utilizing Schema in the near future. At the very minimum I recommend implementing location Schema to ensure Google's readability of a company's address. Thanks for the post Dan!

 

Seth (not verified)
Jul 07, 2014

Aaron, great idea regarding address readability. Maintaining an updated Google Places account is important to consider as well on that note.

Mar 22, 2014

What about the subdomain websites, the schema is the unique way to get Better Ranking in SERP. The priority must change

with respect to time. Schema is necessary that counted by the crawlers or boots.

 

Arun, you are absoluitely right that priority must be change according to time but for few website schema play a major role to rank it better.

Hello Stefansalvatore,

Google claims that the inclusion of schema microdata is not currently used as a ranking signal. However, it does improve your site’s rich snippets, which can help your site appear more prominently in SERPs. How its possible schema improve ranking?????

Jun 18, 2014

you mention it's good on a case by case basis.  what type of sites benefit most from schema?  blogs, ecommerce, B2B?

thx

Dan Shewan
Jun 19, 2014

Hi Ray,

When I commented that adding schema is typically a case-by-case situation, I was referring to the actual practicality of adding the markup to individual sites. For example, a site with only a couple dozen pages is a prime candidate for schema, whereas it may not be feasible to add schema to a labyrinthine ecommerce site with hundreds (if not thousands) of pages.

Given that the purpose of schema and other microdata formats is to make it easier for the search engines' crawlers to "understand" the content of your site, any type of site can benefit.

Hope this helps! 

Hi Ray,

Thanks for sharing this helpful information.

Is that applicable for wordpress site?

Hi, I don't know much about SEO but in fact my website got better position in Google Serp since I insert schema,org code on it

Jul 14, 2014

This is the first article I read about microdate. I will use your tips. Thank you. I let you know if it helps to improve my ranking.

Jul 30, 2014

We are considering using product schemas on product pages.  However, we are also a brick & mortar retailer and want to improve visibility locally.  Can we accomplish both with schemas or should be choose appropriate schemas by page.  Thx.

Aug 13, 2014

Great post thanks for sharing this infornation with us . You are given good guideline for how to use schema markup for SEO.

sadaf (not verified)
Aug 16, 2014

Thanks scott, Great article.

You know,I've alwasys been thinking there is something wrong when someone search for (i.e. an online acounting software, online photo editing software...) google instead of SAAS websites brings dozens of repetitious articles which contain those key word! I wonder if this Markup thing could improve the result of the search query for such these examples?

 

Great post!

Thanks for sharing. I'll try it.

Martin (not verified)
Aug 25, 2014

I just came here to congratulate you on the Avatar bashing. :D

Also thanks for the intro the schema.org. (y)

Dan Shewan
Aug 26, 2014

Hey Martin,

I hear you about "Avatar." What a huge disappointment. "Unobtanium"? Seriously? Urgh.

Also, as a side note, I'm glad you enjoyed the post :)

deep (not verified)
Aug 26, 2014

How to use schema markup in wordpress based website? please suggest. I have founf one plugin "Schema Creator by Raven", but is not showing all properties. I have generated a markup code manually by schema.org site. Now the question where I can put that code? that code is for home page.

 

Please suggest

Dan Shewan
Aug 26, 2014

As far as I can tell, it sounds like the Raven plugin doesn't support custom extensions. Unfortunately, I can't test this, as we don't use Wordpress as our CMS. I'd suggest opening an issue on the plugin's Github Support page.

Good luck - I hope you can resolve your issue.

Cancer Charity (not verified)
Sep 22, 2014

Hi Dan,

I haven't implemented schema before but the site I work on is a cancer charity so we mainly provide information, support and some fundraising elements. Do you think that schema is something worth investing in? I was told by SEO Moz, that cancer information would only require article mark up but would be keen to hear your thoughts.

 

We don't really have the funds or resources ot invest in it if its not worth it for us.

 

Thanks!

Dan Shewan
Sep 23, 2014

Hey,

Well, there are a number of factors you need to consider, one of the most important of which is how large your site is. If it's thousands of pages, you may find that manually implementing schema isn't financially feasible.

The other thing to think about is what you want to accomplish by adding schema. As I mentioned in the article, adding schema isn't an SEO trick, so although your site's content may be easier for the search engines to index, it won't necessarily result in greater visibility in the SERPs.

Something else to think about is user intent - are people searching for (and coming to your site to find) information about cancer in general? Do you want to make your fundraising efforts more visible? If you want to add schema to your informational articles, you need to accept that you'll be competing with some heavy hitters in terms of SEO, such as established health care providers, medical journals etc. Depending on the size of your organization, it may not be possible to rank on the first page for such competitive terms.

I realize this answer probably isn't what you were hoping for, at least in terms of a simple "yes" or "no." I'd say, generally speaking, that if you can realistically afford to implement schema, you should consider doing so, but it's vital to be realistic about what you hope to accomplish by doing so.

 

Cancer Charity (not verified)
Sep 22, 2014

Hi Dan,

Not sure if my last post when through! I work for a large Cancer Charity and we wondered if it was worth adding schema to our site. Our site is mainly aimed at helping people find information and support on cancer, we also have fundraising elements. But we don’t really want to invest as we are a charity and have limited funds and resources.

I have been given different versions of what we should do. Any advice from your take on it would be greatly appreciated!

P.S. Thanks for the great article as well, very informative:)

Thanks,

Dan Shewan
Sep 23, 2014

It did indeed. For future reference, we manually moderate the comments on our blog posts to eliminate spam. Automated systems just aren't accurate enough, so it takes time for us to approve comments.

Thanks for the kind words, and taking the time to read. I hope my previous answer helps you.

Anonymous (not verified)
Sep 25, 2014

It would have been helpful if you had shown WHERE to insert the schema in an html document's code/page source.

Anonymous (not verified)
Sep 25, 2014

Hi,

I am completely new to schema and I wonder what is the difference between adding schema markup into head and adding schema into body tag?

For example:

Adding markup into body

html itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/CreativeWork"

body tag

span itemprop="name" - Puzzle game
span itemprop="description"  This is a Mexican puzzle game!
img itemprop="image" src= someImage.png

 

Adding markup into head

html itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/CreativeWork"

head tag
meta itemprop="name" content="Puzzle game"
meta itemprop="description" content = "This is a Mexican puzzle game!"
meta itemprop="image" content="urlToImage"

Dan Shewan
Sep 26, 2014

Hey,

While you can apply markup to the <head>, it's generally advisable to apply it to the <body> instead.

Jenny Murphy of Google states:

"You can add the itemscope attribute to any element on your page that
contains all of the attributes that make up that scope. This includes the
<html> element at the root of your page (since by definition it contains all
of the elements on your page), but you may find it technically easier and
more readable to add the itemscope further down your tree to the lowest
parent of all of your microdata.

"For example, in the case of your local address information you may want to
add it to the element, possibly a div, that contains all of the address
info. This will result in a tighter grouping of your microdata and better
match it to what your user's see."

See this discussion for more information. Hope this helps.

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