What is Schema Markup?
Basically, schema markup is a form of structured microdata which itself composes of a set of tags that annotates information within your HTML code. It is a type of semantic vocabulary created jointly by the big search engines in 2011. Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex came together to define a universal standard for this structured data. If we think of structured data as the language, then schema.org gives us the vocabulary.
Schema.org explains it like this:
“Most webmasters are familiar with HTML tags on their pages. Usually, HTML tags tell the browser how to display the information included in the tag. For example, <h1>Avatar</h1> tells the browser to display the text string “Avatar” in a heading 1 format. However, the HTML tag doesn’t give any information about what that text string means — “Avatar” could refer to the hugely successful 3D movie, or it could refer to a type of profile picture—and this can make it more difficult for search engines to intelligently display relevant content to a user.”
So, what is it actually used for in terms of SEO?
The anatomy of a search engine results page (SERP) changes all the time. One element seeing increased use is called a rich snippet, which is a box situated at the top of the SERP containing useful snippets of information that showcase the most relevant answer to the search query.
Although there is no real evidence for microdata’s positive effect on organic search, the presence of rich snippets adds both authority and trust to the website that delivers it, as well as enhancing visibility and potentially click-through rate.
What Kind of Websites Use Schema Markup?
Really, any website can benefit from structured data and markups. There are a number of elements that can be marked up in this way.
For example, this website used schema to tell Google that each ingredient was part of an overall recipe, therefore allowing Google to display the recipe in its entirety in the SERP.
This website was able to tell Google not just what the data is but also what it actually means, giving the content some context.
There are literally hundreds of markups to choose from, including names and addresses, products and prices, lists, articles, events, opening times and many more. However, in spite of the breadth of options available, only a very small percentage of websites are actually utilising structured data, giving your business the opportunity to capitalise and bridge the gaps.
What Kind of Things Can Be Done with Schema Markup?
There is a wide range of elements you can create using schema markup, all of which are likely to make a difference to your visibility on SERPs. We’ve included a few examples below:
How Can Schema Help Your Ecommerce Website?
As we mentioned before, there is no set evidence that proves schema markup’s worth in terms of direct influence, but it is clear that the indirect influence is become invaluable. For ecommerce websites, the value is found in the increased click-through rate and enhanced customer engagement.
There are four main types of structured data markup that can help ecommerce websites in particular. They are:
Obviously, the first port of call is to tell Google that your page is a product page, so it knows to display it as such
Customers put a lot of stock in reviews, which means including it as part of your result will likely inspire more clicks
This is particularly useful if there are many other ecommerce websites that offer similar products, it allows you to immediately compete before the user even clicks on your website
Another interesting element is availability; it can be very annoying for a user to find what they want on your website only to be told that it is out of stock when it comes to checkout
The results above are for the search term ‘Samsung Galaxy S9’ and demonstrate range of schema markup in use. Reviews, price, internal website links, availability, and breadcrumbs all help the actual result put across the most possible information to the customer.
Different Ways to Implement Structured Data & Schema Markup
There are two different formats you can use to implement structured data for your website – microdata, RDFa, and JSON-LD. If that just looks like a bunch of letters, let’s try and dispel any confusion.
Essentially, these three different categories refer to the way in which the data is formatted within the code, but let’s break it down a bit further:
Microdata is an open-community HTML specification that is used as an ‘area’ for structured data to sit within your HTML content. Most frequently used in the page body, it utilises HTML tag attributes to showcase the properties that need to be marked up
RDFa stands for Resource Description Framework in Attributes and is a HTML5 extension that underpins linked data with HTML5 tag attributes that match the visible content you want to describe to Google
Testing Schema Markup for Your Ecommerce Website
It is very important to test your mark up before implementing it in order to be sure it will appear as you intended it to on the SERP.
There are several ways you can test your structured data, but the most widely-used free tool comes from Google itself and is imaginatively named Google Structured Data Testing Tool. It gives you two ways of approaching your mark up – you can either input a URL to check what might already be marked up on your website, or you can input the code directly in order to see how it appears to Google.
The first option – Fetch URL – will demonstrate how Google perceives the existing structured data on your website, including any errors that might need fixing.
Or, you can select ‘code snippet’ and enter your markup code to see how it will look. This below example is a recipe for banana bread, with the code snippet on the left and its corresponding result on the right.