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Schema Markup: What You Need to Know for SEO

By Valerie DiCarlo on Aug 19, 2017

You’ve done just about everything you can to improve your SEO. Everything that is, except using schema markup. Why? Because it seems so scary and… technical.

Here’s the thing: Schema markup is a little technical. But there are a lot of tools to make it doable, and the results you’ll get from using schema markup on your website are more than worth any technical pain that it might entail. In addition, it might give you an edge over competitors who are intimidated by the technical aspects! 

So don’t be scared. This blog will guide you through what schema markup is, explain why it’s important, and give you a few tips about how you can start using it on your website. 

What is schema markup?

Essentially, schema markup is html code that helps give search engines important context that humans would normally pick up. It tells the search engine: This chunk of text is the title of a blog, and that other chunk of text is the author’s name. Without that context, the search engine just sees a bunch of information.

You can imagine how this would be important for, say, an event page. On its own, a search engine may pick up that a park name is mentioned in the content, but it couldn’t pick up if that park is the place you buy tickets for the event, where you park, or where the event is taking place. Schema markup allows you  to tell search engines that the page is about an event (as opposed to a book review or a recipe), and that certain pieces of text are the date it will take place, the sponsors, the location, and the time the event begins.

Imagine a teenager saying after every piece of information from an adult, “Why should I care?” Schema markup gives the answer to that question. It tells the search engine why it should care about a piece of content. Can’t you hear it retorting, “Since you asked, that is actually the star rating of a movie!"

Why is schema important?

Schema markup is important, because once search engines know the added context on the page, they can deliver more relevant results to a searcher. If the search engine has the option of delivering a result that it knows is highly relevant because of the added context, it will pick it over other results without the added context.

Think of searching for a dinner recipe at 4:30 p.m. before you leave work and need to stop by the grocery store. You quickly search, “baked chicken parmesan recipe,” and have a list of options to choose from. You’re more likely to click the result that immediately displays the ratings on the recipe, cook time, and number of calories. That is the information you really want to know!

The reason the search engine is able to display that information (called a rich snippet) on the SERP is because the page has been marked up. Someone has figuratively taken a giant pen and circled the page and labeled it “recipe,” circled the number of stars and labeled it “rating,” circled the amount of time and labeled it “cook time."

At the end of the day, you now have the most useful information as quickly as possible because of schema markup. That is a search engine’s dream come true.

How do you implement schema?

Now I’m sure it doesn’t surprise you that schema markup doesn’t happen at a big conference table where a bunch of people spend all day circling and labeling web pages! So how does it work? And more importantly, how can you do it?

There are really two options to take: the technical route and the beginners’ route.

For the technical route,  I advise you to take your web friend out to lunch and pick up the tab, or spend some time brushing up on your coding skills. This option may be great in the long run, but it will require a front end content person to brush up on her skills.

For the beginners’ route, your starting place is schema.org. This site houses schema vocabulary that was collaboratively put together by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex. That’s right. Competitors worked together to get consistent, quality schema vocabulary out there. 

At schema.org, you can browse through all of the types of schema and find the different markup possibilities for each type. Once you get a feel for how this works, you can use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper to help walk you through how to apply schema markup to your website. If you need additional help, Neil Patel gives a great step-by-step guide of how to use this tool. 

Then, you can test your work by looking at Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. This allows you to see how it affects the content on your site and correct any mistakes.

There is a lot that is possible beyond this beginner’s route, but the beginner’s route is a great place to start. 

So if you’re thinking about delving into the world of schema markup, I encourage you: do it. There are tools that will help you with the basics, and the value to your website will be worth it!