Should you use Schema markup? And will it actually help your search engine ranks like some claim? Let’s explore the topic!
For those new to SEO and unfamiliar with the term yet, Schema.org is an initiative launched by Google, Bing (Microsoft), Yahoo! and Yandex back in June 2nd, 2011. It’s a form of structured metadata, to help search engine spiders recognize the content and categorize it properly, under a unified standard of definitions. It’s a part of the Semantic Web vision proposed by Tim Berners-Lee in 2001, where every piece of content on the web can be “understood” and organized by machines (in this case – search engines).
We will go over the basics of the Schema markup, and some of its perks, and focus particularly on Google functionality. By the end of this article we hope you will be able to make a more educated decision about it.
Schema markup is very broad and diverse, containing hundreds of different objects and you will likely be able to properly describe most of your content using it, regardless of your niche or business type. The core vocabulary has 614 Types, 905 Properties, and 114 Enumeration values.
Let’s dive in!
The benefits of Schema
Every search result that is different than the regular title+url+description, has been enriched by Schema. Google and other search engines always come up with new ways to feature Schema marked content. Those star ratings you see in your search results for example, are a Schema defined markup.
Whether Schema actually boosts your Google ranks directly or not, is still up for debate. Some SEO experts swear by it, while others are not that impressed (maybe because it’s a thorough process and not a shortcut “SEO hack”). From Google’s end, the official statement is that it doesn’t directly boost ranks.
Regardless if you see actual ranking gains from it or not, it still has its benefits, and certainly at least may help your rankings indirectly.
How? By improving CTR, which is in itself a ranking influencer. Schema gets content featured on Google’s various SERP elements and rich snippets. Eventually everything which helps you stand out of the generally bland search results is a benefit. This for example is a Schema featured SERP snippet:
As you can see it stands out, looks professional, and without even going to the site itself, you might think it’s almost sponsored and trusted by Google themselves.
Being featured in a SERP element such as a knowledge graph, a Q&A box or simply having a search result with rich snippets, gives a sense of authority and establishment. This is because Schema is virtually unknown to the average Joe searching for a lawn chair, for instance.
Rich snippets spice up regular search results. There are dozens of rich snippets that cover many query types, and more are created all the time as Google strives to improve and make search results as informative and accurate as they can.
Some of the common snippets we are used to seeing are search results with reviews (it can be for a product, recipe, or anything that has reviews on your website):
Reviews use the AggregateRating schema attribute and this can show up on any type of search results that has user ratings. It shows the average rating along with the number of rating given.
There are other types of reviews that can show up in a snippet, such as an editorial reviewer score:
This is arguably one of the most valuable marketing markups to have. Its very eye catching and easily recognizable. It also shows a piece of information that takes a nice portion of the decision making process – reviews. 95% of shoppers read reviews before making a purchase!
We’ve done a whole article about the benefits of displaying product reviews. Just seeing reviews in the SERP might help you stand out above higher ranked websites.
This category can show price and price range, ratings, availability, and more. Products can also appear on Google’s image search with a link to the product page!
Here’s Google’s product markup documentation.
If you offer competitive prices, then this one is especially great to use. Not only will you have an edge over higher prices for the same search, but you will also have an advantage over search results that don’t display the price with a snippet.
Recipes can have such rich details displayed as prep time, ratings, calorie count, etc. They can show up in the main SERP, in Google’s image search, and as a carousel.
Offer a free recipe at a restaurant that will be featured in a recipe snippet and you might get some extra organic traffic from unexpected avenues on Google.
Since recipes tend to feature images, Google recommends implementing recipe pages with the AMP protocol for instant-loading times.
Can show details such as song duration, artist name, album. Schema.org details.
The events related snippet can show location (and will show up on geo-targeted searches), dates and times, images, performer names and prices.
The beauty here is the definition of event is fairly broad, so for example if you are hosting a free promotional yoga class, you can mark it as an event!
But with this advice also comes an important caveat: marking content incorrectly or purposefully in a misleading way is a big no-no. You might receive a manual penalty, so be sure not to think too “openly” on what counts as an event.
Google’s SERP elements
Google’s SERP elements are search results which are uniquely structured. They are often featured in the top of the SERP or the right side, have their own functions and most importantly they stand out because they don’t look anything like the regular search result. Here are some of the common ones we all know:
The SERP feature that shows the Top Ten video results for a given search query. Often featured in the top positions on the first page. The carousel sources videos from all around the web and not just YouTube, even though YouTube results are often ranked highly. This is most likely because YouTube is the second most visited website on the planet, along with it being Google’s step-younger sibling under the Alphabet brand.
This is one of the SERP elements you can directly track with Pro Rank Tracker. No matter where you publish your video, it should be tracked since it might get featured on the video carousel. Simply add your video URL to our tool, and get its position within the carousel, along with the carousels position in the SERP.
Here’s the How-to:
|Track the two Google SERP elements with MORE value than regular organic listings|
Local Business Listing/Local Pack/Snack Pack:
A staple of local SEO it’s one of the most sought after and valuable SERP elements to be featured in. It’s one of the equalizers of SEO since it has excellent CTR potential and is great for small local businesses. It gives businesses, that don’t have a huge SEO budget and might not even rank highly on the regular search results, a fighting chance.
It shows up at the top of the SERP and steals the show from regular organic results. This can drive actual physical traffic to a business and not just virtual website visits, since people can directly use Google maps to navigate to that location.
Local business listings feature very relevant and helpful information such as operating hours, images, contact details, user ratings and the location on a map.
Google’s documentation on how to implement it properly.
You can also track these unique positions directly using Pro Rank Tracker. These particular search results are 100% location dependent. So, it’s advisable that you track these ranks from several relevant exact locations for the most accurate picture.
You can track the Top 3 Snack Pack positions that are shown on Google’s main SERP and also the position shown on maps search.
Here’s an example how to properly track a Local Business Listing for a carpet cleaning service in Queens, New York. We’ve selected 3 key exact locations in the Queens area to get a decent picture how that business is listed in the grand picture:
Here’s the How-to:
|Track the two Google SERP elements with MORE value than regular organic listings|
KG is very diverse and shows extensive details about many topics such as events, movies, books, recipes, general knowledge briefs (from Wikipedia and other sources), and organizations.
One of the key benefits for businesses of course is KG can also feature your company and brand. This makes it a very powerful search result if you manage to get featured there (not easy since it requires people to directly search for your company name in most cases, or to be ranked high organically for a relevant search query).
To give your articles a chance to be featured on Top Stories, the content needs to be marked and structured correctly per Google’s guidelines and also be optimized with AMP.
Many search queries are general practical questions such as “how to remove a wine stain from a carpet?”, so being included in this feature can get you some nice traffic boost.
Sometimes people want an answer quickly and might settle by reading it of the SERP without visiting the website, which makes this particular SERP element’s CTR value a double edged sword of sorts if you don’t phrase your answer in a clever way with a teaser for more.
Useful Knowledge Resources
The conclusion is simple – you can either gain an almost free entry-level benefit or you can ignore it, and even if you show up high on the SERP you might lose to a lower ranked result, that did bother to Schema their content.
As you saw, this is not some hard to implement secret magic SEO technique, but rather a fairly straight forward approach to marking data. You don’t even need to be an SEO expert to implement Schema markups correctly, you just need some basic webmaster skills, and some time.
Make sure you follow all the guidelines, validate your structured data with the various tools the search engines offer, and finally track your organic local ranks with Pro Rank Tracker (or your SERP tracker of choice).
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