Schema markup (or structured data) is a search engine’s love language. An audit keeps the flame burning bright.
Here, you’ll find:
- What schema markup is (and isn’t)
- How to conduct a schema markup audit
- How to implement schema markup to your site
- Tools you’ll need along the way
Communication is the key to every healthy relationship; even between a search engine and your website.
Enter: Schema markup, a special language that helps crawlers like Google quickly determine the type of content they’re about to read.
While it’s not mandatory, adding this code to the backend of your site can improve your brand authority, awareness, and position on the search engine results page (SERP).
In other words, it’s a pretty solid way to improve search engine optimization (SEO).
But understanding what kind of schema markup to use (and where to put it) is key — and this is where a schema markup audit comes into play.
What is schema markup?
Schema markup is a type of code that helps websites communicate more clearly with search engines. This language, also called structured data, allows search engines to categorize content efficiently, which often means rich results:
Using schema markup (correctly) on your site can help your webpages:
- Communicate with search engines
- Rank higher in the SERP
- Take up more real estate on SERPs with rich snippets
- Appear on Google’s Knowledge Graph
What’s more, it can offer more control over your brand appearance, help optimize for voice assistants, and improve your semantic structure and strategy.
What schema markup is not
Schema markup is not a requirement. (Nope, you won’t be penalized by Google if you don’t use it.)
Nor is it an SEO “hack.” It is, however, a missed opportunity for more visibility if you don’t implement it.
See, structured data vocabulary helps your SEO the same way quality content assists your SEO. You can’t “work the system,” only use it to your advantage.
How does schema markup work?
Think of schema markup as little labels throughout your website.
These “labels” (i.e. snippets of code) are pasted into the backend of certain webpages and help search engines better understand what kind of page content they’re about to crawl — think “recipe page,” “homepage,” “FAQs,” “blog or article,” and “local business information.”
That way, crawlers like Google can more easily understand the content and recognize how it should be displayed on the search engine results page (SERP).
The good news is you don’t need to be a master coder to add schema markup to your website, thanks to Schema.org.
This online library houses a long list of webpage categories, common properties that exist on those types of pages, and a universal code that acts as a “label” for those associated page types.
This language (code) can be pasted into your site for all search engines to read and understand.
Here’s the kicker: This online resource was founded and developed through the surprising collaboration of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex.
While schema markup is the “common language,” there are three schema encoding types to choose from. Think of this as regional dialects within the United States. Sure, English is the common language — but we all know things sound pretty different from the Midwest to the South, for example.
These three encoding types include:
- Resource Descriptive Framework in Attributes (RDFa)
What does schema markup look like?
While a standard search result shows the title tag, meta description, and URL, schema markup can help you get rich results (or featured snippets), those attractive results with extra visuals, interactive features, and flair.
Remember: Rich results are different from featured snippets. While rich results are the result of instructions given to a search engine by your website — featured snippets are extractions from content that Google deems most relevant and useful to the search query, typically sitting at position zero.
Think of it as a helpful guide saying, “Hey, Google, this webpage is about a recipe. Here’s the recipe name, ratings, ingredients, cook time, and a photo to include in the results.”
On the backend side of things, schema markup looks a little less aesthetically pleasing and a little more like code:
Types of schema markup
Much like a library or a record store where a large number of works are organized by genre, most webpages can be sorted into common categories — i.e. schema types.
For example, a website like Minimalist Baker would use “recipe” schema markup types for almost all of their webpages. Recipe schemas have sections for ingredients, cooking instructions, prep time, and reviews.
When a search engine sees this particular schema type, they understand the page is a recipe and might show a preview in the search results.
While there are over 800 types of schema markup, Schema.org lists the following as some commonly used types:
- Creative works (i.e. book, movie, music recording, recipe, or TV series)
- Embedded non-text objects (i.e. audio, image, or video)
- Health and medical types
- Place, local business, restaurant
- Product or offer
There’s a full list of structured data types you can use for markup (check ‘em out on schema.org). Identifying what types of schema markup make sense for your website is the first step of implementing schema markup — and one the primary goals of a structured data audit.
What is a schema markup audit?
A schema markup audit is the process of scanning through every page on the backend of your website to find:
- What structured data is already on the site
- If there are any errors or issues that exist with the data found
- What opportunities exist (i.e. structured data that might be missing)
And, of course, no audit is complete without a plan for implementation. The goal of an audit is to make sure you have the best schema types available for your website.
Conducting a schema markup audit helps identify how your website could communicate more clearly — and maximize all your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts to improve your organic traffic and, ultimately, conversions.
What you’ll need for your schema audit
An audit generally requires two software applications:
- Google Search Console
- A paid tool like SiteBulb, Screaming Frog, or SEMRush
Auditing your schema markup with Google Search Console
Google Search Console (GSC) doesn’t report on all schema types, but it does show you any errors that might exist.
Log in to your Google Search Console and choose “Enhancements” from the left sidebar.
You’ll see a list of errors and warnings. From there, you’ll be pointed to pages that are currently affected by the issues. Invalid errors appear in red text.
Auditing your schema markup with a paid tool
While Screaming Frog isn’t free, this crawling tool has lots of benefits — including a comprehensive schema markup audit.
This tool will provide all the data you need for schema markup analysis, including missing structured data, validation errors, validation warnings, and parse errors as well as Microdata, JSON-LD, and RDFa URLs.
If you decide to invest in Screaming Frog, you can audit your schema markup by taking these easy steps:
- Click Configuration > Spider
- Choose the “extraction” tab
- Scroll down to “structured data”
- Check all the boxes
Then, run the crawling feature.
Semrush is another tool we recommend that has a site audit tool that will help you discover errors within your site.
Auditing your schema markup with SiteBulb
Another paid tool (with a free trial) that can help with a schema markup audit is SiteBulb. It can provide valuable information about your structured data and offer insights into dealing with existing problems.
In the “Audit Data” section, select the “structured data” slider. When the tool finishes crawling your website, choose “structured data” under “all hints.”
If the tool finds structured data that doesn’t comply with Schema.org, it will return validation errors. Along with the error message, you will get error details, links to relevant resources, and advice to help you deal with the problem.
Lastly, use testing tools on a per page basis. The Rich Results Test tool helps determine what rich results can be generated for your page. And you can use the Schema Markup Validator to test types of https://schema.org markup — without Google-specific validation.
Gap analysis and competitor analysis
Using these auditing tools, you’ll get a good idea of any errors that exist on your site. But there are some manual steps you should take as well.
Check out schema.org’s list of available schema types. While you read through the list, think back to your own site. Do any of the schema types listed resonate with your content? Are you missing opportunities to add schema markup?
Or maybe you’re missing content altogether that should be added to your site (with a little schema markup love added once it’s live).
Think of this part of your schema audit as a content creation opportunity.
While you’re at it, check out what your competitors rank for in snippets and make it a priority to beat ‘em.
Here’s an easy place to start:
- Ecommerce can generally implement product and review schema
- Lead generation can generally implement review schema
- Both should implement a business-type schema
- If FAQs or how-tos exist, mark those up as well
After you use your auditing tool to assess your current structured data markup, you can get to the implementation process.
How to implement schema onto your site
Depending on your content management system (CMS), such as WordPress and Joomla, there are plugins you can use to implement your schema markup easily and quickly, even if you don’t have webmasters to help you — but you can also write scripts manually and implement via HTML tags.
Need a little help? Google’s structured data markup helper gives you a hand in adding structured-data markup to a sample webpage.
No matter how you implement the code, be sure to check them with your testing tools.
Depending on the types of schema you implement, it should pop up inside GSC once crawled by Google.
Remember, GSC doesn’t tell you if you are ranking for a snippet — just that the markup was found and processed. You’ll need to monitor with tools like Semrush for actual results.
How often to conduct a schema markup audit
A schema markup audit should be part of your regular SEO audit and conducted early on to determine what type of schema should be included on your website.
Depending on the type of website you have, you need to consider running these audits at least twice a year after. That said, e-commerce websites may need to do it more often (about every three months).
Here are a few reasons to arrange an audit ahead of schedule:
1. Poor SEO results
If your SEO efforts aren’t yielding the desired results, you may want to run a schema markup before it’s scheduled.
2. Google algorithm update
It’s also a good idea to run an audit after a core Google algorithm update. While Google doesn’t confirm that schema markup is a direct ranking factor, it could change its mind at any time.
3. Rich snippets
Keep in mind that schema markup improves the appearance of rich snippets. If you aren’t happy with what they look like on the SERPs, you may need to review the structured data.
Can schema markup actually hurt SEO?
While the benefits of schema markup for SEO is hardly a secret (as discussed above), it’s only fair to give the full picture here:
There could (maybe?) be some potential drawbacks to using schema markup when it comes to technical SEO. There is a slight chance that the more snippets you have, the lower your click-through rate (CTR).
Why? Because, in theory, all the information a user needs is (often) featured in that single snippet on the SERP.
But that also means enhanced snippets are more likely to increase your brand awareness. And while Google refuses to call it a ranking factor, digital marketers agree it’s integral to optimizing your SEO efforts.
Which is why conducting regular markup audits ensure the integrity and effectiveness of structured data by validating the quality of your code and making sure it’s live on all relevant pages.
Schema markup audits are necessary to ensure the success of your SEO efforts and push it to the limit. They can help you identify errors that prevent major search engines from indexing your website correctly.
Even if you’re satisfied with your marketing results, you still need to audit structured data at least once a year.
Both free and paid tools exist to help simplify schema markup audits. But if conducting your own audit feels daunting, we can help — just reach out.
This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2022.