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Written by Caroline Cox on Oct 18 , 2021

What is Schema markup? How does it affect your website’s SEO? We’re glad you asked.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What Schema is
  • How Schema markup affects SEO
  • Ways to implement and test your site’s Schema
  • Tips for pinpointing Schema errors

Picture this: You’re dining in a fine Italian restaurant, there’s not a global pandemic, and you’ve just been handed a menu. Sounds nice, right?

However, all the dish names are in Italian, and you don’t speak Italian.

Luckily, all the ingredients are listed below the dishes. Voila! Now you know what to expect, and can order accordingly.

This is how Schema works for your website. It tells crawlers (or diners, if we’re sticking with the above example) what a page consists of. This way, it can serve up that page in accurate search results. But how exactly does this affect your site’s SEO?

With help from our Director of Marketing Operations, Jenny Palmer, let’s dig in — bon appetit!

woman adding schema markup to a website

Snagging spots in rich snippets can put your content in the coveted “position zero,” which is shown above the top organic result. (Image via Pexels)

What is Schema?

Schema markup (also called structured data) essentially is a script added to the code on the backend of your website. This code helps crawlers, such as search engines, understand the content of what they’re crawling, according to Jenny.

As Yoast explains, major search engines — like Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo — developed this vocabulary together. As a result, they have a shared language to understand websites better.

If your page has a video, you can add Schema that will tell crawlers it’s a video, what the title and length are, as well as other details. It clearly defines a page’s content, which can go a long way to help your pages become eligible for rich results or featured snippets.

How does Schema affect SEO?

When crawlers can easily and accurately understand your site and its pages, that means those pages are more likely to surface in organic results accurately — no guesswork required. And visibility in organic search results is key for your SEO.

Not only that, but Jenny says snagging spots in rich snippets can put your content in the coveted “position zero,” which is shown above the top organic result. Some examples of rich results sections include: People Also Ask, recipes, ratings, videos, images, and more.

hanging string lights - google featured snippet

A look at featured snippets for hanging string lights on a deck (via Google)

How do you set up Schema?

If you’ve already got Schema markup on your site, you can test it with a tool like the Google Rich Results Tester. Alternatively, you can go to Schema.org’s structured data validator, paste the code or website directly, and it’ll let you know what Schema is on your pages, if any.

These tools can also alert you to any errors with your Schema. And other tools like SEMrush can help pinpoint pages with missing data. 

What Schema markup should I use?

There’s a Schema for everything under the sun, from industries to specific offers. Because of that, the best route is often to go through your site’s sections and pages to see which ones would benefit from Schema, such as product pages, reviews, videos, and FAQs.

According to Jenny, many content management systems — like WordPress — have easy-to-use Schema plugins. You can also manually write a JSON script (or have your agency do it for you). This is an info-storing programming language that stands for JavaScript Object Notation.

If you’re not familiar with it, inputting this markup seems like coding, which can be intimidating. Working with an agency helps because they can assist you in choosing the best markup for your site among the many options.

Pro tip: Google has a ton of Schema templates available so you don’t have to start from scratch.

How can I find Schema errors?

Along with using the above tools, you can identify errors via Google Search Console. 

google search console schema

Simply go to the Enhancements section, click “Review snippets,” and check out the chart that shows errors, valid markup, and what’s called “valid with warning.” This in-between signal lets users know there are potential errors that may be worth a second look.

If this is all a bit overwhelming, don’t fear! As a digital marketing agency, we can help you easily identify your best Schema options.

The takeaway

There’s no way around it: the search engine results page is a competitive place. That’s why taking advantage of all the features at your disposal, such as Schema markup, can help you gain an edge. 

While there’s no guarantee that adding this markup will make your rankings soar, it’s certainly one way to enhance your site SEO. Showing up accurately in search results can lead to more clicks, a bigger reach, and a more authoritative site overall.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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Written by Sam Yadegar on Aug 25 , 2021

From schema markup to rich snippets, here’s what marketers need to know about structured data.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How structured data works
  • The ways it benefits SEO
  • Why this data is so necessary
  • How to add it to your website

Being efficient at the post office is a skill so valuable that, in my opinion, they should teach it in schools.

After all, how many times have you stood in line to mail something, only to get to the counter and realize you wrote the address upside down, didn’t use enough stamps, or choose the wrong type of box? 

Don’t even get me started on the forms you have to fill out to mail things internationally.

But it’s all for good reason. Packaging your mail properly means it’ll have an easier time getting to its destination. Structured data for your website works in a similar way. It ups your chances that the information you provide gets to those it’s designed for.

Structured data is a standardized way to share webpage information with a search engine. While it’s possible for the search engine to crawl your website without this data, it could miss something important.

Even if it seems that search engines’ efforts are limitless, they only have a certain amount of bandwidth and resources to organize efficient search results. Just like putting the right amount of stamps on your letter, by focusing on structured data, you can make it easier for the search engine to do its job properly, while boosting your SEO in the process.

people climbing a mountain

Since the main goal of your search engine optimization tactics is to climb higher on the SERP, helping search engines analyze your site should be a priority. (Image via Unsplash)

How structured data works

Structured data or schema markup is a way of describing your website to make it easier for search engines to index it. By embedding tags of code throughout the HTML of your page, you’re telling search engines what your content is all about.

As SEMrush explains, “Schema markup (schema.org) is a structured data vocabulary that helps search engines better understand the info on your website in order to serve rich results.” Basically, it’s a specific language of this data type. 

Without schema markup, search engines don’t see the “meaning” of your data when crawling a page or site. Instead, they have to make an extra effort to go from “seeing” to “understanding.”

While structured data is not a ranking factor, it simplifies the ranking process. And since the main goal of your search engine optimization tactics is to climb higher on the search engine results page (SERP), helping search engines analyze your site should be a priority.

Benefits of using structured data for SEO

The key benefits of using structured data for SEO include:

1. Improved communication with search engines

When you use structured data, search engines receive all the information they need to understand your website. Without this type of data, Google can miss important details, which can negatively affect your rankings.

Think of schema markup as a translator. It provides a full translation from “human” to “search engine” language. Without the schema markup, search engines have to spend time and effort translating what you want to say.

If you don’t have structured data, the search engine’s translation may not always do a great job interpreting your page’s purpose quickly. In turn, this could cause errors and indexing delays.

Pro tip: Schema.org has its own structured data testing tool you can use to make sure yours is set up properly.

2. A better shot at rich snippets

Search engines use the information they get from structured data to create rich snippets (snippets with more contextual info than regular snippets). 

If you don’t implement it, you lose potential real estate on the SERPs and hinder your SEO efforts. Rich snippets in Google vary from product information and reviews to FAQ and news article headlines.

Google constantly changes its rich snippet requirements. For example, in June 2021, it limited the number of FAQ rich results to two per search. Regular changes make it even more important to keep structured data clean and readily available.

Since having this data helps you increase the amount of space you take up on the SERPs, you may also see click-through rates rise as a result.

woman standing in a hallway using her laptop next to data

If your website is connected to the Knowledge Graph, it can gain extra real estate on the SERPs. (Image via Pexels)

3. Streamlined E-A-T

The expertise, authoritativeness, and trust (or E-A-T) of your webpage’s content plays an important role in your SEO efforts. 

The most important data Google needs in order to determine the page’s quality includes:

  • The purpose of the page
  • E-A-T
  • Main content quality and amount
  • Data about the website and main content creator
  • The reputation of the main content creator or the website

A big chunk of the information Google requires to assess the above can be sourced from structured data. While E-A-T isn’t a direct ranking factor, it helps Google understand the overall quality of the page, which affects ranking decisions.

4. Access to Google’s Knowledge Graph

For many websites, getting ahead of the competition involves appearing in Google’s Knowledge Graph. If your website is connected to the Knowledge Graph, it can gain extra real estate on the SERPs.

The Knowledge Graph information card appears on the right-hand side of search results. It provides users valuable factual information, which can vary from a country’s population to a company’s contact details.

To make it easier for Google to add your website to its Knowledge Graph, you need to — you guessed it! — implement structured data.

5. Better Local SEO

One of the best ways to improve your local SEO efforts is to take advantage of the local business markup. Doing so will help you display information for specific branches of your business, including address, operating hours, contact details, and more.

Structured data also allows you to provide updated information about your company. If there are any changes you want to communicate to the audience, you need to update your schema markup.  

The need for structured data

While it may seem that structured data is optional, failing to use it can put your business at a disadvantage, especially if your competition is leveraging it.

Search engines are working harder and harder to meet users’ need for an optimized search. The more resources are required for proper indexing, the less time Google has for interpreting.

In the future, Google is likely to leave pages without structured data for later, turning schema markup into a direct ranking factor. By that time, if your website doesn’t have this data, your rankings will drop dramatically.

man on phone and writing something down with a pencil

Structured data is a communication tool. (Image via Pexels)

How to add structured data to your website

Several ways exist to add this data to your website. They include:

The first two options are fairly straightforward and don’t require coding knowledge. The third one is more complex and detailed. It allows you to ensure extensive clarity of communicating with the search engine.

Need more insight into your structured data or website SEO in general? We can help.

The takeaway

Structured data is a communication tool. Keeping it in good shape means you can provide search engines with the necessary information about your website during crawls. 

While search engines will eventually find this information anyway, adding a schema markup can speed up and enhance the process.

Even though it’s not a direct ranking factor, schema markup affects the way Google assesses webpages. That’s why, today, using this type of data is a must.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

Questions or comments? Join the conversation here!

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