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What Is Schema, And How Does It Impact SEO?

By Glenn Martin | Digital Marketing Director

While not a new concept, more and more businesses are installing something called “schema” onto their websites. In this blog, we will discuss what schema really is, the history of it, various types of schema, as well as the SEO implications of installing schema on your website.

What is Schema?

Schema, also known as “structured data,” is a type of markup language that directs search engines to pull out additional information from a single webpage or an entire website. The schema vocabularies are developed through an open-community process, with the documentation all at schema.org. There is a public schema mailing list, and the community is also active on GitHub.

Who Created Schema?

Dating back to 2011, the schema.org initiative is a result of a collective agreement between Google, Microsoft (Bing), Yahoo and Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine. At that time, these four giants of the search engine world decided to agree upon a collective set of programming language that all of the search engines could read so that webmasters didn’t need to install four separate markups to their languages for each search engine. 

This rare example of collaboration between search engines started with a few simple types of structured data markup, which over the years and become one of the leading ways for businesses to expand their search engine real estate—pulling out more relevant information for users. This aligns with Google’s mission to provide the “best answer” to people’s questions; when a company can provide the best answer for something somebody is searching for, they might as well point to it in order to make it easier for search engines to pull out.

logos of Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex

But… What Is It?

As mentioned above, schema is a type of coding markup that gives extra tidbits of information to search engines, which they know how to interpret. These snippets of code can be made in one of three coding languages:

  1. Microdata
  2. RDFa
  3. JSON-LD

As of 2017, Google recommends using JSON-LD, which is incidentally the type that we use at Webspec Design to install schema.

Extra Tidbits of Information

When we discuss schema adding extra tidbits of information for search engines, these include things that Google and the other search engines have identified as useful for the user. Google knows how users behave and what they’re looking for, so these may involve reviews, information about local businesses, events and more, depending on the type of schema installed on the page. 

Keep in mind, even though you may install schema on your website, it is not a guarantee that Google or other search engines will pick up that information and actually use it.

Types of Schema

As of August 2019, there are 614 types of schema. In fact, there are new types added to schema.org every month—some of the newest types include schema outlining educational programs, work-based learning programs, as well as expanded hotel listings all added in the past several months. We can likely expect the open-community project of schema to continue to grow and expand as it becomes more popular for businesses.

However, some schema types are more common than others. Below, you’ll see a brief overview of some of the most common types.

Organization Schema

The organization schema type expands information about a business, nonprofit or NGO. It allows you to add additional information about the organization to search engine results pages, including the headquarters address, social media profiles, customer service contacts, stock symbols and more. 

an example of organization schema for Microsoft

Local Business Schema

Organization schema has hundreds of subsets of types of businesses. One of the most common subtypes of organization schema is local business schema. This schema type extracts information about a specific brick-and-mortar business location and can include things such as the address and phone number, price range, accepted payment options, hours of operation and more. This schema type is really valuable for local SEO and is one of our favorite schemas.

Person Schema

The person schema type is very similar to organization schema, but instead of elaborating information about a business, it adds content about a person. These details may include things such as job titles, names, birthdate and location, education, family members, social media profiles and addresses.

an example of person schema of Jeff Bezos

Recipe Schema

Recipe schema is probably one that most people have encountered when searching for recipes online. Websites can add this markup to individual recipes, which will increase their exposure on search engines.

an example of recipe schema

Product Schema

The product schema type is an essential for e-commerce websites. This schema, which is individually installed on each separate product, extracts additional information for search engines about a product, including images, descriptions, reviews, special offers and more. When dealing with e-commerce, the more you can expand your search engine real estate, the more sales you’ll likely make. 

an example of product schema

The star-rating, reviews and price are added by schema

Review Schema

Review schema can be added to any page describing an item; it can be a movie, book, restaurant, store or other place or product. These reviews (especially positive reviews) should increase the click-through for users looking for your product or service.

review schema

The star-rating and the votes are added by schema on the goodreads.com website.

Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumb schema is a useful way to depict on the search engine results page the path links that lead to the page. It can help users determine from search results if a page is located where they would like to click within the website— this particular type of schema should help reduce the bounce rate on your site.

Event Schema

If you’re ever wondering what to do on a Friday night, or if you’re visiting a new city, you may have searched for events near you. Event schema allows webmasters to list upcoming events that are on their site, drawing out information about the time, price, location and more.

an example of event schema

Job Posting Schema

Hiring the right people can be difficult as a business owner. Conversely, so is finding a new job. The schema type, “job posting,” allows you to list any openings you have at your organization, which will then get picked up by search engines when people search for a related job.

an example of job schema

If you know any Drupal Developers, tell them to apply today.

Other Schema Types

As mentioned above, there are over 600 types of schema. While many of them are very specific for one industry, typically every business or organization can benefit from using at least one or two types of schema on their website.

How Do You Install Schema?

Now that we have explored the various types of schema, the question is: how does it get installed? Google recommends using JSON-LD markup, which is a type of javascript, whenever possible. They have even made it easy for webmasters, and now have a structured data markup tool. Using this tool, you can create the appropriate JSON-LD code, which then will need to be inserted below the head section of your page.

a screenshot of Google's Structured Data Markup Helper

Alternatively, if you’re using a CMS like WordPress, there are several plugins which can help guide you through the schema creation and installation. This makes it easier since you won’t actually need to adjust or edit any of the code on your website.

How To Tell If Schema is Installed Correctly

After the schema has been installed, it’s important to test it. Google also conveniently has a structured data testing tool. This allows you to plug in your URL, and it will detect and debug any schema that you’ve attempted to install. If they’re installed correctly, they’ll be recognized as valid schema items. If not, it will show as having an error or a warning. 

a screenshot of Google's structured data testing tool

Schemas with warnings may still display on search engine results, they may just be missing a non-required item of the markup, whereas schemas with errors will not. Errors are usually something with the code where it’s either not installed correctly, or missing mandatory items.

Schema’s SEO Implications

The word is still out on whether schema officially affects your website’s SEO. Google and Bing have said definitively that schema is not a ranking factor, however, we believe that there are several indirect benefits to having schema. 

When schema is pulled out and displayed on the search engine results pages, oftentimes the listings are above even the ads or organic rankings. Therefore, while it doesn’t affect the organic rankings below, it most certainly can make your website more prominent, often resulting in a higher click-through rate, lower bounce rate and better user experience overall. 

If you think that your company’s website could benefit from installing schema, give our sales team a call. Our development and digital marketing teams are experts in this area, and we’d love to help expand your search engine presence.

 

Glenn Martin

Glenn grew up primarily in Ames and graduated from the University of Iowa with a double major of Russian and linguistics. He moved around a lot as a child, from being born in Georgia, moving to Iowa at the age of 2, but also lived in Germany for several years in grade school (his dad’s German). He has also studied abroad in France, the Czech Republic and in Russia. Prior to joining the Webspec team, he worked at a large tech company, dealing with domains, websites and servers, ending up in a training role teaching others. In his free time, Glenn enjoys to cook, travel, read and spend time with his wife and dog Temari.