Schema.org was launched on June 2, 2011, providing a structured data markup supported by major search engines. Since then, we have seen schema.org markup implemented on many websites; however, you usually only see it on the tech-savvy and gung-ho webmasters’ sites (or being generated by a CMS). This structured markup can be tedious to implement, and webmasters often don’t take the time to capitalize on the real benefits.
As we move forward into a new era of semantic search, I expect to see this markup added to many more websites. I believe that the Google Hummingbird update and greater dependence on Knowledge Graph has made schema.org all the more important.
As Google works harder to connect the dots between entities online, in an attempt to adapt to entity and category based queries, schema.org markup will be key. Google wants to categorize the web and specify specific entity points, schema.org is one way to make this happen.
What follows are 7 things SEOs should know about schema.org.
1. It Is A Collaboration Project
Schema.org is not merely recognized by a single search engine — instead, it is a collaboration project between Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex. These search engines all support schema.org markup, which can’t necessarily be said of other types of markup such as microformats or RDFa.
It should be noted that Google now recommends that you add schema.org instead of any other markup. This is the current standard.
So, if you are going to implement any kind of structured data markup, choose schema.org.
2. Not All Markup Creates Rich Snippets
Right now, schema.org gives you the ability to convey a large amount of information to search engines, but not all of that markup creates rich snippets or enhanced search results. When we say “rich snippets,” we refer to elements appearing in a SERP listing that are not a meta description. Google (and other search engines) are constantly changing the way they interpret and display structured markup data as rich snippets.
When it comes to rich snippets, Google may display them for many types of content such as events, music, organizations, people, products, recipes, reviews, software applications, videos and more. I realize most of the readers on this site are familiar with this concept, but for those who are not here are a few examples. When you review each of these, think to yourself, would this increase CTR for the website when compared to a normal listing.
Rich Snippet For Events
Rich Snippet For Music
Rich Snippet For Recipes
Be sure to check out the full list of rich snippets currently supported by Google. It is my feeling that in many cases, the enhanced listing can increase CTR which can of course lead to better rankings. There have been some interesting studies done on this. Most show that having a rich snippet leads to more visits.
3. Schema.org Vs. Open Graph
Facebook Open Graph serves its purpose well, but it doesn’t provide the detailed information search engines need to improve the user experience. A single web page may have many components, and it may talk about more than one thing. Even if you mark up your content for Facebook Open Graph, schema.org provides an additional way to provide more detail about particular entities on the page.
Some people speculate that as we move forward Google’s segmentation in the navigation will align more closely with the Schema.org markup, making it look more like a Facebook search segmentation drop-down. It already aligns with these concepts to a degree.
A quick note, it does seem that Facebook Graph Search is making great use of their Open Graph protocol. Everything is very well segmented. Just take a look at that drop down.
As Google works to connect entities and categorize them with the help of Schema.org, we can speculate that the navigation will adhere to their methodology.
4. It Connects Things Together
One big part of a string based query, that being, a search that stems from one main entity, is the aspect of connection. Schema.org allows you to do just that. For instance, Schema.org allows you to specify a person. It also allows you to specify properties of that person; such as a child of the person, date of birth, educational institution, date of death, gender, the list goes on. You can see a few of the properties below.
I’ll allow your mind to briefly wonder on the SEO implications of this…
When I consider it, I think of all the large websites that could improve the way they markup their data with this information, and thus, be the provider of this information, potentially, in search engines. Then I consider, what would Google do with this information? Would they add it to their Knowledge Graph, simply deliver it in a Google Card or would they return the web page in some form? Also, would this markup change the search listing by creating a rich snippet?
These are the questions that will burn in SEOs minds as search evolves over the next couple months and years. The bottom-line for the search expert will be: will this hard work of mapping data with schema.org increase search traffic to a site or will it simply hand information over to Google to deliver.
I’ll make sure to dive into this topic more in a follow up article. But for now, just take a look at this card that is returned when we search: Barack Obama > How Tall is He
There was no need for a webpage to get involved here. That search never turned into a visit. But is this necessarily a bad thing? How valuable would that visit have been? Again, a much larger topic which will be covered in a future post.
5. Schema.org And Language Optimization
It is important to note that Schema.org markup can be added in any language. They currently only provide the documentation for implementation in English, but the markup can be used anywhere. I am going to have to add this to the ultimate guide to multilingual and multiregional SEO.
6. Why Should You Add Schema?
Google states that by adding schema.org markup, search engines gain a much stronger understanding of the page content. Google uses the schema markup to create rich snippets in some cases — and they plan to add more rich snippets in the future.
Not every type of information in schema.org will be surfaced in search results but over time you can expect that more data will be used in more ways. In addition, since the markup is publicly accessible from your web pages, other organizations may find interesting new ways to make use of it as well.
Anything that can be done with previous markups can be done with schema, so why not switch?
7. How To Add Schema Markup To Your Website
So now the question becomes, how do you easily add schema.org markup to you website? There is a very helpful guide to getting started, which you can view here. Once you have added it to a page, make sure to test it with the structured data testing tool.
Summing It Up
You don’t need to add structured data markup to every page and every property — just the ones that matter. Google will continue to support past markups such as microformats and RDFa for your current content, so you don’t need to change right away.
Although Google says it does not use schema markup as a ranking factor at this time, they also say that rich snippets can make your Web page more prominent in search and thus lead to more traffic! So the two of course play into each other. If it is good for users, it is good for your website.
Furthermore, as voice search and other types of string-based queries expand on the web (which I believe they will rapidly over the next couple years), Schema.org can aid in the connection of those entities, categories and concepts.
I look forward to hearing your feedback on and ideas on Schema.org and good luck with your schema.org projects.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.