Schema.org – 7 Things For SEOs To Consider Post Hummingbird

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.

Call out from Google

Call out from Google

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 Events

Rich Snippet Events

Rich Snippet For Music

Rich Snippet Music

Rich Snippet Music

Rich Snippet For Recipes

Rich Snippet Recipe

Rich Snippet Recipe

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

In a way, Schema.org is similar to Facebook’s Open Graph protocol, but with broader applications. From the FAQ page on Schema.org:

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.

Facebook Search Engine

Facebook Graph Search

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.

Schema.org Thing Person Markup

Schema.org Thing Person Markup

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

How Tall is Barack Obama Example Google Result

How Tall is Barack Obama Example Google Result

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.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO | Google: Hummingbird | Schema.org

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About The Author: is Founder and President of SEO and Social Media at Ignite Visibility, a premier Internet marketing company based in San Diego, CA. You can follow John on Twitter at: @johnelincoln.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • Barry Moorecombe

    Great article, thank you. What Schema recommendations would you make? What critical ones would you include?

  • http://www.socialpositives.com/ Mohammed Anzil

    Excellent article….. Thanks for sharing….

  • seoservices4smallbusiness

    Its good to know about schema.org I will work on it. Thanks for sharing !!

  • bustya

    Um, microdata has been removed from HTML5 in favor of a single semantic markup of RDFa. Read the current W3C spec for html5 as well as
    http://manu.sporny.org/2013/microdata-downward-spiral/

  • bustya

    btw, you can still use schema.org’s ontology with RDFa.

  • Rich Benci

    John – great to see this fantastic article from a fellow San Diegan! Implementing markup manually can be a drain on resources and prone to error. Finding an automated method to implement Schema.org can help it get done quickly and maintain it properly over time. That’s the challenge for many mid-sized web sites.

  • derekedmond

    bustya – per this reference (https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/1211158?hl=en&ref_topic=1088472) it would seem like Google in particular is still favoring schema over RDFa however?

  • bustya

    yes i’ve seen that, I suspect it’s out of date. The latest version of my work is in microdata because it’s suggested on that very page, I’ll probably update to RDFa within a year.
    I tried several methods of keeping my markup to a minimum with microdata, mainly: grouping itemprops, acquiring itemprops from nested objects as well as using the itemref. After a couple of months of that I studied up on RDFa and realized it’s more flexible than microdata and from the examples I examined it seems the syntax is lighter. Also RDFa encourages extension while microdata only allows for it with the additionalType property to extend it and sameAs to be more specific.
    ….
    There’s a comment below I can read but not reply to, to him, Dan Scott, –agreed on all points except for “microdata being the edge because more are using it”, I don’t think that matters (to Google) if both are supported. Also, your comments suggest an eye on temporary gains in SERs rather than on building a richer semantic web. In the big picture, I think RDFa extends ontologies (such as schema, goodrelations, productontology) easier and more naturally.

  • Cokecan

    Schema has been around for quite a while already – so what exactly is the news here?? Stuff like GoodRelations for Schema.org and implementation for E-commerce is something that I am missing in the above…

  • http://www.myonlinetraininghub.com/ Philip Treacy

    I found the schema.org doco hard to understand and as Rich has said, very time consuming to implement and maintain. not really attractive to small businesses to implement this. so what does that mean? Only big companies with the budget and manpower get to take advantage of it, surely that’s not right.

  • derekedmond

    You make valid points with community support, flexibility, and long term vision. We’re only using very specific instances and situations with markup which hopefully can transfer to RDFa easily enough should the broader recommendation change. Thanks for the deeper insight

  • derekedmond

    While I don’t think schema.org is easy to read I think it’s just as head spinning as digging into Open Graph or RDFa. The potential frustration to me is having to make 2 – 3 overhauls if search engines change their stance on which vocabulary they prefer

  • John E Lincoln

    The article covers new points and insight on schema. You are right it has been around.

  • John E Lincoln

    There is definitely some truth here. I agree.

  • bustya

    I believe this is okay with the linking policy here since it’s on point. Here’s the richsnippets results for the homepage of my current project marked up with microdata, it’s still sandboxed (noindex,nofollow). I’ve yet to see anyone using it as much as I have here, each page and object is marked up. The only text not marked up is punctuation.
    http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets?q=http%3A%2F%2Fserendipitycupcakes.org%2F

  • http://abc-podatki.pl/ ABC Podatki

    For sure schema.org is the future of semantic search, the biggest change is to merge branding (big offline marketing agencies) with sem (small agencies, freelancers)

  • bustya

    Hey Derek. It’s important to note the differences between RDFa and microdata are syntax, not vocabularies. The vocabularies (ontologies) are still valid regardless of the syntax using them. So schema.org, productontology.org, purl.org/goodrelations/, and so on will work regardless. The syntax difference is:
    1. the way they reference namespaces
    2. the attributes used in the markup.
    For analogy, consider the differences between XML and JSON formats, both can contain the same information their difference is syntax.

  • http://blackhatpwnage.com/ igl00

    Love schema stuff!

  • derekedmond

    Thanks bustya – this dialogue has been very helpful

  • http://www.loriswebs.com/ Lori Eldridge

    I just checked the top ranking sites for two keyword phrases that I monitor and none of them contain schema markup, so I’m wondering the benefit of doing it.

  • http://www.omiod.com Omiod

    May I suggest this Chrome extension to view and verify the meta data in a page? https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/meta-seo-inspector/ibkclpciafdglkjkcibmohobjkcfkaef

 

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