SEO Structured Data: What Is Schema?

What Is Schema Markup?

Schema markup offers a way to structure information contained on websites. Most information provided on a website is in an unstructured format—there is no way for a machine to easily know what the text on a page is. Is that sequence of numbers pricing information or the date of an event? With schema markup, you can change your website’s content from unstructured to structured information by adjusting your HTML code. This schema markup provides more details to search robots about what that content contains, allowing them to use that information to enhance search results.

The schema markup supported by search engines can be found on schema.org. Schema.org was introduced in 2011 in a collaborative effort by Google, Bing, and Yahoo. It is important to note that not all schemas listed on schema.org will enhance search results. Google and Bing provide details about which schema types they support in search results.

Schema Markup Example

Let’s look at a schema markup example, in this case for an Organization. In this schema markup, you can see Elementive’s name, email address, website, logo, and phone number. While it is written in code, this still is relatively easy for people to read too. More importantly, this code is incredibly easy for bots to read. For example, by using this markup, bots can easily understand that Elementive is located in Centennial, Colorado—it would be very tricky for bots to correctly and reliably understand that type of information without schema markup.

{
"@context": "http://schema.org",
"@type": "Organization",
"name": "Elementive",
"legalName": "Elementive Marketing Solutions",
"url": "https://www.elementive.com",
"logo": ["https://www.elementive.com/data/uploads/ems-logo-150x150.png"],
"address": {
"@type": "PostalAddress",
"addressLocality": "Centennial, CO",
"postalCode": "80112",
"streetAddress": "8200 S Quebec St., Suite A3293"
},
"email": "info@elementive.com",
"contactPoint": [{
"@type": "ContactPoint",
"telephone": "+1-720-897-8705 ",
"contactType": "customer service",
"areaServed": "US"
}],
"sameAs": ["https://www.linkedin.com/company/elementive/", "http://twitter.com/elementivesltns", "http://www.slideshare.net/Elementive", "http://www.youtube.com/c/ElementiveMarketingSolutions"],
"founder": [{
"@type": "Person",
"name": "Andrea Streff",
"jobTitle": "Consultant"
}, {
"@type": "Person",
"name": "Matthew Edgar",
"jobTitle": "Consultant"
}]
}

Note: Google doesn’t require the full Organization schema type, using Organization schema for logos. Google does have specific requirements for Organization schema (and other types of schema) and those requirements need to be met if you want Google to consider using that schema markup to enhance search results.

Schema Formats

Schema markup can be written in several different formats. The example above was written in JSON-LD, which stands for JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data. JSON-LD is separate from the rest of your HTML code. On Elementive’s website, that means we have our address, phone number, email, and other information stated elsewhere on our website as well as stating it within the JSON-LD schema markup. Placing data in two places (once on your website and once in schema markup) can sometimes lead to problems where the information provided on your website doesn’t match what is stated in the JSON-LD schema markup.

While JSON-LD is Google’s recommended format, Google and Bing do support markup in Microdata or RDFa formats. Microdata or RDFa are inline HTML markup that is machine-readable. In the example below, you’ll see itemtype and itemprop attributes within the HTML tags. That means you are only stating this information in one place on your website instead of in multiple places. However, Microdata and RDFa are not as robust or expressive, limiting what schema types can be marked up with those code formats.

Example of Schema markup in Microdata format

Is Schema Important For SEO?

While schema markup is not required, it can lead to significant gains for your SEO performance. The biggest reason to use schema markup is that it can make your search result listing more interesting with additional pieces of information, such as star ratings and vote counts in this case of a review website. If your listing looks more interesting, it can lead to higher click-through rates from a search result.

Example of Review schema

As well, schema markup provides more opportunities for search engine robots to understand your content as they crawl your website. By making a page on your website easier to understand, you are increasing the chances that the page will appear in the proper types of search results. Related to this, when your website does appear in search results, schema markup enhancements can help people who see that search result better understand what your website offers.

Considerations When Using Schema Markup

There are a few things you need to keep in mind if you are going to use schema. First, schema markup doesn’t influence where a page ranks in search results; you aren’t going to rank in the first position simply because you used schema markup. Schema markup is predominately about enhancing the search result listing itself and generating more clicks.

As well, schema operates as a suggestion to Google and will not necessarily influence search results at all. Many clients we work with who are using valid and supported schema markup on their websites do not see any alternations to their website’s search result listings.

Finally, incorrect schema markup usage can lead to manual actions or penalties. Be careful and ensure your schema markup correctly represents the content on your page. The biggest issue is that some piece of content is only shown in schema markup and it is hidden from a regular user’s view. When that happens, it might look like you are trying to manipulate search robots into seeing something that normal visitors to your website would not see.

Viewing & Testing Schema

Let’s wrap up this guide by discussing how you can test your website’s schema markup.

Structured Data Testing Tool Extension

In Chrome, you can add the Structured Data Testing Tool as an extension. Once added, you can click the icon in the extension tray to view all the schema offered on the web page you are currently viewing. Helpfully, it will also show errors and warnings about that schema code. Because this is an extension in your local browser, you can also use this to test schema on pages on private development servers.

Structured Data Testing Tool

Classy Schema

Classy Schema offers a structured data viewer. In this viewer, you can either paste in your own code or you can fetch code from a live URL. Once you’ve added in the code, you can see what schema markup is present, including full details of what content is present in the markup. Classy Schema also lets you highlight the specific part of the code that contains the schema markup, which is very handy for debugging any warnings or errors that might be present.

Classy Schema – Structured Data Viewer

Google’s Rich Snippets Testing Tool

Google offers a Rich Snippets Testing Tool . Rich snippets are a broad category of enhanced search results, including search results enhanced because of schema markup. You can enter in a URL to fetch or put in code you want to evaluate. Google will tell you if the page is eligible for rich results and, if so, what items it detected.

Google’s Rich Results testing Tool

Within rich results, you can also see a preview of how search results might be enhanced because of the schema code you added.

Rich Results Preview

Google Search Console

You can also view and test schema in Google Search Console. To view what schema markup Google is detecting while they crawl your website, you can view the “Enhancements” section of the dashboard. For more details on that, check on this video:

You can also test if Google is detecting your schema when inspecting URLs and you can also view schema markup within the Performance report.

Technical SEO Services

Want help using schema markup on your website or improving your website’s other technical SEO factors? Contact me today.

Prefer a more DIY approach? Order my book, Tech SEO Guide, a reference guide to help you address the technical SEO issues on your website. Order now on Amazon.