Besides traditional SEO practices, there are modern ways to improve your SEO and schemas (also known as structured data, rich snippets or micro data) are among these techniques. Keep reading to find out what are schemas, why they are becoming important and how to use them in your website.
What is schema markup?
Structured data markup is a method to ‘describe’ your content to search engines in a way they can understand it.
When Google or other search engines crawl a webpage their primary goal is to find out what the page is all about. The crawlers cannot view a website like a human but they process the HTML of a page trying to figure out different things like the title of a page, images(s), main content, date published, author and other elements they find useful during the indexing process.
In order to make their job easier and faster, major search engines have agreed to a set of common standards, also known as schemas, that cover many content types including articles, videos, images but also different types of entities like organizations, local businesses, people and many more.
Why is structured data important for SEO?
Although Structured data is not yet part of the Google ranking algorithm, it is still important for SEO for many reasons.
First, it is a feature that is gaining ground and Google officially stated that it may be something that will go into the ranking algorithm in the near future. So, besides taking advantage of the benefits described below, you also prepare your website for future SEO.
Second, structured data enhances your website’s presence on the SERPS with rich snippets. This means that your entry in Google search results will be more attractive and informative than others and this will lead to better CTR (click through rates) and more visits to your website.
Third, it’s a way to get into the Google knowledge graph and take advantage of the many benefits this feature offers to website owners. The Google knowledge graph is the ‘information box’ that appears on the right of the search results when you search for a question, known brand or popular person, like the example below:
Fourth, is great for Local SEO. With structured data you can give search engines more information about your local business including address and contact information. In conjunction with a proper Google my business entry it can boost your local SEO.
Fifth, it’s a requirement for running successful Shopping campaigns. When setting up shopping campaigns on adwords, you need to have microdata on your product landing pages so that Google can verify the data submitted in your shopping feed. Without microdata it is very likely that your shopping campaigns will not be optimized.
Sixth, new technologies like the accelerated mobile pages rely heavily on structured data for some of their advanced features.
Seven, it increases your chances for getting an entry in Google answers like the example below from my business website.
How to use structured data in your website
Now that you are convinced about the importance of structured data let’s see a few examples of how you can use it in your website or pages but before getting into the implementation part, you need to know which structured data types to use. Some common use cases are:
Ecommerce: For ecommerce websites you can also use the products schema which includes details about your product, price, name, reviews etc.
Local Business: Local businesses can make use of localbusiness schema as well as the website schema.
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Note: You can use more than one schema in your website as long as the implementation is correct.
How does structured data looks like?
As mentioned above, structured data is a set of tags added in your HTML code. These are not visible to users but can be read by search engines when crawling your pages.
Structured data can be in the form of microdata or json-ld. Don’t worry if this is too technical for you because as we will see below, there are easy ways to add structured data to your website without knowing the low technical details.
For those who want to know more, this is how structured data looks when you view the HTML of a page:
Notice the itemscope itemtype and itemprop tags that describe what the data is about.
How to implement structured data in WordPress
There are 2 ways to add structured data to your WordPress website. The first one is the manual way i.e. editing your theme files and adding the required tags and the second one is through a plugin or a combination of plugins.
The manual way is not recommended since it involves changing your code and this is not something everybody can do. That’s why it is important to choose your WordPress theme and framework carefully (more on this in a different post).
To make the manual process a bit easier, Google has a tool called Structured Data Markup Helper. With this tool you can visually tag your pages and generate the required HTML code but you still have to edit your templates.
To get an idea on how this works, go to here, select the type of schema you want and enter a URL from your website in the URL box and click Start Tagging.
The tool will load your webpage in the left pane and in the right pane you get a list of available tags for the selected schema type. All you have to do now is to highlight areas of your website and assign them to tags.
When you are done you can view and download the generated HTML. Before adding to your website you can check using the structured data testing tool the validity of your code.
Adding structured data using plugins
Obviously the easiest way to add microdata to your website is to use a plugin and fortunately there are a number of plugins that can help you do this.
In the majority of cases you need to add schema information to your homepage and to your article pages (if you are running a blog) or product page (if you have an ecommerce website).
The free version of Yoast SEO plugin has built-in support for ‘website’, ‘organization’ and ‘person’ schemas so if you already use it, you can activate these features by going to YOUR INFO tab in the GENERAL SETTINGS under SEO.
When you add values to the required fields and click the SAVE CHANGES button, the plugin will add the necessary json-ld markup script on your homepage. You can check using the structured data testing tool what is added and if everything is ok.
In addition to that, you can also click SOCIAL and add the URLS to your social media pages. The plugin will associate your page with your social media pages using the ‘sameas’ tag.
If you are running a blog you also need to add the ‘articles’ or ‘blogposting’ schema to your website. WordPress websites running the genesis framework normally get this built in, if not then you can use the rich snippets plugin.
You can also use the rich snippets plugin to add structured data markup for your products (in case you have an ecommerce website). Note that if you are using woocommerce, you don’t need to do anything for your products, as it adds automatically the necessary markup.
Structured data is important for SEO and it is something you will need to consider sooner or later if you want to stay in synch with modern SEO practices.
The first step is to check whether your website is using markup data and the easiest way to do this is to use the Google structured data testing tool and test your homepage and other pages.
If you use markup data but there are errors in the testing tool, then it may be easier to hire a developer to do the necessary fixes.
If you don’t have markup in your pages, then consider either migrating to a WordPress framework and theme that has schema support built-in, the genesis framework is one of these or use the methods described above to add it.