Schema Markup: The Game Changer in 2018 SEO Ranking Factor
For a long time, Google is using structured data for more accurate search results. However, in the past few years, Schema data came up, which was primarily used for presentation purposes. Of late, with the latest changes at Google developer pages and the statement at PubCon 2017 event, it seems the influence of structured data might be much more than that.
According to Google’s developer page, “When information is highly structured and predictable, search engines can more easily organize and display it in creative ways.”
That clearly means Google uses Schema structure markup data for organizing information for displaying it in various creative ways.
After June 2017, the Google Developer page on Schema also changed and its purpose was replaced. Now Google’s developer page says that structured data helps Google understand the exact meaning of a page and enables special search result features and enhancements.
The new version, “Google Search works hard to understand the content of a page. However, you can provide explicit clues about the meaning of a page to Google by including structured data on the page.”
Here comes Schema Markup – the real game changer.
Changes in Ranking Factors
Every year, Google gives us a new ranking factor(s).
Let’s take a look at the changes over the past 5 years…
- HTTPS became a crucial ranking factor in 2014
- Mobile usability became the next big thing for ranking in 2015
- Content development becomes the key as RankBrain is introduced in 2016
- HTTPS was further pushed and made more significant in 2017
- Mobile page speed is the next bug ranking factor in 2018
According to John Mueller, “awesomeness” is the key to Google ranking.
Therefore, now, if you are looking for one answer to the question – whether or not Schema Markup is a major SEO ranking, it is probably NOT. Yes, not exactly now!
Here’s quoting John Mueller, “So in general, using structured markup doesn’t directly affect your site’s ranking. So, if you add this markup to your pages, and that’s something that kind of helps us to better understand your page’s content, but it’s not something that will see any drastic changes in rankings in the search results.”
For a positive response to the use of Schema as a ranking factor, let’s slightly change the question – Is structure markup data, of which Schema Markup is an example, a helpful factor in improving SEO and visibility? The answer is a clear YES!
Nevertheless, how exactly can you create better visibility?
There are two ways to attain that:
- By providing clearer data to the search engines, thus enabling them to understand your website better
- By providing major authoritative data through web links and more through media citations
In the first method, both SEO and Schema Markup cross paths. However, before delving into these dynamics of SEO and Schema, let us understand how structured data, Schema and SEO evolved to the current state.
Some Crucial Background Info
Google officially introduced the concept of Rich Snippets back in May 2009. However, in 2008, enhanced search engine results already started surfacing for Yelp, Download.com, TripAdvisor, Citysearch, and CNET. With the announcement in May 2009, the enhanced search results were made official and named “Rich Snippets.”
Google looks up for markup formats such as RDFa and microformats, for displaying Rich Snippets, which you can add to your web pages easily.
With Rich Snippets came the concept of more enhanced search-user experience.
In all probability, rich snippets shall continue to evolve as well as change based on the convenience of Google search engine users. However, the changes are quite subtle for users to recognize. Having said that, the markup formats of rich snippets shall continue to evolve.
The Present Scenario – Is Structured Data Optional?
No, it is not. Schema Markup is one form of structured data that is crucial for online visibility. It offers more benefits such as enhanced listing and better ranking. Search engines are constantly evolving to meet the increasing needs of voice search, mobile search, and voice assistants. Adding structured data to web pages is largely in the interest of search marketers to gain an edge over their competitors. That makes Schema Markup indispensable to SEO today.
With voice search gaining market share and RankBrain becoming more and more influential in Google’s core search algorithm, it is very important to put a webpage in correct context for improved SEO and search visibility results.
Schema Markup – The Rising Sun
Schema.org introduced Schema Markup as a form of microdata. Once it is added to any webpage, schema markup starts creating an enhanced description, also called rich snippets, as mentioned above. Snippets appear in search results giving a brief description of the content.
Leading search engines Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Yandex started collaborating for creating Schema.org in 2011.
In the age of RankBrain and Hummingbird, Schema Markup is critically important. How search engines interpret the context of queries to determine the quality of search results. The schema provides context to any ordinary ambiguous webpage. Rich snippets definitely make web pages appear prominently in SERPs. Improved visibility equally improves click-through rates.
According to acquire study, less than one-third of Google search results include rich snippets with Schema.org markup. This literally translates to a massive opportunity for the rest of the businesses. In today’s SEO forefront, only a few things can compel a quick dial. This is definitely one of them.
Schema Markup Uses
The most popular uses of Schema Markup are as follows:
However, there is a possibility that if you have any type of data on the website, it would have a related itemtype, itemscope, and itemprop.
Do you understand these terms?
It is technical, so let’s break it down and make it understandable.
Itemscope is a typical shortcode to specify the kind of item you being discussed. It generally comes with an itemtype shortcode that is used to tag a page/entry as to what it is all about instead of search engines relying on the placement and number of keywords.
Itemprop is another shortcode to identify the properties of the item that is specified as an itemtype. For instance, if itemtype is “CreativeWork” and itemprop is “about”, the search engine reads it as – Page is “about” CreativeWork.
How Schema Markup Structured Data Supports SEO?
Major search engines Google, Yahoo, Bing, and many other encouraged webmasters to use structure data while incentivizing the usage of providing advantages to websites with structured data properly implemented. Some of the major benefits include:
- Richer search results including images, styling, and various visual enhancements
- Rich cards, another variation of rich snippets, designed only for mobile users
- Enriched search results with immersive and interactive features
- Knowledge Graph containing information about brands and entities
- Breadcrumbs in search results
- Carousel style collection of multiple rich results
- Rich results for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) appearing in carousels with enriched results
As a result of these enhanced search results, the click-through rate (CTR) also improved, which, in turn, drives more traffic. Improved CTR indirectly improves rankings.
How to Boost SEO Using Schema Markup?
Let’s just come to the main point now.
Schema Markup is the latest evolution of SEO. It is the recent form of optimization, the most powerful one indeed, but under-utilized.
Your goal is to rank higher, look better, and do the best in SERPs and amongst users. Schema Markup is the best thing to try. Follow these steps:
Step #1: Visit Google Structured Data Markup Helper
Step #2: Select data type to markup
You would find several options listed here, though not exhaustive. Let’s choose the most common one, “Articles.”
Step #3: Paste the URL of the page/article you want to markup
As you click “Start Tagging”, the page appears. You can then tag items the way you want. You can see the data items in the right pane and web page on the left. Highlight and select the element type you want to markup.
Step #4: Select “Name”
When you select “Name”, the tools automatically add it to “Data Item” in the right place.
Now, you can keep adding markup items. Use the list of data items as your guide to highlight other items in the article and add them to your markup list. You may not be able to tag all the items in this list but do as many as you can.
Step #5: Create HTML
Now, create the HTML following simple steps
Step #6: Add Schema Markup to the Web Page
In the next step, go to the CMS or source code (if you are not using CMS) and add highlighted snippets in appropriate spots. The simplest way to do it is to download auto-generated HTML file and copy/paste it into the CMS or the source code.
Click “Finish” and you will be directed to the “Next Steps.”
Step #7: Use the Structured Data Testing Tool
Testing is a very important stage as you can analyze the published webpage. You can download the code and analyze it using the tool generated. You have to paste the code and click the “preview” button. The testing tool would show what the article exactly looks like in the search results.
Schema Markup Today and in the Future
Schema markup is a simple and easy tool. However, few businesses and websites are practically using it and/or taking advantage of it. It is one of the best practices to incorporate into business web pages.
Scheme markup is definitely one of the SEO innovations that could probably last for a very long time. It is the right time to learn more about Schema markup and implement relevant microdata for improved and better search results. Doing so shall put your business much ahead of the curve, thus keeping you ahead in this crowded and competitive marketplace.
Structured Data, Schema Markup & SEO Myths
Myth#1: Structured data implementation ensures rich snippets
Although structured data like Schema Markup is necessary to be eligible for rich cards and rich snippets, it does not guarantee immediate results. Sometimes, the result may not show up at all or may be inconsistent. However, this does not necessarily mean you have done something wrong.
Myth#2: Structured data is the best ranking signal
It is true that using structured data correctly helps search engines have a better understanding of the content. As a result, it contributes to strong relevance and signals. Moreover, studies reveal that rich snippets can also improve the click-through rate (CTR), which leads to improved rankings indirectly. However, using structured data markup is not essentially a direct ranking signal on its own.
Myth#3: Google figures out without any additional effort
Google is getting smarter day by day, trying to figure out things and understand content without much assistance. Therefore, it is unwise to skip a few steps. Not only Google but also other search engines can also equally understand and figure out some of the things easily. However, if you want them to understand specific things about the content of a web page, you have to use correct markup. It is not only going to help in short-term with algorithms that are not good to understand but also ensures that the website itself is structured and content serves a clearer purpose. In addition, Google does not give you some features without proper implementation, which could end up costing on a larger scale in due time, especially if your business is in a competitive niche. Besides anything else, studies reveal that rich snippets can improve click-through rate (CTR) by anywhere from 5 to 30 percent.
As of now, we can only ponder over Schema markup and its SEO equation. There is no real or prudent evidence showing Schema helping websites rank higher. However, search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo do not give a damn to it. After all, the internet business is a faster feedback loop platform to do trial and errors as much as you want.