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Why You Should Not Ignore Schema Markup for SEO – Here’s Why #114

In order to understand the world around us, and to communicate our understanding to others, we apply schema. That is, we assign things to general classifications, such as animal, vegetable, or mineral.
In this episode of our Here’s Why Digital Marketing video series, Eric Enge and Mark Traphagen invite Perficient Digital’s Senior Director of Technical SEO, Mats Tolander, to explain how schema markup helps our SEO by helping search engines to better understand what’s on our pages.

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Resources

Transcript

Eric: Folks, Mark and I would like to introduce you to Mats Tolander, our Director of Technical SEO here at Perficient Digital. Mats is an expert in the area of structured data and schema markup. So we asked him to come give us a crash course on why they matter.
Mats: Thank you, Eric and Mark. I’m glad to be here.

What is structured data schema?

Mark: Mats, let’s start with a definition. What is structured data?
Mats: Structured data is a way to make it easier for a search engine to understand how a specific set of content fits inside a structured data schema.
Eric: Tell us what you mean by structured data schema.
Mats: A schema is simply a structured framework. It’s a way to label and organize data in a relevant and logical manner. For example, if we had a data structure for addresses, it wouldn’t make much sense to have a label for height as part of that schema. However, it could make sense for a complimentary class, describing the structure at the address or describing the mailbox at the address.
Mark: I for one feel like I could use a schema for height right now. Anyway, I’m going to guess that a structured data schema is a framework for recognizing different kinds of data.
Mats: Mark, and they say you’re just a pretty face!
Yes, that’s correct. When we structure the data with established schema, we help machines to identify it correctly, and to know what type of data is in the data set. To take it to the level of a web page, which is what a search engine looks at, we humans know the page is more than just a random collection of words. As we read the page, we begin to understand its meaning and how all the pieces of data on the page contribute to that meaning. That’s an amazing ability that we evolved over millions of years. But it’s a very hard task for a machine.

How schema markup helps SEO

Eric: It would help the machine, in this case, a search engine, if we put some markup around certain types of standard information to structure the data so the search engine can recognize it.
Mats: Right. And that’s where schema markup comes in. The major search engines all agreed to adopt the markup found at the 0pen source web community Schema.org.
Eric: Some of the types of data that search engines can recognize with schema markup include locations, addresses, phone numbers, recipes, reviews, news articles, and many other things.
Mats: And it can even be used to identify properties of things. For example, you would identify that something on the page is a recipe with a schema markup. But you could also identify key properties of the recipe, such as a summary, an image URL for a photo of the dish, and ratings from users who have tried the recipe.

Why should you use schema markup?

Mark: That’s great for the search engine. But why should we help Google or Bing do their job? I mean what’s in it for us?
Mats: Does it always have to be about you, Mark?
Mark: Eric keeps asking me if I’ve increased the traffic to our site. So yes, it is about me.
Mats: Why this is important for site owners bring us back to SEO. One of the tasks of a search engine is to determine how relevant the page is to a user’s query. Structured data can help with that, because it explicitly states what type of data is available, which makes it easier for a search engine to compare to other pages and see if they have similar types of data.
[Tweet “Using structured data can help Google understand the relevancy of your page to a query. More at”]
In theory, the better understanding a search engine has about your content’s relevance to a query, the better chance you have of ranking well for that query. Now, that said, I don’t think, for example, Google treats just the presence of structured data as a ranking signal. And I don’t think it ever will.
Mark: Any other SEO advantages for schema markup you could tell us about?
Mats:

  • It can help you get a more visually compelling treatment in the search results pages. For example, those little stars for review items.
  • It can trigger inclusion in certain types of Google carousels that they’re increasingly adding to search results. You know, news, recipes, products, query-relevant locations, etc.

Mark: Mats, what are the hot new developments for schema right now?
Mats: Though it’s not exactly new, I’ll go with JSON-LD, which is a specific way to present a structured data schema. JSON-LD stands for JavaScript Object Notation Linked Data. Without going too deep into the weeds, I’ll point to one sweet advantage of JSON-LD compared to other ways of marking up structured data. It allows you to separate the structured data from the on-page content, which can make it a lot easier to nest and maintain both the structured data and the HTML and content on the page, without messing up either.
Eric: That helps developers?
Mats: Yes, in my experience, a lot. But there are some downsides. The duplication of strings bloat content and notably so in cases of long-form articles. And when you have data on the page that isn’t visible to the user, there’s certainly risk that you might update your on-page content but not the underlying structured data. So it’s important to manage that with the proper tools and processes.
Eric: What makes JSON-LD specifically so valuable to search engines?
Mats: JSON is a great way to transmit data from machine to machine, so it fits right with the vision of using structured data to better understand the content on the page. And it also reduces the parsing and processing required for this machine to physically read and understand the content.
Mark: Do all the search engines support this?
Mats: No, right now, it’s only Google (Note: Per Aaron Bradley, Yandex, and Apple both also appear to support JSON-LD). And that of course, creates problems for web publishers. Should they stick with a single schema type, one that is as broadly used as possible? Or should they go with one that suits Google the best? Or should they use both? Right? So the answer really depends on the cost-benefit analysis, on traffic patterns, and what you think the traffic potential is.
Eric: Thanks for sharing the information with us, Mats. Mats has provided us with some helpful resources about schema markup, which you’ll find at the top of this post.
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Thoughts on “Why You Should Not Ignore Schema Markup for SEO – Here’s Why #114”

  1. This is a great article guys.
    I am surprised by the small percentage of websites i see currently using markup data!
    Our SEO agency has been using Schema on client websites for the past 18 months and we genuinely feel it has had a positive influence on their rankings.
    In fact we have done tests, where the only SEO activities we have done in a 12 week period, was to add markup dat, Then we have seen between 10-30 position increases in the SERPs for certain keywords.
    Coincidence? I think not.

  2. Hello MATS,
    Indeed great articles you shared about Schema. Now a days for SEO oriented as well as user friendly both benefits form schema. Also if you used schema then its lot of benefits.

  3. Great article with some pretty amazing content but can you do me a favour and NOT tell everyone about schema?
    We have been using it on some of our and some client sites over the past 6-7 months and very happy with the results.
    Thanks in advance for your consideration 😉

  4. Great article and it is nice to see that you are creating video content guys! We are implementing this for one of our clients and will see how the results are affected by using a proper Schema markup.
    Regards

  5. Schema Markup is now a major ranking factor from google. Now everybody should use schema tag. I recently added schema tag on my blogger blog and i am very happy for it. Thanks Mats for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  6. Great stuff guys! A quick note regarding the following:
    Mark: Do all the search engines support this [JSON-LD]?
    Mats: No, right now, it’s only Google.
    Well, Bing doesn’t. But Yandex does, and Apple (insofar as Spotlight and iOS 9+ via Applebot is search engine) does. I’ve verified this via tests conducted 28 Feb. 2017 using Yandex’s and Apple’s markup validation tools. Thanks!

  7. In the video, Mats says, “That’s why it’s important to use the right tools”
    What are you using to implement Schema?
    Most people I ask say, “we use online generators and hand code.”
    So, what are the right tools?

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Mats Tolander

Mats Tolander has 20 years of web development experience and he has been involved in search engine optimization for almost as long. Mats oversees Perficient Digital’s SEO programmer team, provides the senior marketing consultants and marketing associates with technical SEO support and training, and keeps up with changes in the search engine optimization landscape.

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