What is schema markup and how does it benefit your business. Martha van Berkel walks you through how to create a schema markup strategy and then provides and example to explain the process. She outlines the tools to use in the schema markup process and the pro's and cons of each.
Hello and welcome to the XL workshop on Semantic SEO focused on Schema Markup. My name is Martha van Berkel Sono Canadese, e the cofounder of Schema App. Schema App is a SaaS, to help digital marketers create and maintain schema markup….at scale.
I am an engineer by training, in Applied Mathematics, and spent the first 14 years of my career at Cisco in the Silicon Valley, leading global teams in the area of automated, intelligent, online strategy.
By the time we are done our workshop today, you will know what is schema markup, why it is important to your business, and how to think about the strategy for the businesses you manage, and the tools that are best to help you get started. My goal is to make this workshop interactive, with questions throughout. Let’s get started with what is Schema Markup.
Schema Markup is the language of search engines, created by Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex in 2011 to help them better understand the meaning of webpages. In essence they created a vocabulary, for us to use to help them do their job better. When you apply the langage to your websites, you do it with code.
JSON LD is in a block. Preferred by Google. Code is managed in a block within the page.
Microdata, within the page html. Makes it brittle and could be impacted by page design changes.
The vocabulary is called Schema.org. There is a core vocabulary, and then specific extensions for specialized vocabularies such as Automotive, Bibliography, Finance, Medical and even IoT.
Within the vocabulary, are classes. These describe the things on the page. Then for each class there are properties which you use to describe the class or associate it with other things. Sub-clases, are more specific, and inherit the properties from the parent class. In this example, Autodealer, is the sub-class of Automotive busineses, which is a sub-class of Local Businesses, which is a sub-class of Organization.
On the Schema.org website, you can see the Classes described at the Top, and then the properties listed below. You will also note that there is a tree, showing you the relationships.
At the bottom of the schema.org page, you will also find examples using that class in Microdata, RDFa and JSON-LD.
While Schema.org shows you all the available classes and Properties, Google has their search feature guides, which articulate which classes and properties, they want to see in order to reward you with search features, such as knowledge graphs and rich results. These classes and features represent only a small fraction of the classes in Schema.org.
There are over 50 features offered by Google. Listed here are the rich result for ratings, news carousel, events and local business.
It’s not only in search, there are also over 20 email features resulting from schema markup.
The value of schema markup goes beyond rich results, adopting schema markup also results in higher click through reates, increased quality of traffic and customer engagement.
Don’t take my word for it. At Google IO in May 2017, they reported that Nestle saw 82% higher click through rates as a result of rich results.
Rakuten saw 3.6 times higher interaction rate.
And the food network saw 35% increase in visits to their website.
And schema markup is not just used by Google, Voice Search - Siri - Alexia - Google home leverage it to provide answers to their users.
So now that you know that schema markup is a vocabulary to help you describe your business, used by search, voice search, Google home and more. Let’s talk about how you create a strategy for your website. What should you optimize?
The first thing to consider is what are the important aspects of your business -- these are usually the business itself, the people, products, services, locations. Think about the things that customer ask about, or that make the business unique. Note that we didn’t start by asking what are the Google features we want to rank for!
In order to docuemnt your strategy, we suggest creating a four column table. Make a list of these important aspects of the business in the first column of your spreadsheet. This
In the second column, list what it is. Ideally, you would use the description found in schema.org.
Finally, identify what page this information is on the website. If no page exists, leave it blank. This is then a pointer to create new content that talks about that aspect of the business.
Next we are going to see what Google features you can get for the business or brand.
Google has over 50 different features you can rank for in search and email. Review which ones apply to your business.
ON your schema markup strategy, you can list the Google features you want to try and get. If they match with pages or things you already add, add them to the right column. If they don’t match up, list them in the right column, then fill out the other three columns for that feature. What you may find is that there are Google features you qualify for, however you don’t have the content on your website yet. This entire list of “things” for your business, now informs your Schema Markup plan for your website and brand.
Now that you have the list of the things you want to call out to search engines and personal assistants, let’s talk about best practices for doing schema markup. Today, Google prefers JSON-LD. I also prefer JSON-LD because it is easier to manage within your website since it isn’t inline with the html.
When creating your markup, we are going to want to use the most specific class. So if it is a Local Business, what kind of local business.
Another key is to only markup things on the page. IF you are doing the markup and realize that there is content missing on the page, update the page content to reflect this.
Finally, we are going to want to try and connect entities or rather things across your schema markup. By doing this, you are connecting the elements of your brand for the search engines, hence managing your knowledge graph explicitly.
Finally, use Wikipedia to define topics.
Let’s look at an example to see how this works.
This is the Bianchi Cafe and cycles website, from here in MIlano. Let’s walk through how we would create the markup for this website, using these best practices. The first step is to define the most specific class for the business. Now if you have created your strategy, you would already have done this in step 1.
Here you can see if we look through the schema.org hierarchy, it is a local business, a food establishment and then more specifically a cafe. For each class, the schema.org vocabulary gives us the definition and also alllll the properties we can use.
There is a long list of properties for each class.
Next, if we look at Google’s features, or look at our strategy, we know that there is a Local Business Feature that we can get in search results.
There are defined properties within the feature that we will want to follow.
Now remember, one of the best practices is to only add schema markup for what we see on the page. So here we see the name, the contact information, address, and social media profiles.
So in the schema markup, we will want to define just these properties. What I am showing here is a Schema Markup generator, that tells me what is required and recommended, so I can easily fill out what Google is looking for, with the information that is shown on the page. So I have taken all the information on the page and mapped this over.
You will also note that some of the address information is not listed. This is because it is missing on the page. If I were to run into this, I would recommend the postal code, or equivalent is added to the page, as well as the region (if applicable).
Note, that one of the properties is a contact point. Contact point is the contact information for the business or department. Here I am going to link it to the schema markup for the contact information, found on the contact page.
Figuring out how things can be related can be tricky. Luck for us my cofounder got tired of doing this manually and you can now use the free Schema Paths Mapping Tool. Enter the two types of things you are tryign to relate, and the tool will tell you how to output them.
Next I want to look at some of the non Google required and recommended properties. Two of my favourtites to use are Additional Property and Area Served.
Additional Property can be used to define the chosen property, here Cafe more specifically. Here i have chosent o link additional property to Bicycle, to call out that this cafe is also a bycicle store.
Area served is exactly what it reads as, it defines the goegraphic area that the store serves. To define it explicitly I have used wikipedia entry for Milan.
Bam- JSON - LD is created.
When doing schema markup, there is really a five step process.
Here are the best tools for creating markup.
Google Data Highlighter is good beginner tool, but lacks the ability to use all the properties in Schema Markup, as well as link it to other things on the web.
Merkle is great for the Google features, and is kept up to date. However you still need to copy and paste the code into your site.
Schema App has a free online generator and also a generator that is paid in the subscription tools. Schema App has all properties and allows you to link to other entities on the web.
Next you need to test! The source of truth for all testing is the Google Search Console, as it will tell you that it found the JSON-LD and that it has no errors.
Google Search Console is the source of truth for whether Google has seen your markup.
SDTT is also good for testing, but watch out, they cache their results, and also don’t call out the more advanced use cases.
Highly recommend using the Bookmarklet available from Kevin Polley and off Aaron Bradley’s website here.
Structured Data Linter is a good alternative or second test to SDTT.
Once you have your schema markup created and tested, you have to deploy it to the website. This can be done by copying and pasting it into the webpage (anywhere). The problem with copying and pasting is that it is manual, and if you have to update it again is cumbersome, and reliant on a web developer or web resource to get it done.
I really like to automate everything, but at the very least, use a tag to deploy it so you avoid engaging a development resource to do it.
Once you have it deployed, you need to maintain it? Why, since January this year, schema.org and the Google features have been updated 44 times. If you prefer to do the updates manually, you can levearge Aaron Bradley’s Google Updates spreadsheet to inform you of changes, or go to Search Console and look at the Structured Data report. Alternatively, you can use tools like Schema App to monitor your markup.
This is Aaron Bradley’s spreadsheet where he notes updates in the Google Features. It has the ability to setup notifications so you can get emailed when there are changes.
Classes are the types of things
described: Organization, Person,
Creative Work, Event, etc.
Properties indicate the attributes or
relationships of the things
MedicalOrganization) inherit the
properties of parent classes
(LocalBusiness, Place, Organization