An Introduction to Schema Markup

adding schema to websites

Do you have your own blind spots when it comes to coding and building websites?

I’ll be honest – I definitely have mine. I do a lot more than the “average” web developer to ensure good on-page SEO and I’ve been preaching focusing on quality content vs keyword stuffed since before Google made the formal switch.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my own blocks. In the last few months, I’ve gotten more and more careful about my Schema markup. If you’re not quite sure what people mean when they talk about Schema or how some Google Search Results have those rich snippets instead of a generic search result, this episode is for you.

Let’s dig in.

What is Schema?

Schema.org is a joint effort between Google, Bing, Yandex, and Yahoo! to communicate certain information better to search engines. Basically, Schema is a set of tags (or microdata) that you can add to the websites you build to improve the way search engines read and represent your page in SERPs.

In short, these tags help search engines better understand the content you’re publishing. In turn, it helps them to display better results in their own pages and enhances your listings.

While Schema can be used with many different encodings, including RDFa, Microdata and JSON-LD, we’re going to focus on the Microdata.

That microdata is basically a set of HTML tags that you can easily add to any website you build to help Google and other search engines understand that information more easily.

What Type of Content Can You Markup?

If we’re focusing just on a standard website (there’s a whole other section that covers email), you have a few types of data you can markup. While Schema can be used to provide solid information about everything from events to recipes, it’s most often used with the following:

  • Articles
  • Events
  • Products
  • Restaurants
  • Local Businesses
  • Movies
  • Book Reviews
  • Job Postings
  • Question and Answer Pages (i.e. FAQs)

So while you may not use Schema for your generic page content, you’ll want to use it on blog posts, to declare your organization, share a restaurant’s Menu URL and even the hours of operation for a local business or a review rating.

Adding Schema to Websites

If you work with clients that want the rich snippets or they have the type of information that would benefit from Schema markup, you’ll want to work on adding the tags to the websites you build. You can dig through the Schema.org developer resources, or you can use Google’s free Structured Data Markup Helper. (That way is much easier, if I do say so myself.)

With the Structured Data Markup Helper, you merely select the type of data you’re looking to improve and then add the URL. (If you’re wanting to add Schema to an entire blog, for instance, you’ll want to select a single article to get the example tags you’ll need.) Then, hit that Start Tagging button and the tool will scan the website.

Structured Data Markup Helper

On the next screen, you’ll get to highlight and select various pieces, like the article name, author, the date published, image, etc. Once you’ve highlighted something, it will bring up the menu or you can right click on that selection to mark it as its relevant data.

Once you’ve selected and tagged all the data relevant to your content, you’ll hit Create HTML. If you want to add the tags to a theme file or the HTML directly, you’ll want to make sure you select Microdata (it defaults to JSON-LD). The Helper will actually highlight in yellow the pieces that you need to go back through and add to your website.

Adding Schema Tags to WordPress

Depending on how you build websites will depend on your next step. If you use certain WordPress themes, they may have done some of the markup for you. Make sure that if you’re using a premium theme of any kind that you create a child theme first to make those adjustments. You’ll just need to copy/paste the parent theme’s file, i.e. single.php, into the child theme and just make the Schema tag adjustments to that file. Again, to do this, you’ll want to grab the Microdata version of the tags from the Markup Helper instead of the JSON-LD markup.

One thing that is trickier is adding the itemprop tag to an article’s Featured Image (i.e. the post thumbnail).

To do this, you’ll need to adjust the code showing the thumbnail just a bit with an added array.

the_post_thumbnail( 'full', array('itemprop'=>'image') );

Using Yoast for Schema

Want to make this easier? Yoast! Yoast SEO is one of the most powerful SEO plugins for WordPress on the market, so of course it will help you add schema structured data to your website.

On each page and post, it gives you the ability to select what type of page or content it is so that it can add that information for you. Yoast does implement their tools with the JSON-LD method. If you build custom themes and want to check that their JSON-LD tags aren’t missing anything, you can double check it with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.

Yoast schema options

You also have the ability to set a website’s overall focus – Organization or Person – using the Schema options under the Yoast menu > Search Appearance. Here, you’ll select whether the website’s focus is an organization or a Person, set the logo, and the business’s name. Using the Yoast Local SEO plugin, you can add optimized address details, store hours, location, and more.

Yoast Organization schema

Does Schema Help Google Search Rankings?

The real question you’re going to have after reading through all of this, I know, is – does this really help my client rank better? The answer is complex. While there’s not a blanket Yes or No from Google that it helps to have structured data tags, it does create better search results. Those rich results in turn can help your target customer to choose to click on your client’s business versus a competitor. So while it may not affect rankings, it can definitely improve click-through rates…which improve your rankings.

So yes, Schema can be big for your SEO if you use it properly.

And if you’re wanting to dig deeper into Schema and how it can help your website, I’d highly recommend Moz’s article on Schema and Yoast’s comprehensive guide to Schema markup.

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