Beginner's Guide to Schema Markup: Structured Data for SEO

Brandon LazovicApril 16, 2021

Schema markup is an important tool for search engine optimization. It's structured data that can help Google and other search engines better understand your website, which then helps them return more relevant results to searchers. Here are the basics of what schema markup is, why it matters for SEO, its benefits, and how you can implement it in your site!

What Is Schema Markup?

Schema markup is a machine-readable code that's embedded in your website to help search engines better understand the content of your site. Google and other search engines use schema data, or structured data, for important tasks like creating rich snippets on SERP results pages (which show up as bold text) when searchers are looking for specific information. 

Different Types Of Schema Markup

There are several different types of schema markup available for different types of pages - the most common ones that are found on most websites include: 

Why Is Schema Important For SEO? 

Schema is important for SEO because Google uses it to gain additional context about what your webpages are all about.  Google uses schema markup to generate rich snippets which appear on SERP results pages, which can help improve the clickthrough rates of your web pages, driving additional organic clicks and visibility for your website. 

Read our latest beginner’s guide on search engine optimization best practices. 

How Does Google Use Schema? 

Schema allows Google to better understand the content of your site, and provides a lot more context about what you're actually trying to communicate with that page. 

It also enables them to improve their search engine indexing for structured data-enabled web pages by providing additional information (e.g., how many reviews there are, when it was published) without resorting to the use of other sources like RSS feeds.

Does Schema Improve Keyword Rankings? 

Structured data is a way of providing more information about your site and the pages on it to search engines - adding in additional context, rather than changing existing content. 

So while Google has stated that schema markup is a small ranking factor in its algorithm, it can help the search engine understand how your webpages should be displayed for users searching for particular things or topic areas within your website's main subject matter. 

For example, if you have an ecommerce website selling shoes online then structured data might tell Google what specific types of shoe are available (e.g., boots). This will make sure they display those items at the top of SERP results when people enter "buy women’s boots" into their query.

Main Benefits Of Structured Data

Below are the two biggest benefits of using structured data on your website. 

Rich Results

Rich results are when a search engine displays certain information on the SERP (Search Engine Result Page) to help users find what they're looking for. Rich results can include reviews from other websites, pricing and availability of items, images, videos used in articles or webpages - even Google's Knowledge Graph which provides answers directly inside the search query result. 

Structured data helps create rich SERPs by telling Google how it should display different types of content within your website pages so that you have more control over what will show up on the page than ever before. Take product listings as an example: if there is structured markup surrounding each individual item listing then Google might know to display ratings and reviews next to them instead of just displaying titles and meta descriptions, which can improve the clickthrough rates of these pages from users navigating in the search results. 

Featured Snippets / Voice Search

Featured snippets are a featured element in Google search result pages, which provide different types of information to the user. 

Featured snippets are also known as “position 0” snippets, because they will always appear at the very top of search engine result pages. These snippets will include a box and image using your web page’s content. Studies show that position 0 snippets drive more than 30% of total organic clicks for a given search - it’s every webmasters goal to rank their website for featured snippets. 

Voice Search is when users can speak queries into their phone or other device and get spoken responses from Google as well as display those results on the screen for easy access. 

Voice search is primarily used by people who do not know how to use smartphones but it's also becoming more popular among smartphone owners.  The voice-search market has grown exponentially over recent years with some predicting that mobile voice searches will outnumber text message (SMS) messaging within five years time. It makes sense why this would be so since one of the primary advantages of using speech instead of typing is speed: you don't have to type anything.

A majority of voice search results are marked up with some type of schema, making it vital for you to also include structured data on your website for technology future-proofing. 

Most Common Schema Markup Languages

There are several different types of of schema markup languages that you can include on your website, which we’ll cover below: 

RDFa

The first schema markup language that we'll cover is RDFa structured data.  RDFa (Resource Descriptive Framework) is a popular markup language for publishing data on the World Wide Web, and it's fairly easy to learn.

This schema supports many different types of common vocabularies that you may want to include on your website in order to help with search engine optimization and be included as HTML, HTML, or XML. 

The most common RDFa attributes include: 

  • About
  • rel and rev
  • Content
  • datatype
  • typeof

Microdata

The next popular structured markup language is microdata.  Microdata is a lightweight markup language that describes the data on your page. Unlike HTML, which deals with how something should be displayed to visitors, microdata provides information about what's being shown to search engine crawlers and other machines.

Microdata consists of three different markups: itemtype, properties, and values. Itemtypes are types of content you want to describe; these can include things like events or people in addition to products or addresses (a type we'll discuss below). Properties specify more detailed parts of this content - for example an event might have the property 'title'. Values define specific instances where those properties apply. 

JSON-LD

JSON-LD (Javascript Object Notation For Linked Objects) is the preferred markup language for structured data on websites for search engines.  It is a subset of JSON and uses the @ symbol to start an attribute. The following examples show how this might look in markup:

@itemtype itemscope itemtype= "Product"

{}Objects can be nested, so that you could have {}, which would represent another object with the properties for our Product type. Properties again are defined by strings or numbers placed after a colon (:), as seen below: 

{}name : string;price : number {}description:{}}This product has just been released! It's only $100, but don't worry- we'll take 50% off if it doesn't sell within two months."

The best part about JSON-LD is that it's easier to learn compared to microdata and RDFa and easily implemented in the <head> section of your site pages. 

Below is a screenshot from Google discussing the main differences between the schema markup language types.

How To Create Schema Markup

Creating schema markup is a fairly simple process.  It can be done by adding a few attributes to your head tags in HTML. You first need to decide which schema markup language you want to use (I recommend JSON-LD, as this is Google’s preferred markup language). 

You can either follow documentation on schema.org to create your markup manually, add plugins to your WordPress website that dynamically generate schema markup for you, or you can use one of the schema generator tools that are listed below: 

Best Schema Generator Tools

  • Merkle Schema Generator - this tool allows you to output JSON-LD schema by filling out a few fields for a dozen or two schema presets. It’s incredibly easy to use and my preferred schema markup generator. 
  • Microdata Generator - this one is a great option if you prefer microdata as opposed to JSON-LD. 
  • Hall Analysis Schema Generator - Another simple generator, Hall Analysis allows you to enter information, whether it’s for local business, person, product, event, website, organization schema.
  • Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper - this interactive tool from Google lets users click elements on your webpage and select labels for each item to specify what you want marked up. 

Read our Google Data Highlighter walkthrough to learn more about this option, and what the difference is between data highlighter and schema markup. 

Best Schema Markup Plugins

If you prefer using a plugin, as opposed to a generator, there are several great options available on WordPress. 

Alongside our latest article on the best schema markup plugins for WordPress, below are our top picks: 

Best Schema Testing Tools

Now that we’ve walked through the best ways to create schema markup for your website, you want to test that code to ensure there are no warnings or errors. 

If you receive warnings with your markup that’s okay, because these fields are only recommended (and not required) for Google to easily parse your structured data. However, if there are errors associated with your markup, it won’t be eligible for rich results and can hinder Google from better contexualizing your content for improved keyword rankings. 

Check out our latest post on the best schema markup testing tools available, but here are three that you should definitely be using for your website: 

  • Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool - this is the industry staple for checking for errors and warnings with your schema markup. You can either insert a code snippet, or your page’s URL, and it will show you which fields are being flagged for issues. 
  • Google’s Rich Results Testing Tool - similar to Structured Data Testing Tool, this tool has the added bonus of giving a preview of what your code will look like as a rich results (if eligible)
  • Sitebulb - this tool will crawl all of your web pages and identify which of them having schema markup and test for warnings and errors. Read our full Sitebulb review here
  • Screaming Frog - this tool is similar to Sitebulb and serves as a website scraper for all of your web pages. 
  • Google Search Console - This report will show you the exact number of structured data items that your site is recognized for, as well as show any warnings or errors that are preventing your URLs from generating rich results. 

Where Do I Put Schema Markup On My Website? 

Now that you’ve created your schema markup, you may be wondering where to place it on your website. 

It largely depends on the schema - microdata is placed within your HTML surrounding elements in the <body> section, whereas with JSON-LD, you simply place this schema within the <head> section of your webpage source code. 

You can read our full walkthrough of how to add structured data to your website

Conclusion

In this article we covered the basics for schema markup and the importance of including it on your website.  

Schema markup is important for SEO and can help search engines better understand your website. Whether you’re looking to rank for featured snippets, generate rich results for your site pages, or improve your keyword rankings, it’s vital that you integrate structured data into your SEO strategy to future proof against emerging technologies and trends in the organic search space.

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