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What Is Schema Markup?

Schema.org defines Schema as follows:

“Schema.org is a collaborative, community activity with a mission to create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data on the Internet, on web pages, in email messages, and beyond.

“Schema.org vocabulary can be used with many different encodings, including RDFa, Microdata and JSON-LD. These vocabularies cover entities, relationships between entities and actions, and can easily be extended through a well-documented extension model. Over 10 million sites use Schema.org to markup their web pages and email messages. Many applications from Google, Microsoft, Pinterest, Yandex and others already use these vocabularies to power rich, extensible experiences.”

What Is Schema and Why Is It Useful for SEO?

Adding Schema markup — also referred to as microdata tagging — to websites makes it easier for search engine crawlers to understand what the content means. Schema adds context and clarification to text that might otherwise be hard to interpret or is open to several interpretations. For instance, you might have the word “Clips” in the title of a web page — a search engine crawler might not be able to tell whether it refers to newspaper clips, hair clips, paper clips, etc. By adding Schema markup, you can let the crawler know you are referring to video clips, or to video clips about paper clips.

The better and more precisely crawlers interpret website content, the higher it will rank, or so the theory goes. At the present time, it is unclear whether Schema has a direct impact on rankings, but it is fairly clear that Schema does make links more persuasive in SERPs (search engine results pages) and thus improves click-through rates.

Schema markup is often used to further describe:

  • Creative works
  • Events
  • Organizations
  • Person
  • Place
  • Product
  • Review

Looking at the Full Hierarchy of Schema, you can see that, for instance, “Events” are broken down into:

  • BusinessEvent
  • ChildrensEvent
  • ComedyEvent
  • CourseInstance
  • DanceEvent
  • DeliveryEvent
  • EducationEvent
  • EventSeries
  • ExhibitionEvent
  • Festival
  • FoodEvent
  • LiteraryEvent
  • MusicEvent
  • PublicationEvent
    • BroadcastEvent
    • OnDemandEvent
  • SaleEvent
  • ScreeningEvent
  • SocialEvent
  • SportsEvent
  • TheaterEvent
  • VisualArtsEvent

Some categories of Schema, such as “Organizations,” contain many more options. Clearly, if Schema enables search engine crawlers to understand your page of content describes an event series rather than a festival, or an electrician rather than a general contractor, or an event venue rather than a music venue, your content should be more apt to appear in SERPs for queries that are highly relevant (and less likely to appear for less relevant queries).

Google, Bing, Yandex and Yahoo launched Schema.org in 2011 and all are collaborating to maintain Schema tagging. These search engines (and others) obviously employ it in their crawling and indexing processes.

What Is Schema Going Do for SEO in the Future?

From an SEO standpoint, this (rare) collaboration of search engines indicates that Schema is likely to be around for the long term, and likely to gain significance as a ranking factor and SERP display advantage in years to come. At this point, adaption of Schema remains sluggish. According to Web Technology Surveys, only 15.6 percent of websites use microdata. This is likely because microdata is quite technical in nature and does not have a precise and easily measurable impact on rankings.

Nevertheless, this low rate of adaption could be an SEO opportunity, in much the same way that mobile-friendly web design gave early adapters a jump-start in the rankings, correctly anticipating that mobile-friendly web design would grow dramatically as a ranking factor by Google and other search engines.

As mountains of new website content continues to be added to search engine indexes, differentiation of content will become even more important in obtaining high rankings and relevant rankings. Schema helps differentiate content substantially because of its (to this point) limited use.

Furthermore, it is likely that Google and other search engines will reward content with Schema tags with more prominent positioning in SERPs, to help that data stand out visually from “normal” search results. This is already happening to a high degree for various types of searches — you may notice in your searching that sometimes those “normal” results don’t begin to appear on the SERP until you’ve scrolled well down the page.

If you haven’t done so, review Schema possibilities with your SEO partner — or contact us — to make sure you are taking advantage of all the possibilities in your SEO campaign. You can contact us now or call 855-883-0011.