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Schema markup has been on the SEO radar for almost two years now, and its importance continues to grow. Schema.org “provides a collection of schemas, i.e. html tags, that webmasters can use to markup their pages in ways recognized by major search providers.” Schema.org is preferred by Google over RDFa or microformats. (See Why microdata? Why not RDFa or microformats?)
How can schema markup help SEO?
Even though Matt Cutts at Google states that simply including schema markup in a website won’t necessarily make your website rank higher, he declines to categorically state that Schema.org won’t give you a ranking boost. (How you interpret that statement probably depends on how transparent you believe Google is or is not in such matters.) Matt cites the recipe schema markup, which Google uses to filter search results for recipe-seeking users, as a good example. So we can’t say for 100% sure whether, Schema.org directly impacts rankings. However, one area we do have good data on is how Schema markup can impact CTRs…
How schema markup can lead to higher clickthrough rates
One of the most tangible benefits to using Schema.org markup is that it can lead to enhanced SERP listings (rich snippets), like this one on IMDB that shows user ratings for The Hobbit movie:
Here is part of the Schema.org code IMDB is using to get this rich snippet:
According to data published on Search Engine Land, rich snippets like this can increase SERP click through rates by up to 30%. That means up to 30% more traffic from your current rankings!
SEOMoz has a good overview of how schema markup translates into rich snippets in their 2011 article on the topic. Search listings that have the rating stars or additional information at-a-glance are more likely to be clicked on by users, thus leading to higher traffic (which means better SEO results).
Getting started with Schema.org
While the world of schema markup and rich snippets seems overwhelming, there are several tools that can help, including:
- Schema.org website
- Google’s free rich snippet tool
- CMS plugins like WordLift for WordPress.
- Google’s Schema.org FAQs
Products and Offers
The schema markup for e-commerce was introduced on Schema.org in November 2012. It includes markup for products and offers, including product numbers, warranties, condition, and use. A November 2012 Search Engine Land article about the topic (linked above) highlights the possibilities that come with e-commerce websites using schema markup on all their product and offer pages– an open commerce component of the internet. This means simply searching for a product could auto-generate a list of where it is available online, complete with prices, condition, and more. Utilizing schema markup, this could happen automatically, without any necessarily manual inclusion by the e-commerce webmaster or the search engine.
While Google Shopping is a basic model of this, it currently relies on shopping feeds submitted through Google Shopping. The open commerce idea would hopefully overcome this to make it a natural part of the web.
Schema markup for address and contact information is a good place to start for most webmasters. Including local business contact information markup is a simple addition that can be added to a website’s footer, sidebar, or contact page:
There are also additional schema markups for restaurants, which include the link to the menu and operating hours.
Another type of schema markup that can be added to restaurant and e-commerce websites are review schema markups, which include the URL to the actual product, user comments, and the actual review itself. Getting reviews found in search engines can have a positive SEO outcome via increased CTRs. An eMarketer study in 2010 states that ” Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted — nearly 12 times more — than descriptions that come from manufacturers, according to a survey of US mom Internet users by online video review site EXPO.”
Additionally, the review markup does go beyond restaurants and e-commerce websites. Movie, music, events, and other entertainment sites can use it to give users a look at how something is rated before they even have to click on a link.
Schema Code: Moving Forward
There has been speculation on what the next step with schema markup is for the major search engines. As mentioned previously, a more open graph that helps better understand information could lead to all kinds of new ways to rank and present webpages and the data they contain. I’m excited to see what the future brings!