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May 16, 2014

Using Schema Markup to Boost Your Google Rankings

SEO Targeting
Photo Credit: Augur Marketing via flickr

As a marketer or someone involved in SEO, you’ve probably heard of Schema markup, but if you haven’t, it’s okay. While frequently viewed as a relatively new technology to increase search engine rankings and the accessibility and usability of your pages, the markup has actually been around for years. If it’s not currently part of your SEO strategy, now is the time to make a change.

Keep reading to learn more about the basics of schema markup, along with 3 compelling reasons to start using it on your website today.

What is it and How Does it Work?

According to Dan Shewan at WordStream, schema is “a type of microdata that makes it easier for search engines to parse and interpret the information on your webpages more effectively so they can serve relevant results to users based on search queries.”

To make that even simpler, schema markup takes the information that matters most for search engines to find your information, puts it front and center as far as the backend of a website is concerned and serves it up to increase the odds of a website using the markup standing out above a website that does not. It’s wholly designed to increase the ease and effectiveness of search engine crawlers.

Additional information is available on Schema.org, launched in 2011 as a result of the Schema project – a collaboration between multiple large search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo!. The site brings Schema markup to the forefront of website design by providing a large collection of schemas – largely viewed as html tags – that can be used by web designers, developers and average users to improve search engine placement.

Because the project is a result of major search engines, it is not specific to just one and is, therefore, an excellent use of time and energy.

Schema works similarly to other markup formats by applying microdata to page content by easily defining – in html terms – exactly what a webpage contains and how it should be treated. It presents data in an easy-to-read format for search engine crawlers and makes it more likely that relevant information will be presented to searchers. It makes the crawlers’ jobs easier and is therefore generally rewarded.

This description alone makes it clear that schema markup is an important aspect of SEO success. However, if you’re still not convinced, check out these 3 compelling reasons to incorporate it into your strategy.

1. Matt Cutts has Been Recommending it For Years.

Matt Cutts – head of Google’s Webspam team, single-handedly responsible for shutting down multiple websites utilizing questionable SEO strategies and other actions – has been recommending schema markup for years. This is big – as someone who has helped to write the technology behind the largest search engine in the world, his words carry weight.

Back in 2012, in a webmaster help video, Cutts shared the following information about schema markup.

“Just because you implement schema.org doesn’t mean you necessarily rank higher. But, there are some corner cases, like if you were to type in ‘lasagna,’ and then click over on the left hand side and click on ‘recipes,’ that’s the sort of thing where using schema.org markup might help, because then you’re more likely to be showing up in that at all.”

While he was reluctant to outright say that it would help rankings, he made it clear that it definitely wouldn’t hurt anything. Coming from one of the top names in Google, this matters.

2. Rich Snippets, Like Those Featured in Google SERPs, Result in Higher CTRs.

Schema markup leads to tangible benefits, including enhanced search engine results pages – SERPs – that stand out among the competition. While these results generally include items like titles and snippets of a full webpage, targeted schema markup can be created to include customer rankings, photos and more.

Yes, visually it’s more appealing, but, it’s also more effective. Information shared by Search Engine Land indicates that rich snippets, listings that include more information than standard search engine listings, can increase click-through rates by 30%. Thirty percent more web traffic can do a lot to take a company to the next level, while looping back and increasing search engine visibility even more. Schema markup allows for this circle and as such, should be a serious consideration for increasing rankings and website effectiveness.

3. Pages with Schema Markup Rank an Average of 4 Positions Higher on Google

A recent study by Searchmetrics revealed that while less than 1 percent of sites on the Internet have implemented Schema markup, those who have done so rank an average of 4 positions higher on Google. That can mean the difference between page 1 and page 2, or being displayed in the top results or being buried, never to be found by searchers and prospective clients.

The study goes on to explain that Google shows results for sites with Schema markup – like those mentioned in reason number 2 – for over 36% of keyword queries, while keywords without markups are shown less frequently.

The bottom line is simple. Schema has been recommended by individuals behind the top search engines in the world and cannot hurt anything, the rich snippets that the practice enables lead to higher click-through rates and those with the markup rank higher in search engine results than sites that do not. Not using the markup – based on these reasons alone – just doesn’t make sense.

If you’re ready to put schema markup to work for your site, or are interested in learning more, check out Schema.org’s getting started guide. The time to start is now.


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Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like Innovative Painting Systems succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.

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