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The term “schema” is relevant in a number of different fields, including psychology, philosophy, and, of course, search engine optimization (SEO). In the world of SEO, schema is a form of data markup that you can include in your HTML to improve how a page is interpreted by search engine crawlers, and consequently, how it’s represented in a search engine results page.
Simply put, schema markup provides additional context to search engine crawlers so they understand not only what type of content is on a given page, but also its meaning. It creates what is commonly known as a “rich snippet” which then appears under the title of a page in the search results. In this way, schema reflects the importance of matching searcher intent to content, and works to help search engines satisfy queries in a more meaningful, comprehensive way.
“Structured data” is another term commonly used in this context, and Google defines it as “a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content.” While this may sound virtually identical to the definition of schema, you cannot use these words interchangeably, as they refer, subtly, to different things.
Schema falls under the larger umbrella of structured data. You can use schema markup to define the structured data on a page, but that is not the only way to do so. However, as Google notes in their explanation of structured data, the schema vocabulary is the most popular, standardized way to format structured data for SEO purposes.
There are many different ways to add schema markup to your site, and depending on what you want to mark up, one may be better for your needs than another. There are dozens of different types of online content that can benefit from schema markup, including (though certainly not limited to) blog posts, events, podcasts, reviews, and videos. Many webmasters opt for one of three languages when adding schema markup to their sites:
Many major search engines understand the value and importance of schema. Back in 2011, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex joined forces to create Schema.org, a collaborative community designed:
“to create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data on the Internet, on web pages, in email messages, and beyond.”
This community works to develop and implement schema that enhances the experience of human users, rather than bots or crawlers. As searcher intent continues to increase in importance to search engines, it’s likely that schema will also become more significant too.
Schema does not directly affect your rankings, and there is currently no conclusive evidence to back up any claims that it does. However, the world of SEO is rarely that simple, and schema is no exception, as schema can still play an important role when it comes to visibility in the SERPs. Schema markup makes a result appear more detailed and resonant in the SERPs, which might improve your click-through rate. After all, if your page appears to satisfy a reader’s query better than other results, they are more likely to visit your site.
Further, this is an often overlooked component of technical SEO. A 2015 report found that out of a sample of 10 billion pages, only 31.3 percent of them adopted a schema markup. This is a gap that you can take advantage of, as incorporating schema markup on your site is highly unlikely to hurt your rankings. You only stand to benefit from including it, especially since the majority of other webmasters and site owners neglect to do so.
Don’t let the technical aspects fool you; actually adding schema markup to your site isn’t as difficult as you might think. Here’s how to use schema markup on your site using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper:
Though you now know everything needed to add schema markup to your website, there are a few things you should keep in mind to make it as useful and effective as possible:
As with link building, content marketing, and all forms of SEO, schema markup is most beneficial when it’s done with people in mind. It is a highly technical element and certainly does matter for search engine crawlers and other bots, but the primary purpose of incorporating schema is to create a better browsing experience for human users. Do your best to consider how your schema will serve people, and you’ll have a much better chance of creating markup that also furthers your SEO efforts.