Over the past year or more, we have seen a growing change in the way that search engines approach user queries and return subsequent search results, especially with the continued growth of Google’s Knowledge Graph.
While Google’s changes may receive the most headlines, every major search engine is working towards the same goal – providing more relevant search results for their online users.
Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is perhaps the best example of this new emphasis on search and topical relevancy. But for search engines to provide more relevant results to their user’s queries, they must go well beyond understanding keywords and learn to make the kind of intuitive connections that form the basis of natural speech.
As internet users begin to rely more and more on mobile devices and voice search, search engine algorithms need to be able to make the kind of contextual connections that will return fast and relevant search results. That’s where Schema.org, and their markup vocabularies, come into play.
What is Schema.org?
Search engines rely on markup from Schema.org to improve the display of search results. The goal of the project is to create a standardized structured markup vocabulary that provides the search engines need to better interpret information on any given web page.
In essence, the schema microdata speaks directly to the search engine bots, contextualizing the web page’s information. This makes it easier for the search engine to understand the web page’s content, and to respond to a given query with the most relevant search results.
To put simply, it is structured code that search engines can easily understand.
How Does Schema Work?
Schema microdata is added directly to a web page’s HTML code, providing the search engine crawlers with the information they need to more accurately contextualize the content.
For example, let’s suppose that you’ve published an article on the movie Avatar. A standard HTML tag might include:
But this only tells the search engine to display the text in a header 1 format. It does not give the search engine any contextual information. But, we want to tell the search engines we’re specifically referring to a movie. So, you would do something like this:
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Movie"> <h1 itemprop="name">Avatar</h1> </div
Using schema markup, you can add an ‘itemtype’ attribute to the relevant block to tell the search engine that your content relates to a movie as opposed to some generic text.
Now, when someone is searching for the movie Avatar, the search bots will be better able to recognize your content as directly relevant to the user’s original query, and return the most suitable results. Easy, right?
There are countless items that can be wrapped in structured data, including recipes, reviews, products, books, and so much more.
What Can Structured Data Do For Your SEO Strategy?
As an SEO strategy, structured data should be seen more as a best practice than as a quick fix to improve your page rankings. By incorporating microdata into your HTML code, you make it easier for search engine bots to effectively interpret your content.
While this may not directly influence your page ranking, it can help your site in other ways.
Marking up your content with microdata can be used to define the rich snippets that Google likes to display. Google Authorship is one example of rich snippets but not showing as much anymore.
Another example is the star reviews we often see in the search results. Adding this rich snippet is not difficult with a bit of microdata. Hey, that’s us in #2 below!
Rich snippets are becoming more and more prominent in the SERPs. And, they have a definite impact on click through rates, as they allow visitors to quickly determine whether or not the content of a given site is what they are searching for.
Marking Up Your Pages with Microdata
Marking up your pages with Schema microdata can be an intimidating process, and markup typically has to be added to each page manually. However, these contextual search results is the wave of the future and the sooner you start the better.
Schema.org offers a helpful guide to get you started. Begin by prioritizing your website’s content. Start adding Schema microdata to the most important pages, and work your way through. You can evaluate the results of your Schema markup using Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
One of the most common uses of microdata is to wrap your business address in microdata so your site is easily picked up by search engine bots, which you can find a microdata example here.
What’s Next for Schema.org?
Mozcon 2014 was awesome, and it was my first time going. The speakers were phenomenal, and every detail of the event was superb. One of the speakers, Justin Briggs from Getty Images, talked about the future of conversational search and SEO.
It was very technical and interesting to see that search engines are, in some ways, already having a “conversation” with our search queries.
Towards the end, Justin touches on JSON-LD and the future of Schema. Many say SEO is dead, which couldn’t be further from the truth – it’s just getting started. Check out Justin’s full SlideShare deck for some more great info and some very cool links.
Search engines continue to advance in their quest to bring more relevant search results to their users. While these advances may sometimes bring frustration, they also bring fresh opportunities. Schema markup is needed for today’s SEO, and even more so as SEO continues to advance tomorrow.