How to Do Structured Data For SEO
Schema mockups involve adding code to your website to help search engines identify what your content is about. The code helps the search engine return more useful results to users. Learn how to take advantage of schema mockups for SEO.
The following is a transcript of a podcast we did on seoisdeadandotherlies.podbean.com.
Paul Warren: So, we have an interesting episode today. We’re going to talk about something that’s technically very, very important. And from a technical standpoint, it’s important.
Ryan Klein: I love that you have to qualify the podcast by being like, “Yeah, believe me, this is important. Therefore, we’re talking about it.”
Paul Warren: Listen, this is an important one. You’re going to want to follow this.
Ryan Klein: I will say this is something that I probably know but, by no means am I proficient in it. This is something I have honestly delegated for quite some time. I did learn it hands-on much like everything else at some point in my life. But Paul, you’ve been pushing for this one for several months.
Paul Warren: Years.
Ryan Klein: We’ve been pushing back. Not for years, no. Not that bad. We mention a few times, but you have the honors. What do you want to talk about today?
Paul Warren: We’re going to be covering Schema and why it’s important, what you can get out of it, the ones that you should use depending on the situation that you have. So, do you have a local website? Maybe some tips, some good info on there on how to optimize, and how to do it correctly. It’s going to be good. It’s going to be the Schema episode.
Ryan Klein: Oh, my goodness, Schema.org markup.
Paul Warren: Bum, bum, bum.
Ryan Klein: That is what it is. A lot of SEOs barely know what it is. Those that do probably have used some sort of plugin to the website and probably half-assed it. Maybe didn’t fill out all the required fields or at least the optional fields that are important. And we’re just going to cover as much as we think is appropriate, you know?
Paul Warren: So, we’re going to just cover, to begin with, what it is. So, maybe you’re new to SEO or you’re a business owner and you’re like, “Man, I keep reading this, or hearing about it or whatever and I don’t know how to do any of this stuff.” And so, it really kind of goes into what structured data is. And structured data is just a way of telling Google what different types of content you have on your site so they can display it in a different way from the SERPS, for the most part.
Ryan Klein: That is beautifully said. Very eloquent. You’re a man of words.
Paul Warren: Thank you. You know, I do this for a living.
Ryan Klein: You totally do.
Paul Warren: So, there’s a lot of different types of structured data here. There’s a lot of different types of Schema. But there’s a lot of it that you should be taking advantage of if you want to get some good results in the SERPS — things like rich snippets, right? So, if you have an article and it’s what we call ranking in the spot zero, it’s right above the organic rankings where it’s just giving a blurb about whatever something that someone is searching for, and then a link back to that site. It’s kind of answering those questions. This is something that you’re going to be able to take care of after you listen to this podcast.
Ryan Klein: Exactly. And I think the whole bottom line with the Schema, why it’s important, is because you’re doing a bunch of on-page stuff and then you’re doing some simple meta. So, you do on-page and search engines are crawling a page or seeing what’s up with the keywords or seeing what’s going on semantically. Maybe they’ll see a title and description, but this is kind of like the 2.0. An additional way is the search engine is coming to you and saying, “I kind of know what’s up with your page. I kind of get it. But if you were to do this additional information, I may be able to provide even more information on this page in a SERP.”
Paul Warren: And some of these are going to give you a little bit of a ranking boost. They can give you a little bit of a ranking boost on the local side.
Ryan Klein: I certainly think they can. And then if it’s on a ranking boost, it is undoubtedly a click-through boost. That is the biggest thing.
Paul Warren: And, I want to just say it’s important because Google is moving away from being a search engine and it’s becoming more of just a portal to get information, right? I remember when you had to click on ESPN’s website to get the score of games and now Google just kind of feeds you the score right from it, you know? Or like movie times. There’s a million times where Google is just giving that information right in the SERPS versus having to click through to the sites. And you know, that’s just kind of how it’s going to continue to be. I think it’s going to be even more so. So, taking advantage of this, you’re going to at least have people see your brand, maybe click-through to get more information, but you still want to be there in the conversation and the only way to do that is to have this markup.
Ryan Klein: Yeah, I agree. I mean there’s a trend going on where Google, like you said, is trying to provide as much information as possible based off your search query where you don’t even have to click in through the website. So the point of this — and it’s going to evolve over time, of course — is you’re going to do a search, then it’s how can we provide it snippets and information maybe on the side, where you’re getting the information you need without even having to click-through or take an additional step.
Paul Warren: Yeah. So, let’s talk a little bit about what the difference between Schema micro data and structured data is.
Ryan Klein: Oh, perfect. You have honors, my friend.
Paul Warren: Or JSON. So, they’re just different forms of markup. One of them is older than the other. The preferred now for Google is JSON-LD. That’s the one that they want you to use. So, if you’re going to use any of this stuff, you go to Schema.org and you look it up. You’re going to want to use that one to mark up your site. But basically, all it is is a little bit of code where you’re adding in specific information about whatever the data is that you’re marking up. So, it could be for reviews. If you want the star snippet or the stars next to your business name in the SERPS, you’re going to have to use that to mark up the pages. You’ve got to mark up the reviews. And that’s the only way you’re going to get that anymore if you have the mark up on your site.
Ryan Klein: Sure. And then Schema, I’m not telling you where I’m reading it from because I want to refresh my memory. It isn’t just used by Google; it is used by Bing and Yahoo. If you care even a little bit, but just know that it’s not exclusive. The Schema.org organization is supposedly independent. This does feed into multiple search engines. So, if you do implement Schema in any form to your website, just know that it’s going to apply not just to Google.
Paul Warren: Yeah. Your Googles, your Bings, your Yandexes, they all use this.
Ryan Klein: I mean, we’re obsessed with Google. I mean, I don’t want to say obsessed, like we’re freaking creepy. It’s just that all we care about is Google based off stats and numbers.
Paul Warren: Yeah, if Bing got more, I would only care about Bing.
Ryan Klein: Yeah, I’m curious. Have you ever looked over at Bing or Yahoo and seen how they represent Schema information that’s implemented correctly?
Paul Warren: I’ve only used that when I have a computer and I’m using Bing to Google Chrome, so no, I don’t know.
Ryan Klein: Oh yeah, that like ten-second gap, where you’re starting up a new computer and you’re like, “I don’t have Chrome yet, so I guess I have to do a search on Bing.”
Paul Warren: Yeah, that was enough for me.
Ryan Klein: And then their Schema markup is like, “Why don’t you like me?” And you’re like, “This is weird Schema, man.”
Paul Warren: Yeah. But let’s talk a little bit, though, about some of the different types. Then I’ll give you an example of what you need to implement right away. So, there’s creative works. If you have articles, we talked a little about that earlier, taking advantage of rich snippets and stuff. If there’s Q&As in your content, you can mark that up. And this is important because that feeds into voice search, which is becoming an even bigger part of the search process.
Ryan Klein: And we do have a podcast specifically on voice search.
Paul Warren: We do, we do. So, you want to make sure you’re marking all this stuff up. If you have an event coming up, you can mark that up and then it’ll show people all that information that’s pertinent about the event. They can just Google the event name and it’ll show up right there on the SERPS. They don’t have to go through the site. If you’re an organization or a business, you want to mark that up. If you’re a local business, you want to do that. There’s a couple of caveats with that, though. You don’t want to necessarily have these on every single page when you implement this. So, if you’re in an organization you want to just have the organization schema on your home page and maybe your “About Us” page or your “Contact Us” page. And then if you’re a local business, there’s a local business schema that you can use that will tell Google, “Oh this business is in this city.” There’s a bunch of other things that you can mark up in there that are local-related. And then maybe you have multiple locations for a local business, you have five or six locations in a city, you can mark up each individual page of that location and keep the organization at just the homepage, right? That’s how they want you to do it.
Ryan Klein: Yeah. I feel like the schema for local is kind of like that last piece of the puzzle. Sort of for our local optimization because we’ve gone through it, we’ve talked about setting up maps, setting up Google My Business correctly. What a 100% profile looks like nowadays, building links to the landing page it’s linking to for authority. You can even build links to the maps. We’ve talked about embedding maps. I don’t think that works. I’ve tried that in the past and I feel like the schema local is the last piece to set it over for some people.
Paul Warren: Yeah, I totally agree. So, another one I wanted to point out to you before we get off track from that is the person schema, which is neat. So, if you have your own website, you can do all that markup and then it shows all the information about you right in the SERPs — like you’re an important person, you’re a big deal, you know? It does like that. And then there’s product schema, which will tell people pricing information about a product from the SERPs. So, they can see right away, one of the biggest things that stopped people from converting is not knowing the price of a product. So, there’s tons of businesses that don’t necessarily want to give out the pricing structure up front, right? Because maybe you have a service-based business and the client is worth a lot more than a smaller client, right? So, you want to quote a higher price for them. But this gives you the ability to say a price range, like dollar signs for it, you know? So, it could be, “Oh, this is $1, this is $3,” or whatever, without giving the actual price. Sort of like when you see restaurants and it’s like, “From $1 sign to like, four.” You know how expensive it’s going to be to go there.
Ryan Klein: Yeah, it’s going to be like, if it’s four-dollar signs, most things on the menu were $4, right?
Paul Warren: Yeah, exactly. So, four dollars is going to be very expensive compared to one — four times as much.
Ryan Klein: Okay, yeah. Not literally, I suppose.
Paul Warren: So, I mean, that’s like the difference between a Big Mac and whatever Dollar Menu thing they’ve got there, man. You’re not eating well in either of those scenarios, I guess, now that I think about it. But getting back on track here.
Ryan Klein: Yeah, you got it, man. Okay, go for it.
Paul Warren: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So those are some of the major types of Schema that you’re going to want to mark up on your site. One of the issues that I’ve always run into is that it’s not always easy to implement this if you don’t have sort of a dev or dev background to add this code on. There’s workarounds and stuff for this, right? And so, one of the ways a lot of people try to get a workaround is they use Google Tag Manager, because Google Tag Manager is created for people that don’t have dev skills. So, they can add codes and stuff to their website. But I would like to point out at nowhere on the instructions for Tag Manager do they go through how to implement Schema through Tag Manager. It’s because they don’t want you to use it for whatever reason, it doesn’t support that. They want you to either hard code it on the site, and then if you’re using WordPress, the world’s most famous CMS, there’s a lot of plugins but all of them usually need a little bit of custom work done because what they really want you to do is put the actual text of what the markup is on a page and that looks really weird. It’s just a bad user experience. So sometimes you’re going to need a little bit of dev work on some of these plugins. So, like, hide stuff.
Ryan Klein: Yeah, I’m looking here. I mean, so you’re saying that you generate the Schema via Tag Manager, or do you use Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper?
Paul Warren: No, no, no, no. You never generate it with Tag Manager. Tag Manager is just a means of getting it on your site and telling it to fire on certain pages. So, a tool that Google made a while back, which was the data highlighter, is you just basically literally highlight text on your page, and you tell it what it is, and then Google kind of creates that markup for you. Which is cool.
Ryan Klein: Yeah. I’m hanging out right here on Structured Data Markup Helper and some of the options that it has, and I’m not sure when is the last time they updated this, it seems contemporary compared to some of their other tools. You see articles of events are important. Events can have details such as the location and the times. Think about a festival with more than one day. Think about a warp tour. I’m sure that was prime for Schema. Movies, restaurants, book reviews, job postings, software applications, data sets, and TV episodes. So, think about just anything that has data that can be accessed right from a search result.
Paul Warren: And they have on it that just says, “Data sets.” I mean, think about how comprehensive that is, you know? A million different things.
Ryan Klein: And right below it, the question/answer page, you mentioned that. And then local businesses. So that would be something I’d be tinkering around with. And as far as the implementation, you’re talking about Tag Manager, right? And you’re talking about how you want certain things to fire on certain pages.
Paul Warren: Yeah, so I’m saying don’t use Tag Manager because they don’t want you to do this.
Ryan Klein: So how do you go about having things fire on different pages? For example, let’s say I always default to lawyers. Let’s say I’m a lawyer, right? And I have a website, and by default, every single page on a website could technically have Schema for lawyer. My geo pages that are set up for my satellite offices could be set up for local businesses. And then all my blogs could technically, if they’re long and thorough, be set up with all the articles.
So how would I go about making sure that Schema fired correctly for each one of those pages, although they’re different?
Paul Warren: Well, you must write some rules. This all really depends on how you’re doing it. Do you have a dev doing it? You’re doing it on the back end, right? We’ve already established, you don’t use Tag Manager for it. So you can, depending on the content type, have custom sections built out to add the snippets in there or you can, if you’re WordPress, get those plugins and then you can specify at the page level what you want the mark up to be. So that’s another way to do it. Those are the two main ways. I know it seems kind of boring and dumb, but I’ll tell you one thing that’s really cool is when you get a rich snippet, and you get that mark up, and you’re No. 1, and you rank number zero there. Honestly, your click-through rates go through the roof for those. And it’s like saying your SEO is better than everyone else’s because not only are you probably ranking high organically, but you also have the coveted snippet that everyone’s trying to get.
Ryan Klein: Yeah. And so, from your experience — and this is what interests me the most about all this — it seems that everyone kind of does it correctly. So, for example, one that’s very important is your aggregate reading. Being able to show reviews in a search result is insanely important because the click-through goes through the roof. So right here I’m looking at an example, and it’s like Schema.org aggregate rating. Is the schema appropriate for being able to display a rating? And then you put in the aggregate rating you’re given, meaning you’re just going to input whatever number you want. It technically doesn’t pull from anything, does it?
Paul Warren: That’s not true. No, no, no. So, the aggregate rating and the reviews are pulled from reviews that you have to collect on your site, and then you have to display on your site, on a page or location, wherever the markup is for all this to work out. So, you must have a platform, some way of collecting reviews and then a way of displaying those reviews that are relevant to whatever that page or service is for it to pull from the aggregate data review, all that stuff. And you must mark up each individual review as a review to show all this stuff in there to get the star rating.
Ryan Klein: So, did they change that? Because I know for a fact that in the past, we’ve had clients that just had a handful of reviews and a 4.8, and then we said that they had 400 reviews and a 5.0 and it displayed that.
Paul Warren: Yeah. So, I think before, you didn’t even have to have an individual page where they were all loaded, but they’ve really changed up how they did it. And so, this is an issue we were running through at my current job. They couldn’t have the star rating displayed and then we just made some adjustments to it and it fixed the problem. But yeah, I would absolutely suggest getting legit reviews, and then displaying them, and then marking up that page with the schema markup for reviews.
Ryan Klein: Gotcha. So, it’s very popular in most competitive industries to do this aggregate rating because the click-through goes through, of course. I’ve seen instances where the first page of search results, there’s 10 organic and then a handful of them have it and the handful don’t. But everyone technically put in the same schema markup. What have you seen is some of the reasons that people’s schema just doesn’t render or show up in results, even though they technically followed step-by-step what they were supposed to do?
Paul Warren: I would say that while they’ve done it technically right, there’s tricks and things that would cause it not to show, right?
Ryan Klein: Ooh, man, the tricks. This is what everyone’s been waiting for. I finally got to you. Let’s do it.
Paul Warren: Got it.
Ryan Klein: What are the tricks?
Paul Warren: This is what we were going through at my current job, right? They have local schema on a page because they’ve got a lot of locations. And then they had the markup for those reviews on those pages, tied to information about those businesses, and they even had a separate page with the reviews loaded on it. But it still wasn’t working at all, none of them across the board for any location. There are over 500 locations. None of them had any of the star ratings. They didn’t have any of how much it costs, the price range, any of that stuff. And we realized that you kind of must have some of the markup live inside of elements. So, we moved it inside the local business markup itself. It fixed it in 24 hours.
Ryan Klein: Then what happened? It was across the board for hundreds of locations?
Paul Warren: Yeah, everywhere. That’s right.
Ryan Klein: Did your click-throughs just double? Or did your traffic double?
Paul Warren: No, it didn’t. It didn’t double. And interestingly, you’re getting this and Google in the organic SERPs. But most of our clients come through Google My Business. So, it’s a nice qualifying thing that people see, making them feel better about it. And then they’ll click maybe on the Google My Business listing above it. But we didn’t see crazy click-throughs from it.
Ryan Klein: You saw an improvement, though? Because there’s just no way around the fact that this 5-star schema is just awesome.
Paul Warren: Yes, it is. And most of the locations have 4 or higher stars. So, I think if it’s under 2.5, it doesn’t show at all.
Ryan Klein: Yeah, because 2.5 stinks.
Paul Warren: Yeah, if the aggregate rating is under a certain amount.
Ryan Klein: Who the hell wanted that aggregate displayed? That would be a complete detriment.
Paul Warren: You want to take that off your site.
Ryan Klein: Oh yeah. Just delete your website. If that was going to stick there, it’d be done.
Paul Warren: Yeah. Schema is kind of annoying, but it’s one of those things that if you do it right, you master it, you can really take advantage of a lot of things that Google is offering. I mean, there’s rich cards, and there will only be more things coming out in the future.
Ryan Klein: Yeah, they keep adding things, for sure, and I don’t really know how they collaborate with search engines and get feedback on what to add or much about that side of things. But, yeah, if you go through them on their website, there’s tons of CreativeWorks, there’s embedded non-text objects, there’s stuff for audio object, image object, video object. That could be anything. Health and medical types. Organizations, local businesses, we could go on forever. I mean, there’s just so many tags that are on here.
Paul Warren: Yeah. The one that’s just coming out now, it’s cool. It’s how-to schema.
Ryan Klein: Oh yeah?
Paul Warren: Yeah. And so, it makes a carousel appear when people search certain how-to things, and then you can click through the carousel and see different aspects of it, and of the how-to.
Ryan Klein: So, knowing us and pretty much our background and what we enjoy doing, if you were to exploit anything on Schema, what do you think would be the first thing that you’d want to probably mess around with besides something that just rolled out right now? Is there anything that you’re experimenting with?
Paul Warren: I think I would investigate taking advantage of the Q&A stuff they have and some of these other features that they’re just launching, and no one’s done it. The how-to is the perfect example of something that you can take advantage of and that no one else is really going to be doing yet.
Ryan Klein: So, do you think that people can do a lot of how-to’s for pretty much any industry? Because you can literally do how-to for any business in the history of mankind.
Paul Warren: Damn straight.
Ryan Klein: Yeah. You can be saying, “How to Order Our Food Online,” “How to Tie Our Shoes That Are $14.99.” You could go on forever, but it just seems like something that could be taken advantage of. I’m looking at some of those results and it looks like people get far more impressions once you start implementing some how-to’s.
Paul Warren: Yeah, it’s sort of like this weird accordion/carousel thing and no one else is really doing it yet. So, you heard it here first. Take advantage of it. Start doing it.
Ryan Klein: Yeah, “How to Tie a Tie,” that’s been taken, though. Don’t do that one. And then according the picture up top, it says, “How to be a Six-Year-Old and Get a Job at a Construction Site,” according to that article.
Paul Warren: It’s neat, though.
Ryan Klein: And then, “How to do a Sit-Up.” So, imagine if you’re in fitness. It’s just ridiculous how many you could probably do.
Paul Warren: There would be a rush to get all this stuff done.
Ryan Klein: Oh yeah. You would just do the schema for every single fitness exercise you can possibly do. Every single DIY if you’re a plumber, handyman, pest control.
Paul Warren: I might just do this right now, myself, you know?
Ryan Klein: I’m probably going to do that. I mean, we could do the how-to for anything you need done on SEO. “How to Start Google My Business,” “How to Optimize a Page,” “How to Write Content That Gets Ranked.” You can just go on and on.
Paul Warren: Just take it with as much SERP real estate as possible, you know?
Ryan Klein: Yeah, it looks like there’s a step name description and page URL. That’s interesting. It looks easy. How often do you see schema that is not really known to interfere with another schema, right? If you do it correctly.
Paul Warren: No. Because it’s just going to display whatever the SERPs are going to have as a priority display.
Ryan Klein: That makes sense.
Paul Warren: Yeah. Google has decided to show this markup schema for these terms, so I imagine if none of them had it, it wouldn’t even show it, right?
Ryan Klein: I’m going to do “How to Tie a Tie” right now. Right now, you don’t even see a carousel. You see the article snippet, “How to Tie a Tie: 17 Different Ways to Tie Necktie Knots.” And its realm is Real Men Real Style. Okay, cool. Then yeah, I see some videos. So, it’s an example of videos making a comeback a little bit more in the results. Now that I’m looking at it, I don’t see too many video thumbnails as much as I used to. I do see the image.
Paul Warren: I see them, but they’re just a lot of how-tos. They’re very prevalent in that world.
Ryan Klein: All right. I typed in “How to Eat a Coconut.” Again, it’s the same kind of thing. I liked also the “People Also Ask.” That’s cool, too.
Paul Warren: I think we gave a pretty good rundown of what schema is.
Ryan Klein: Yeah, I think it’s like one of those more visual things. You’re going to look at the code, you’re going to go on Schema.org, you’re going to Google search it and you’re going to see how to implement it. You’re going to look at the Google Markup Generation Tool and then it’s self-explanatory. And the only thing is implementing it on the website. It’s typically almost always in the header, right?
Paul Warren: I’ve always used a plugin, so I don’t know.
Ryan Klein: It almost always injects into the header.
Paul Warren: Does it? You want it to fire as high up on the page as possible, though.
Ryan Klein: Right, yes, the header. Then you do Tag Manager to verify you did it correctly. That’s about it.
Paul Warren: Not Tag Manager. There’s a Google Schema Checker that will allow you to check and see if it’s working correctly. And also, you can check other websites and see what schema they’ve added and you can steal it.
Ryan Klein: Yeah. You can go to your competition and be like, “These guys have 15 things going on, that’s insane.”
Paul Warren: Yeah. And make sure you use that to see if you did it correctly.
Ryan Klein: Yeah, exactly.
Paul Warren: But yeah, follow those steps. We gave you some good tips but also start implementing it. Do it as soon as you can because you’re just going to be better off for it, honestly.
Ryan Klein: Yeah. It’s just one more thing they take advantage of, especially if you’re in-house or you’re a Director of Marketing. If you’re in an agency, you start with the most important. I know that we do aggregate reviews because we wanted to increase the click-through. We tend to do articles because we want to get a rich snippet. That’s amazing.
Paul Warren: If that’s the kind of client you’ve got.
Ryan Klein: Yeah, local, too. I mean, those are free ones because that’s the only ones I talk about. Plus, I don’t work for movie theaters.
Paul Warren: I think you’ll see an increase in rankings if you do the local.
Ryan Klein: Yeah, exactly. So, for the articles, the reviews are click-through, and then the local, I feel is a little bit of an edge as far as positioning. Actual positioning.
Paul Warren: I’ve implemented it and seen an increase in my Google Maps rankings, for sure.
Ryan Klein: I think this is a great project. Like I said, if you’re in-house, or you’re doing your own SEO, you’re doing your own marketing for your website, or whatever it is that you do, I’d say, “Cool, go on Schema.org and see what’s out there and just literally take advantage of every single thing that makes sense for you.”
Schema mockups don’t take much time or effort to implement, yet many businesses miss out on their potential. The sooner you take advantage of the relevant microdata available, the sooner you’ll see results. For help getting started, contact us for a free marketing quote.