When it comes to SEO, doing the little things extremely well is often the difference between generating and not generating results. Structured data adds tremendous value to your site by helping search engines better understand your data. This can help your site not just rank, but also earn ownership of rich snippets and other search features. Schema.org was created by the major search players in order to give consistency to structured data on the web.
According to their site, Schema.org “is a collaborative, community activity with a mission to create, maintain, and promote schemas for structured data on the Internet, on web pages, in email messages, and beyond.” In this video, I share how to leverage Schema.org to find, create and add structured data to your website.
Google is on this mission to change from strings to things. That’s a technical way of saying putting something in a database and having it become a number and an element as opposed to actually understanding what that concept is. This is really the whole idea behind semantic search. We’ve talked about semantic SEO on some of the last episodes. Maybe you’ve even heard that term. Really it’s a fancy term for contextual search, really trying to better understand why people are searching, what they’re searching; their intent behind it. That way that Google can deliver the best possible solution.
Now in order to do this, they need data, and they need the data that actually helps them better understand content on a website, different elements on a website. One way that we can do that is through the use of structured data. Now, if everybody just had their own structured data, it wouldn’t be helpful to Google or the other search engines. We need to have a standardized way of structuring data and marking up our websites, kind of like HTML or CSS, these are different types of coding languages.
That’s how schema.org was birthed. Schema is a standardized and simplified structured data process. It tells us how to structure certain parts of data, whether it be a movie or an image or a product or a review that somebody might have gotten on a website. What it does is it helps us simplify structured data.
Again, what’s structured data? Information that helps Google and the other search engines better understand their data [content] in its index. By adding structured data, you’re giving search engines better information about your site, what’s on that site, how they should categorize the site, and how to understand what the different elements on your page are about, how they’re actually helping tell your story and helping the users in the long run.
If you’re not using structured data, pay attention, because this video is going to help you get started, and it’s a really cool way to add a ton of value to your site from a search engine’s point of view, and it can help you rank better.
Using Schema.org can be intimidating. If you go on the site, it seems very technical. I don’t come out of a technical background natively. I had to learn through the process of doing a lot of the things I do day-to-day. If you go there, at first you may just really feel overwhelmed. It may seem kind of crazy. It’s hard to use, right?
Well, it doesn’t have to be. We’re going to walk through a simplified version of the steps of how to use Schema.org. We’re going to show some screenshots and where you can pull this information, as well as a simplified way to create this, and a really, really cool tool that I will walk you through as well that will give you the structures if you just need to change out some information.
First thing you need to do is determine your schema type. Now, there’s a number of different types of schema, so let’s take a look at some of the options available at schema.org.
All right, so this is schema.org. It is a site that is founded by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Yandex, and the Schema.org vocabularies are developed by an open community process. This is really an open source project where people were working together in order to have a standardized language for structured data.
If we look here at the schemas, you’re going to see that there’s a number of different types of schemas. We can browse a full hierarchy, one page per type, the full list, or we can jump down to the most commonly used types of schema, like creative works. This would be like a book or a movie, or a piece of music, things of that nature. Maybe it’s a video or an image object or an event or they’ve got stuff from medical, organizations, persons, places, location, business, products, reviews. So these are some of the most common uses of schema, probably where you’ll find yourself using schema the most often. As you dive down into these, they’ll give you some ideas of what they should look like.
If we took over here and we looked at a video, let’s say we were embedding this video into our website and we wanted to use schema, this is what it looks like. It’s a thing, so we’re talking person, place, or thing, right? It’s a creative work, it’s a media object, and it’s a video object. We have different types of schema for all those different layers that are involved. People, the text, the director, who the music’s done by, thumbnails, this is all stuff that we can mark up using Schema.org and structured data language.
You can see that there’s a lot of different options. Now don’t be overwhelmed and say, oh my goodness, I’ve got to create all of these different options. You don’t. You don’t have to have every single one of these in there, but like we always talk about, the more information you can give, the better. Then as you get to the bottom, they’re actually going to give you an idea of what they look like. Here it is without markup, here it is with microdata, here it is with RDFa, and then this is my favorite, JSON-LD. They actually give you a good idea of exactly what it would look like.
They also show you another version right here. This following video has this much popularity. Microdata, rich data format, and JSON-LD. Schema.org, there are tons of different schemas that you can look through, tons of different things that we can markup. A thing, very common, right? We’ve also got person, and we’ve got places. Spend some time on here and just get yourself familiar. Don’t be overwhelmed. There’s a lot of information on this website and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Take some time and get yourself to be a little bit more familiar with Schema.org.
After you’ve defined the types of schema you want to use, the next step is to map out how you’re going to structure this data. As you can see, there’s a lot of different options under some of these different types and you may not have all the content, so you don’t want to force it, but you do want to provide as much information as possible. Here’s an example of how we might want to map out a certain element using schema markup.
When it comes to structured data, Google wants you to use it, and they’ve got a ton of resources available to help you get a better understanding of the types of data that you should be using and want to be using, and the types of data that you need to map out when it comes to building out your schema markup.
Let’s say, right here’s a great example, and they’re using JSON-LD to markup a company and describing their content information. You want to start thinking this from a practical standpoint. It’s an organization, so we know that. We have their website, we have their company name, and a contact point. So it’s a phone number and the type of context customer service. You could also have another contact point that would be maybe sales.
What are those pieces of information that are absolutely critical to your business that also have the ability to be marked up? If we went over here to Schema.org, and maybe we could say, business, we want to look at marking up our local business for schema. Now we can use this right here as kind of a starting point. These are the types of properties, the expected type that Google was looking, like is it text, is it created work URL? Address, yeah, we definitely want our address in there. Do we have a contact point, like we just saw before? Have you won any awards? It’s also listed on a cheat sheet right here. Come down here to the bottom. Let’s see, just right here, this is a good example of just an address that we can mark up.
What are the types of information we’re looking at? Well, we can look right here, address, region, locality, a street address, a description, a name, a telephone number. Those are the things that you want to start with, saying these are the types of information that I need that I can also mark up really well using Schema.org.
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I always like to scroll down to the bottom and look at examples because it starts to give you a little bit better understanding of how to use it. If you start scrolling down here, you can get very overwhelmed by the number of options that you have, so it’s easy to see how they kind of suggest you to use it.
Google also has a URL for structured data guidelines. It’s right up here. It’s in the developer section of Google. They give you a technical guideline. They recommend that you use JSON-LD, and they’ll go into the quality guidelines, the relevance, all the kind of information around schema and some more best practices as well that we may not cover in this video.
The third step we want to do is choose our approach. Now my recommended approach is JSON-LD, and the reason why, it’s the easiest. You don’t have to be a super heavy coder. You can just drop it anywhere on the page and the search engine is going to be able to crawl it, to understand it. You can also use some native markup right in your HTML. If you do that, it can impact the CSS. You’ve got to make sure that you have it look right. If you maybe tried one of these data plugins in the past, structured data plugins maybe on WordPress, you get this weird box. It just doesn’t look very good. It’s got a bad user experience. JSON-LD gets away from having to deal with UX kind of things and allows you to mark up your data in a way.
Here’s a cool tool that I’ve found that we use to help us structure our data, and it helps you see how the data needs to be structured. Let’s take a look at that.
One of my favorite quotes is “good artists borrow, great artists steal”. One of the best things you can do is see what other people are doing and use that as a model for what you can do as well. This is one of my favorite websites. It is Steal Our JSON-LD. It’s structured data made simple, just like they say. Basically, over here they’ve got a number of different commonly used markups, and they write the schema out for you. All you need to do is change your information.
Again, let’s say we are doing a video. Pretty straightforward, you would copy this script and then you would change out your name in the video, the description, the thumbnail, when it was uploaded, how long the video is, where the content could be found, where it’s embedded at, and how many interactions were with this video, or you can do this one with the author attribution added. Just copy and paste this, and change out their information for your information, and now you’ve got some really nice clean JSON-LD markup ready for you to use. Awesome website, I highly recommend you use it because, just like the name says, you can steal their JSON-LD.
The fourth step is adding it to your site. Depending on the type of CMS you’re using will determine on how you’re going to integrate this, but one of the easiest ways to do it is to go to that page and you drop it into that page. You can also use Google Tag Manager. That’s another great option. We use that most of the time when we’re implementing schema markup where you can set some rules, but that can get a little bit more complex. We will create a video on that later. But if you’re just an average website owner, maybe average marketer who’s getting in SEO a little bit and wants to know how to do it, just go to that page and open up the text editor side. You don’t want to past it into the visual editor ’cause then you’re just going to see the code, and you just want to drop that JSON-LD high in the page. That way it can get crawl.
Beware if you do that, there are certain plugins that might pull that code and like the snippets of a blog post and such, so make sure that it’s on the page in an area where it might not get pulled. Again, this is probably not the best practice, but it’s a great way to get started with the practice of putting it on there. If you’re going to be doing a lot of this, I highly recommend using Google Tag Manager.
One of the easiest ways to implement schema on your website is Tag Manager. Tag Manager can seem a little scary at first because there’s tags and triggers and variables, but once you start to use it, it is very intuitive, and it helps you keep all your tags in one place, so you don’t have to log in and out of your website and try to put stuff into your header, or do I put it in my footer, or do I put it both? There’s a lot of those questions. If you’ve got your tag installed, all you have to do now is come to Tag Manager and begin to add your tags.
To add a tag, especially JSON-LD, you would open up these tags and create new ones. Choose the type of tag you want to do, and here you would just use custom HTML, and you could use any of the scripts, markups, and just drop them right in here. As you see, it starts to highlight itself like it would to be a code.
Now one of the triggers that’s default in Tag Manager is all pages, but you can also set it to different pages. Let’s say you only wanted this to show on your contact us page. If you want it to show on all pages, click that, and it would fire on all pages. You can add your own trigger, and you do it by page view, and see, it’s pretty easy here. All pages, some pages, click an element that contains, or you could do, click URL contains, or equals. Let’s say equals, and you just put in your contact us page link here. You’d add that, and then what would happen is that it would save content. Anytime somebody visited your contact us page, it would trigger this schema markup, maybe of a video there, and the Google would also be able to see that as well. Hit save, hit publish, make a little note that you’ve published it, and there you go. A simple way to use Google Tag Manager to implement schema markup.
All right, so after this we want to test it. Google has a structured data tool where we can go and pull our site like Google would, and we can see if we have any errors. We want to make sure that our structured data is well optimized and it’s also not showing any errors, that it’s being crawled the right way. Always test before you push this stuff live and make sure that it is working the way you want it to. Let’s take a look at Google’s structured data markup tool.
Once you’ve added your markup to your site, you’re going to want to use this Structured Data Testing Tool by Google. It helps you to see how your data’s marked up, if it’s valid, if you’ve got any errors, and also just to make sure that it’s all in there correctly. Just paste a link in here and run a test.
It’s crawling the site now, and it’s looking for triggers and tags. This site has two instances of structured data. The one is a breadcrumb list, so right here they’re just calling it out, breadcrumb list, breadcrumb list. Then it also has a webpage markup. If you’ve got a website, this is great. Here’s the description, here’s all the information. Some of the things it’s looking for, oh, hey, there’s no name, there’s no image. It’s not like they’re going to get dinged or whatnot for this, but it’s something that Google’s expecting to see, so you could help your markup a little bit better if you would go in and add some of these in here. But this is the way you test it, just Google Structured Data Testing Tool.
The last thing you’re going to do is monitor. After you add the structured data, you want to monitor its impact. You want to add an annotation in your Google Analytics. Inside Google Analytics, you open it up and just on the timeline of your search traffic, put a little note in there so you know when you’ve added structured data to your site. Another thing you want to do is make sure you’re monitoring this in Google Search Console. Let’s take a little bit of a deeper look at how it looks from a practical standpoint.
Inside Google Search Console you can monitor your structured data. This is the old version of Search Console. I haven’t been able to find this yet in the new and improved version of Search Console. They’re still adding more features to that. You can always go here and check it out. It’s very, very cool what they’re doing. Under Search Appearance, you can go to Structured Data.
Here it’s going to show you all the instances that you have on your site, and check if there any items with errors. Right now you’ve got website instances, organization instances, blog posts, video, objects, things like that nature. We’re able to see here, okay, we see an increase or we see a dip. Do we have any errors? Do we have anything that we need to fix? This is where we can monitor and keep up with our structured data using Schema.org and make sure that we are having valid markup sources. You see here, everything here is validated by Schema.org, and Google’s happy with my site. It’s going to understand my content better and it’s going to get more out of my site. Make sure that you’re hooked up to Search Console. It’s a very important tool if you’re doing anything in the realm of digital marketing or search. It’s going to allow you to see a little bit more of what’s happening behind the scenes with your website as it interacts with Google.
If you follow these five steps, you can start to use structured data using Schema.org on your website. This is a powerful way to add a tremendous amount of value when it comes to the search engines, letting them understand your content, and letting them get a little bit deeper context about who you are, what your site’s trying to promote.
If you’ve got any questions, please comment below. We would love to continue the conversation. If you get stuck along the way we’re here to help you. We’d love to just dive in and give you some helpful tips and maybe hold your hand along the way. That way you can begin to use this tool.
Structured data is one of the most powerful things you can do for your website, a lot of people don’t do it because it seems hard. Yes, there are some sites that do natively maybe put the website schema in, but there’s a lot of other things you can mark up. When you use it the right way, you’re going to see great results in search in the long run. Until next time, Happy Marketing.