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Schema Markup – Why Should You Be Bothered?
Confession time; I’m not a particularly technical SEO. If you’ve read my posts on the Fluid blog, you’ll know that I’m much more concerned with the content creation and copywriting side of SEO, aligning myself with the fun and artsy side of search while letting our more-technically minded search geniuses do their thing. I’m the Lionel Messi to their Xavi and Sergio Busquets, if you will (I’m also extremely arrogant).
However, there is one aspect of more-technical SEO that I really think we all should be getting on board with – Schema markup.
What is Schema markup? In simple terms, it’s a common standard of structured data established by Google, Bing and Yahoo that allows dumb search engine spiders to make more sense of web content; if, for example, a spider was crawling a properly marked-up page on David Bowie, it wouldn’t just be able to determine that the page was about The Thin White Duke, but also that he is 66 years old, a singer and an actor and is otherwise known as Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane and Jareth The Goblin King.
Here’s an example from schema.org of how a Schema-implemented page for ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ (spoilers: it’s rubbish) would look:
The results of this improved knowledge appear in a format you might be already familiar with; rich snippets. Rich snippets appear alongside a page’s listing in the SERPs and generally include items such as reviews, event listings, opening times and even a small picture of the person who authored the post (keep that one in mind for later)… Here are couple of examples using the new Quentin Tarantino movie, ‘Django Unchained’:
Here’s the IMDB listing for Django Unchained, complete with it’s aggregated IMDB rating, cast & crew info and global release dates.
Here’s a review for ‘Django…’ from the Telegraph including the trailer…but no author…
…unlike the Cinema Blend review, which features a thumbnail of the reviewer, Eric Eisenberg. Which is very useful…if I knew who Eric was (sorry Eric). Although I can tell from Eric’s 447 Google+ circles that he’s quite a popular guy and probably knows what he’s talking about.
This is the part of the blog where I should probably include a detailed description of how to implement Schema but instead, I’m going to direct you to schema.org’s Getting Started page and Google’s schema.org FAQ on Webmaster Tools so you can get all your implementation advice straight from the horse’s mouth. You can also find a full list of schemas at schema.org.
Why Should You Use Schema Markup
Let’s get one thing out of the way first of all; using Schema markup isn’t necessarily going to increase your rankings (note the word ‘necessarily’…). It will, however, provide you with a range of benefits that will help drive traffic and hopefully increase your conversion rates and engagement.
Improved Clickthrough Rate
Rich snippets, particularly authorship and reviews listings, are proven to improve clickthrough rates; some studies put the increase in CTR as high as 30%. How does that work?
Let’s imagine you’re searching for a new fridge, and you’ve heard of a model you’re keen on. You search for that model and receive a few standard listings and one which is marked up with an average product rating, price and specifications. Having provided the information you require straight away, the chances are you will at least click through to the marked up page, if not convert.
By the same measure, Rich snippets – particularly authorship markup – act as a trust signal. By linking your Google+ page with an article you’ve written using rel=”author”, you receive a little thumbnail image next to the SERP listing and a link to your G+ profile.
This snippet is a way for users to separate the wheat from the chaff, that little image of your gurning mug distinguishing you from the mass of rehashed, poor quality and faceless content. The amount of people in in your G+ Circles can also act as an indicator of your authority in your particular field (although many influential folk, especially those writing for newspapers, have yet to implement authorship!) while the link to your profile can allow users to learn a little bit about you – read mine, for example, and you’ll find out I’m an SEO Copywriter at a digital agency, Manchester-based and really, really bad at writing about myself.
Remember when I said ‘won’t necessarily improve your ranking’ earlier – this bit is the necessarily. Author Rank (tagline: ‘it’s coming’), as one of the latest additions to Google’s signature combination of over 200 ranking factors, will add ranking power to a page through determining the authority of the person who produced the content on that page. So if you’re a prolific, well-regarded automotive journalist specialising in Aston Martin’s and happen to be pretty active on G+ and other social media, the chances are you’ll rank highly for articles on Aston Martin’s.
Beyond SERPs ranking, authorship is also useful if you’re instantly recognisable and well-known; if a user sees someone they recognise in that thumbnail, they’re more likely to click through.
Rich snippets can also give you an advantage in the always-competitive local SEO sphere. If you happen to run a restaurant, marking up reviews can put you ahead of your non-Schema utilising competitors – as long as your reviews are good, of course. Authorship can also help build your local brand, putting a trustworthy face to your nice little local business – as long as you have a trustworthy face, of course. You can also include contact info, opening times and your address – as long as you have a telephon…you get the picture.
Schema markup and Rich snippets, then – important digital marketing tools that are going to get even more important in 2013. Probably best we all get implementing them then, eh? Although I might leave that to someone more technical…
(NOTE: You might have noticed that despite everything I’ve just written about how important Schema markup is, we don’t actually have it implemented ourselves. This is because we’re currently making some changes to the site, not because we don’t practice what we preach!)