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Webinar: How to Supercharge Your SEO Strategy With Schema Markup

Martha van Berkel is the co-founder and CEO of Schema App. Before starting Schema App with her husband Mark van Berkel, she worked at Cisco for 14 years. After doing structured data manually for businesses, the pair built the app to generate and deploy sophisticated schema markup at scale while measuring ROI.

When Google reads your structured data, it understands the relationships between your content. It can then infer things in order to answer the searcher’s intent. Today, I’ll teach you a little bit about how you can start doing that within your own content.

The search engine result page has evolved significantly, and it continues to change. What I like about structured data is that it gives you an element of control over how you show up in these pages or Google My Business. This is where I’m really passionate; you have so little control over your search engine results, so I love that there’s a lever that you can use in order to control your brand.

What is schema markup?

Structured data is an SEO strategy that helps Google understand your content and how it relates to other content on your site. It also helps you stand out in search results.

I’ll use both the terms structured data and schema markup interchangeably — within the SEO space, they’re the same thing. (If you have a technical background, you might know that data can be structured in HTML, table constructor, or in an SQL database.) At Schema App, we tend to use “schema markup.” It’s more specific, and it can’t be misconstrued with other things.

Structured data is code that’s based on a vocabulary called Schema.org. Think of it like a vocabulary for search engines, just like English, French, or Spanish. Schema.org is not owned by Google; it’s a collaborative community that evolves the vocabulary to explain what things are based on the changing needs of the world.

For example — over the last couple years, the community has invested in the health side of schema markup to help describe vaccines and other new developments.

In 2019, Google requested that website owners use structured data to help Google understand content and be found across platforms. Three or four years ago, we were talking about using schema markup for voice search. Now, we’re talking about discovery on all surfaces, including smart homes, cars, and voice assistants.

Why should website owners care about schema markup?

Google understands structured data code, but why should you care? It’s a way of taking control of your brand to help it show up in search results.

What is a rich result? Why is it important?

Structured data enables your website to show up in “rich results” — special search-results features. Currently, there are 32 documented types of rich results.

Some examples include:

  • Books
  • Breadcrumb
  • Carousels
  • Local business
  • Jobs
  • FAQ
  • Events
  • Speakable
  • Software apps
  • Recipes

We’re going to explore which of these apply to your business and your website. We’ll also identify the ones with the highest ROI to help you achieve your goals. These rich results show up beautifully in the search engine results — they’re hard evidence you can use to make a business case.

Some of my favorite options for businesses are:

  • Products: This markup is a common option for physical and digital products.
  • FAQ: FAQs can be used across any industry.
  • Video: Structured data helps users find your video and get them to watch it.
  • How to: If your business is trying to get people to self-serve, how-to is a great way to help customers find the right support documentation.

Does Google really care about structured data?

In April of 2022, Google’s Search Off the Record podcast did an episode on structured data. Ryan Levering, a software engineer at Google, joined the hosts. They talked about how structured data gives control to the user. Of course, they need to give you a reason to do it — that’s why they have rich results.

A few key points from the podcast:

  • How Google uses structured data: Google consumes structured data to produce rich results, but also to understand topics. Google’s machine learning can understand only so much of the page. When they need a little bit of help or clarity, they’ll sometimes go to the structured data for more information.
  • Structured data should align with the content on the page: The podcast noted that it’s not a great idea to set up structured data manually and then forget about it. That’s because of schema markup drift — where the structured data doesn’t actually represent what’s on the page. A better option is to do it programmatically, as we do at Schema App.
  • Future plans: Eventually, Google plans to use structured data across the entire Google experience. In other words, it’s not going away, so now is a great time to get started.

How to use structured data to supercharge SEO and inform content strategy

The schema markup process starts with strategy: what should you optimize for what outcome? After you know that, it’s a question of creating the JSON-LD, a process we call “authoring.” Then, you need to deploy it on your website and maintain it. Finally, there’s reporting and analytics, which helps you measure the value.

For this discussion, my primary goal is to make sure you understand the strategy. Where should you start? What are the types of things that you should optimize? How do you measure that outcome?

Structured data strategy

When it comes to structured data strategy, I like to start with your business goals and the key content in your customer journey.

  • What are the key pieces of content you want customers to discover? If you run a healthcare organization, you might want patients to find your physicians, services, or hospital locations. In a technology business, it could be your products or support documentation. Or, if you’re trying to solve problems for a specific industry, you might want to make white papers easier to find.
  • What content do your customers need to find to help achieve your business goals? Are you trying to grow a specific area of your business? Where is that business represented on our website?
  • What do you sell? You might sell services, digital products, or physical products.

Example of a structured data strategy

Let’s look at how I would break down our strategy for Schema App. I’d start by looking at our company’s key content pieces: who we are, our solutions, and our products. We also have case studies and blogs to establish thought leadership, as well as support that helps customers maximize the value of our product.

Key ConceptsWhat is it?Where is it on the website?
CompanyOrganizationwww.schemapp.com
SolutionProduct/solutions/
Case studiesArticle/sap-case-study//customer-success-story-advent-health//customer-success-story-keen-footwear/
BlogsBlogPosting/blog/
SupportArticlehttps://support.schemaapp.com/support

Next, I’d figure out what each piece of content is in terms of the Schema.org vocabulary. What’s my company? Well, the company’s an Organization. What’s my solution? It’s a set of Products. Case studies and support pieces are Articles, and blogs are BlogPostings.

As you’re learning to understand this vocabulary, try visiting Schema.org. Search for different types of content, being as specific as possible. For example, if you offer services, try searching for the type of service.

Once you’ve figured that out, it’s time to figure out where each piece of content is on the website. Where is the product listed? If it’s mentioned on multiple pages, which one is Google going to show in search results?

For each major key content piece, it’s important to have a primary page that talks about the specific topic. That way, Google knows exactly where to go. This is particularly important when it comes to your products and services.

Do you need a primary page for each topic?

Nizam Uddin: I’ve seen website owners who have multiple pages for services add schema markup on all pages, hoping that Google will pick one. That seems like a guessing game. Is it not the right solution? Should you focus on one and go from there?

There’s some debate about this. For example, you shouldn’t have organization markup on every page — then, Google has to figure out which is actually talking about your organization. We won’t go into detail, but this can be addressed with something called “nesting.” This is a more sophisticated structured data strategy: you use the schema markup to explain exactly what’s on the page, and then you can nest in information about the organization that’s publishing the page to define that relationship.

In the Google podcast about structured data, host John Mueller talked about having one type of content on the page. I agree — the key is to make sure that each page is about one thing. Then, you can add multiple content types within that structured data.

For example, if you have a page about a service, you can multi-type it with both service and product structured data. That makes you eligible for multiple rich results. If you add an FAQ to the page, you wouldn’t make FAQ the primary topic of your structured data. Instead, it would be a service that’s the subject of the FAQ. That way, Google knows that the page is about a service, but you’re still eligible for the FAQ rich result.

Identifying opportunities for rich results

The next step is to figure out if you can get a rich result for any of these pieces of content. This is important because when you’re investing in SEO, you need a measurable outcome. Ideally, you’d find at least one type of rich result for each of these pages.

You can also use structured data to inform your content strategy. When you write content, you’re probably trying to rank for a specific keyword or answer a customer’s question. As you start to add schema markup, it’s important to keep that intent — but also, think about how you can capitalize on rich-result opportunities to stand out in search.

Your goal is to build content specifically for the desired outcome.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the Schema.org content type?
  • Could you put the article in how-to format?
  • Will it have video?
  • Will it have a FAQ at the bottom?

At Schema App, this is something we do as part of our sales process. I listed the rich results we could get on different types of content. Then, we added corresponding elements to each page as we built it. The product page has a FAQ section, and case studies often have videos.

Key ConceptsWhat is it?Where is it on the website?Rich Result
CompanyOrganizationwww.schemapp.comN/A
SolutionProduct/solutions/FAQ
Case studiesArticle/sap-case-study//customer-success-story-advent-health//customer-success-story-keen-footwear/Article, video
BlogsBlogPosting/blog/Article, video, how-to, FAQ
SupportArticlehttps://support.schemaapp.com/supportArticle, Q&A

You’ll notice that for the company page, I’ve marked “not applicable.” That’s because home pages don’t typically get rich results. However, it’s still important to have structured data to help Google understand your organization.

Let’s look at an example. A physician is a local business, but they can also get customer ratings — a different rich result. On individual physician pages, they could include a rating, rating count, and an FAQ that explains the person’s biography and areas of specialization. This makes the page eligible for more rich results, which helps it stand out in searches.

Imagine that you have a product page without pricing or ratings. You could add a FAQ section to make sure it’s answering the initial questions people have about the product.

What structured data do you need to get rich results?

Once you have a rich result in mind, go back to Google’s documentation and identify the required and recommended properties. These elements must be in the structured data code.

If you want to add a FAQ, you’d go to the markup requirements for FAQs. It says you need a question and an answer. For the question, you have to nest an accepted answer and a name; then, the answer has to have a text.

What does that mean in English? Let’s break it down. In order to get a FAQ result, you must:

  • Have two or more questions and answers. If you have a page that only has one question on it, this won’t work.
  • Include the entire text of the question and answer. This text must be included in the code.
  • Make sure all the content in your structured data code is visible on the page. In other words, you can’t just add the structured data code and hope to get the rich result. This is true for all types of structured data.

The required and recommended documentation also explains how to nest each property. For example, every Question instance must be contained within the mainEntity property array of the schema.org/FAQPage.

Schema App can help build the code so it’s beautifully nested to help you get the rich result. I’ll also share some other tools and free generators later so you can give it a try.

Every content type has different requirements. When it comes to things like events, you’ll also need a date, start time, and location.

It’s important to get familiar with what content needs to be on the page. Once the content is there, it’s easier to add the structured data and get the rich result later.

What can you do today to get rich results?

FAQ schema markup can be one a quick win. FAQs are easy to produce, and you probably already have a lot of content that answers your customers’ questions.

Need help? Start with these questions:

  • What are the top questions your salespeople get?
  • What are the questions your administrators are getting when customers call into your office?
  • What questions do you get through support channels?

In terms of scalability, your CMS may also have an FAQ module that makes it easy to add and structure the content.

Do FAQs affect click-through rate?

People have often asked if FAQs lead to a zero click-through rate. Rand Fishkin did some really important studies about this in 2019. The answer? It depends. We’re seeing customers get a 17% click-through rate when an FAQ is appropriate — if it’s something that’s answering the question. You can compose your answers in order to take users to that next step of the journey; put a link in your answer that takes them to more information about that specific thing.

You can also measure the interaction with the FAQ through the impressions. That allows you to understand that people are interacting with your content.

They say that 80% off the buyer journey happens before a customer contacts you. So, if you’re answering customers’ questions and helping them learn the information they need in order to buy from you, an FAQ is actually helping them progress through the buying cycle.

Nizam Uddin: I also see this as a good branding play because it increases your visibility. You don’t want your competitors to take that spot. It’s a win-win; you’re not losing anything.

Absolutely. Think of those long tail keywords for areas that you specialize in. They build awareness of who you are and what you do for people who are early in the buyer journey. I also like to think of it as a way to delight your customers — you’re not making them scour through your website to get specific answers.

Think about writing content not just for the person who’s landing on the page, but also for the person who’s searching for your business.

How to tell if a website page is eligible for a rich result

Hopefully, I’ve got you thinking about the key elements of your pages, where they live on your website, and which rich results do you want to try to get. Then, you can go back and see if you need to add any additional content to the page.

This is important; before you start to do structured content, it’s important to have the content ready.

Let’s look at a few tools that can help you make sure the content is ready:

  • Rich result testing tool: This tool is produced by Google; it tells you if your page meets the criteria for the rich results in the Google documentation. You can just enter the URL of your page, and the tool will tell you if you’re eligible for anything.
  • Schema.org validator: If you just want to see what structured data exists on the page, put a URL into the validator on Schema.org.

These are two ways for you to understand 1) if you’re eligible for a rich result and 2) if there’s structured data on the page. You don’t need to be able to read code to use them.

How can you use these tools? The rich result testing tool can tell you if your key content pieces are ready for structured data. If a page is not eligible yet, the tool can help you identify the required and recommended properties you need to add. When you start to add structured data, use the validator to spot errors.

Structured data case studies

Let’s talk a little bit about case studies and ROI. SAP is one of our customers. When working with Schema App and structured data, they wanted two things:

  • Agility: We had to figure out a way to help an organization that’s very large move very quickly to add structured data. We were able to deploy markup to more than four million pages over seven websites in our first three months.
  • Growth: After adding schema markup, SAP saw a 400% net growth of organic rich result traffic.
  • When you’re looking at the return on investment, it’s very easy to correlate structured data with traffic growth. We’ll look at that in Google Search Console later.

Another benefit of structured data is that you can own the SERP and take control of how your brand shows up. That’s what happened with our client Advent Health. They were changing from Adventist Health System to Advent Health, so we used structured data to inform Google of the brand and name change. There are properties within the Organization markup that you can use to articulate how the brand is changing.

While they were rebranding, Advent Health was switching to a new CMS and building out a content strategy. We identified the important content and how they wanted it to stand out. Then, we strategized with them to plan the content. As soon as it went live, we were achieving rich results right from the get-go. It’s a great example of how to mitigate the risk of a drop in organic clicks as a result of a rebrand and a new CMS — we were able to build new results out of rich results.

How do you know if structured data is working?

How can you measure the success of structured data? Start with Google Search Console; there are two places to look.

  • Performance reports: Bring up the performance, and click on the tab called Search Appearance. You’ll see a list of different types of search appearance. Web Light results and good page experience are not affected by structured data. Instead, look at the things we talked about earlier: video, FAQs, reviews, and products. You can see exactly how many clicks or impressions you’re achieving from each type of rich result. This is a great way to see how structured data is impacting your goals around SEO.
  • Enhancement reports: These reports allow you to see how many valid instances there are of certain types of structured content. If you’re adding a FAQ section to 16 industry pages, you’d be able to come in under FAQ and expect to see 16 valid instances. It also allows you to identify errors and warnings to figure out what’s missing. Then, you can investigate that to figure out how to fix it to ensure that you’re getting the best performance.

In summary, you want to connect your schema markup to tell a story. You want to explain the important things in your organization and help them stand out in search.

Schema markup resources

This is a complicated area of SEO. If you want to learn more, check out Google’s Understand How Structured Data Works. There are also some videos to explain different topics.

At Schema App, we also have two free resources. We have a free five-day email course; you get an email five days in a row that walks you through a high-level explanation of structured markup.

If you want to get nerdy and learn from the best, my co-founder recorded an Advanced Structured Data Bootcamp. It talks you through all the semantics, how things relate, important properties, and structured data for key areas. Please feel free to use it — it’s about four hours of content that we’re happy to share.

About Schema App

Schema App is an end-to-end schema markup solution that works with all websites and all content to build robust connected schema markup without an IT developer. Our goal is to help you get results with expert support.

We know this is a complicated area, so we want you to execute on strategies and measure clicks. We work with customers across different industries; we want to empower your digital teams to take control of how you show up in search. What’s more, we want to help you do it at scale, with agility.

I love the speed element — when Google announces a new feature, we’ll turn it around for our customers and help them figure out what content is eligible right away. Then, we get it marked up. In less than a month, everything’s done, and you don’t have to think or stress about it. We can do that because we start with strategy.

What I shared with you today is the process we take our customers through. As you consider working with us, you know our goal is to understand your business goals and the content you need customers to find. Then, we’ll build that strategy and implement the authoring. To complete the integration, we’ll power it with customer success to help you make sure that it’s complete and measurable. As your business and goals evolve, we work with you to ensure that both technology and services are focused on ROI.

How does Schema App integrate with a website?

Everything is set up in our application in the cloud, and we offer different ways to integrate. Some options include Drupal, Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe DTM, Google Tag Manager. We have a Shopify plugin and a WordPress plugin. No matter the platform, everything is built so that we can deploy structured data at scale with sophisticated markup.

We offer two markup tools:

  • Editor: Markup unique pages one by one
  • Highlighter: Markup one page and deploy the markup to all similar pages

For example, if Crowd Content is building you new content that uses the same template or is organized the same way, we know exactly what rich result you’re trying to achieve. Every time you publish, it’s automatically optimized.

We’re proud of the customers we work with, and happy to have the opportunity to help many many global brands be understood and visible in search results.

If you want to know more, follow Schema App on LinkedIn. We publish a ton of content there, including webinars, articles, blogs, and videos.

Nizam Uddin: Schema App is useful if you don’t want to do schema markup on your own, but I think scaling structured data is the most difficult part. If you’re producing similar content and adding the schema markup manually to those individual pages, it’s a nightmare. I recommend having a partner like Schema App because it’s a templated solution you can scale. It’s easy to manage and make changes, which is helpful when Google changes things. Doing it manually, you have to go through each and every page.

If you’re just getting started, there are also free resources out there. Yoast has good general blog post schema markup; so does our free Schema App plugin. It offers sophisticated schema markup, but it doesn’t get into the services, products, and the FAQs, but it’s a great starting point. Another good generator is located on Merkle’s technical SEO page. It allows you to do some simple schema markup, so it’s useful for an SMB or a very small website. You can copy and paste the JSON-LD.

We also have Schema App Pro for SMBs; it generates the structured data and includes email support. It integrates with most major platforms, and it’s a great place to start. Our strength, however, is our high touch support and strategy work.

Nizam Uddin: What are your recommendations for websites that produce EAT content?

Within structured data, you can use structured data to provide specific information about the author and their qualifications.

For a physician, you could specify their educational background, area of practice, publications, and the hospitals that they work for. When Google sees these, it builds expertise and authority.

The same goes for authors. Who is the author? What do we know about them? You can start using Schema.org properties to define them. Let’s say you’re an expert in a certain area. Google knows what the page is about, and you can use Wikipedia or Google Knowledge Graph to define exactly what that practice or specialty is.

Again, this is where it’s helpful to understand Schema.org and the properties you can use to clearly define people’s expertise.

Nizam Uddin: Is there a way you can hide structured data codes from competitors?

No; there’s not a way to do that now.

However, in the Google podcast, Ryan Levering talked about a possible future state where you would publish structured data directly to Google. That’s interesting because it removes the challenge of integrating the code into your website.

Nizam Uddin: How often should someone audit their website for structured data?

You should be looking at it regularly; at least on a quarterly basis. You should be evaluating your performance monthly and trying to maintain good health. In general, it’s a good idea to maintain structured data, ensure that it represents the content on your page, and build your content to make sure it has the required and recommended properties.

Sometimes, errors aren’t a problem — if you have a product rich result without a price or a job posting without a salary, that could be a business choice.

Nizam Uddin: How do we future-proof schema markup?

It’s helpful to think of it as future-proofing your content strategy. You’re constantly learning, and Google continues to change the rules. As long as you’re evolving your content strategy and making sure your content is meeting your user’s needs. It’s also important to measure which rich results and content are working and converting, and evolve accordingly.

In SEO and schema markup, future-proofing is making a plan to maintain and educate yourself.

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