What Is Schema & Why You Should Use It?

By Gabrielle Davenport, 30th May 2018

Schema holds a special place in the heart of every SEO expert. It is one of only a handful of things that are not direct SEO ranking factors that we all care about. Unfortunately it is also one of the least understood by business owners. Don’t worry though, we are here to fix that now.

What is Schema?

At its core, schema is a way of helping search engines understand structured data. Anyone who has data in a highly organised format, like prices, addresses or product names has structured data. Since most sites have at least some form of structured data, it became important for search engines to find a simple way of recognising and categorising the different types of structured data. With that in mind, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex all got together to create the universal markup called Schema.

Why Should I Care About Schema?

Most website/business owners hear that schema is not a direct SEO ranking factor and immediately stop caring. The problem is that, while it is not a direct ranking factor, it affects loads of other direct ranking factors and helps search engines interpret your site. For instance, if you have bunch of words and numbers at the bottom of your page, search engines might not recognise them as the addresses of your physical locations if they are not marked up with schema. By telling search engines what those addresses are you help them understand the area you serve and potentially increase your search rankings in the area around your stores. Schema can also affect how your website actually appears in search results. Without schema a search result will look like this.search without schema
With Schema that same SERP listing can look like this.search with schema
Schema has helped google recognise the image, the ratings the amount of tie the recipe takes and even the number of calories.

How Can Schema Help My SEO?

By clarifying structured data, schema can help Google and other search engines accurately judge and rank your content. For instance you could have a list that looks like this:
The one with the evil orthodontist
The one with the fake Monica
The one with the ick factor
The one with the birth
Without schema, Google might look at that and think this list is about an orthodontist or medicine because of the keywords used. However if you were to add the appropriate schema, Google would know this is a list of Friends episodes. That completely changes how this page would rank and what it will rank for.

Schema also helps your site earn structured snippets. These are the answers to questions or other useful information Google provides to searches for certain queries.schema in SERPs
For the above structured snippet on how to build a sandcastle you could use the how to schema markup. This is markup that tells search engines the information included is a set of instructions for how to achieve something. This makes it much easier for Google to understand what your content is about and pick the most applicable portion. That means it is more likely to be chosen as the structured snippet for your particular topic which will position you above all other search results.

Finally, schema helps Google understand the intent of your content. If your content contains prices and product types marked up with schema, search engines are more likely to understand that that particular page is a sales page. That means it will be more likely to show for searches where the searchers intent is to buy. In contrast, a page with how to markup would likely rank better for queries that are clearly seeking information.

How Do I Use Schema?

Schema is not something that you can just jump into without at least some training. You can learn a great deal from the website http://schema.org/. It provides a list of all the different markups available and instruction on how to implement them. However, if you are struggling the best option is to work with a developer. They can take care of the implementation and provide some guidance. Plug and Play Design are a great option if you need schema but are not able to add it yourself.