Read Time: 10 Minutes
You may have noticed the Google search results are changing.
A handful of years ago, all you would see would be a simple list of ten blue links. If you searched for a local business, there might be a map, too.
Now, the Google search engine result pages (known as SERPs for short) look vastly different. There are carousels of images, boxes on the side, maps, stars, and expandable question boxes to explore.
If your business cares at all about SEO, and every business should, these changing search results may scare you. They take up a lot of space at the top of the search results, pushing your regular blue links further down the page.
You may have also noticed Google often displays information from a website directly in the search results. Google shows job posts, company information, recipes, and more.
How is Google getting this information?
Part of it comes from the brilliance of Google’s algorithm. Google is constantly scouring the web and finding new ways to display that information to searchers.
The other part comes from schema markup is code these companies place on their websites to help Google find that information. The easier their information is to find, the more likely Google is to show their website in one of those special search results.
The more present you are in the search results, the more brand awareness, site traffic, and sales your website can enjoy. In other words, schema is good for SEO, and it’s good for your business.
Let’s dig into exactly what schema is, why you should care, and the powerful results it can drive for your Sitecore website.
What is schema markup?
Schema markup, sometimes referred to as structured data markup, is a vocabulary search engines use to read and understand web content. Back in 2011, the world’s biggest search engines, including Google, Yahoo, Bing and Yandex, met up to standardize this vocabulary and form Schema.org.
With schema, you use a standard set of properties, as defined by this language, to describe the content on a page on your website. Then you place the code in the HTML for that page. The code is not visible to your site visitors, but the search engines will see it when they scan your website.
Search engines are getting smarter every day, but it’s a tall order to scan a web page and understand what the images, text, and video represent, and how they all relate to each other.
Use schema, and search engines can more clearly grasp what your website is all about, since you’re speaking their language. With more context, it’s easier for them to display your website in the search results for relevant keywords, or feature you in a special search result like the ones we showed above.
There are three standard formats to schema markup: JSON-LD, Microdata, and RDFa. Google recommends using JSON-LD, which is why we’ll use that in our examples throughout the rest of the guide.
>> Schema in action
Here’s an example of how schema works. Engagency is currently hiring for a QA technician. Because we used schema markup, Google displays our job in relevant searches, like “QA jobs near me” for Austin-based searchers.
Google is able to pull the job title, location, description, and other details for the role because we included all of those fields in our schema markup for the page.
Google has a special section of the search results dedicated to job openings, and job candidates are likely to go right to Google to find their next job. Thanks to schema markup, we’re able to reach more candidates.
Why care about schema?
SEO is highly competitive. Your company knows that. Anything you can do to increase your visibility in the search results is a worthwhile endeavor. Schema fits the bill.
By using schema, you make it mucheasier for search engines to understand the content on your website. This alone makes them more likely to display your website in relevant search results.
But, as we saw with our jobs example above, many types of schema also get transformed into “rich results” in the search results. These are those special search results that look different than a plain blue link.
They may be product ratings and reviews:
They might be a jobs carousel:
They could be event listings:
And that’s just getting started. There are a lot of schema your business can use to gain visibility in the search results, many of which we’ll review in a later section.
As you can see, all of these search results arehighly visible and noticeable. And many of them grant your business visibility that you wouldn’t enjoy otherwise. For example, your business is unlikely to rank for broad, high-volume keywords like “events near me this weekend.” Event aggregator sites are likelier to rank. If you use schema, however, Google will be more likely to display your company’s event in the featured listings.
Best of all, these rich results are pulled from any of the websites who show up on page one. That means you can be ranking in spot 10, at the very bottom of the search results, and score an additional highlight at thevery top of the search results. You get two rankings for the price of one!
Considering that the top spot alone gets over 35% of clicks, that’s nothing to shrug off.
While expanded search real estate is a huge benefit all on its own, it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t translate to conversions.
Here’s the great news: these rich results—enabled by schema—attract more-qualified traffic. According to Google’s research, web pages that use schema markup enjoy click-through rates that are 25% to 82% higher!
Voice search optimization
Schema provides one more benefit that becomes more important as we enter the age of voice search. One in six Americans already own a voice-activated smart speaker. By 2020, analysts predict over half of all searches will be performed via voice.
When these speakers read out answers to their owners, where do you think they get that information from? From rich results, of course!
Using schema markup on your website is a SEO best practice, for now and into the future. It help syou stay competitive as search behavior changes from text to voice.
Benefits of schema
To summarize, using schema on your Sitecore website can offer you these benefits:
Increased visibility in the search results
Increased click-through rates and higher-quality organic search traffic
Competitive edge for all organic search, traditional or voice
Google’s goodwill for making your content easy to understand
To clarify a common misconception, schema is not a ranking factor. However, it does give Google more context about your site, and the more information Google has (and the easier you make it for them to find said information), the better job they tend to do at ranking your website for the things you should be ranking for.
What schema can you add to your Sitecore site?With schema, the possibilities are nearly endless. Learn about the top 10 schema you can add to your website, from local business schema to product ratings and reviews, along with the details of how to implement them in Sitecore. Download the free whitepaper now!
5 schema best practices for Sitecore implementations
As you incorporate schema into your Sitecore implementation, keep the following best practices in mind.
1. Use the JSON-LD format.
While Google supports structured data in all three schema formats—JSON-LD, Microdata, and RDFa—they recommend using JSON-LD.
When it comes to SEO, it’s in your best interests to follow Google’s recommendations. Make it easier for them to identify your schema by using JSON-LD, and they may be more likely to display you for rich results.
2. Your schema should be unique to a specific URL.
Each schema you implement should be tied back to a specific page on your website. Do not create schema if you cannot pull content from the page to support the properties.
Google itself advises against copying and pasting the same schema across multiple pages. Don’t make Google angry.
3. Use the same NAP across all your schema and web properties.
When you are adding a place to your schema, such as you would with the Organization, Local Business, or Job Posting schema, make sure the Name, Address, and Place (NAP) match the information you use across your web profiles. These include social media profiles like Facebook and Twitter as well as directory websites like Yelp or The Yellow Pages.
In the SEO world, these are referred to as citations, and having a consistent NAP across them makes it easy for Google to interconnect your various web properties.
4. Check your schema with Google’s free tools.
Google has free tools you can use to make sure you’re implementing schema correctly. This not only confirms you’ve made it as easy as pie for Google to display rich results for your schema, but it also makes sure you don’t get a nasty message from Google telling you you've violated schema guidelines.
Before you go live, use their Structured Data Markup Helper to test your schema. Once you’re live, you can test your live URL with their Structured Data Testing Toolto verify everything displays properly.
5. Don’t scam the schema.
Some people try to scam their way to better SEO by deliberately violating their guidelines. Common examples of this include creating schema on a page that doesn’t have content, such as 5-star customer ratings when there’s not a review in sight.
Do not do this, as Google will issue a Manual Action for your website—and that can seriously negatively affect how your website appears (or doesn’t) in the search results. Always test your schema to make sure it meets Google’s guidelines.
Schema for your Sitecore website
As you can see, there is a lot to schema! The possibilities with schema are growing every day, and each schema you use just makes your site that much easier for Google to find. The easier you make Google’s job for them, the better they’ll be able to do it. Hopefully, that means displaying your website for more relevant search terms.
For help implementing schema on your Sitecore website, call Engagency. We’ll work with you to identify all of the schemas available to you. Then we’ll map your site content and pages to the appropriate schema and add it to your existing site. We’ll even modify your existing Sitecore Content Editor so you can easily add schema to new pages moving forward—without having to dig into the code.
Learn more about our Schema Implementation and other SEO services by contacting us today. Let’s create a scheme for your schema.