David Zimmerman
April 9, 2018

Don’t Just Rank Better, Standout in Google Using Schema Markup

Standout in Google Using Schema Markup

Google rarely makes direct announcements about their search algorithm. When they do, everyone pays attention! Recently John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, answered some questions on Reddit. There he mentioned that Google uses schema as a ranking factor.

Before we go any further, for those of you who are wondering about what schema is, you should read this excellent article on by Neil Patel on Kissmetrics. It makes a complex topic that will glaze over many an eye, somewhat accessible to more people. A quick one-sentence quote from the article:

Schema markup is code (semantic vocabulary) that you put on your website to help the search engines return more informative results for users.

Important note: Very few small business owners will have the time or technical aptitude to do this themselves. And that’s fine. But it’s something you need to know exists. And at some point, you’ll need to consider having someone do this for you.

Schema is a way of encoding a site, so Google can better understand what it is saying. Now that this seems to be a ranking factor, everyone will add it to their site. Of course, most people will add the easy schemas: website, organization, and local business. Why wouldn’t you add them?

If you really want to stand out, you need to do some additional work. Here are three difficult but worthwhile schemas you could add to your website. 

Breadcrumb Schema

How will Breadcrumb Schema help your website?

This can make your site stand-out in the SERPs, over sites that only use their URL. It also gives your site credibility within the search results. Breadcrumbs tell potential customers all you have to offer. Here’s an example- notice how PopSugar.com stands out?

See how the popsugar site stands-out? This is due to Breadcrumb schema.

What are the Requirements for Breadcrumb Schema?

Before you attempt to add Breadcrumb markup, your site will need structure and organization. If your site has a flat structure (every page is a daughter of the homepage), you might have to re-organize your site. The good news: good site architecture provides several advantages beyond breadcrumb schema. It helps your visitors understand where they are in your site.  It also helps them see what your site has to offer. If you don’t have good site architecture, you need to fix this anyway. When you do this, don’t forget those redirects!

In addition, you’ll need each page to dynamically populate with the unique data for each item in your breadcrumb list. That means each page will not only need to know how it fits into your architecture but be able to declare its “parents.” If you’re using a CMS, this might be easy. If you’re not, it could be a challenge.

How do you add Breadcrumb Schema to a Website?

This is where this gets tricky. Use server-side code to do this and then encode it with the proper microdata. Don’t use JavaScript to render your breadcrumbs. I’ve seen a lot of developers try to do this with server-side scripts, and it does not work. Sure, Google might be better at reading JavaScript lately. I wouldn’t count on it.

Article Schema

How will Article Schema help your website?

Article schema tells Google what part of your page is the article and what is something else (navigation, boilerplate content, etc.). You can also use schema to distinguish different kinds of articles: news, scholarly, tech, satire, etc. This is a requirement if you use AMP. Even if you’re not, Google suggests there’s an advantage for you.

What are the Requirements for Article Schema?

For your article schema to be valid, you’d need the following information:

  • Author
  • Date published
  • Headline
  • An image describing your post
  • The publisher of this article and their logo

Sounds easy, right?

How can you add Article Schema to your site?

I find the easiest way to do this on a blog is with microdata encoding your existing HTML. You’re already publishing much of this information with each article. With some small tweaks to your HTML, you can get your article schema on the page.

The difficulty comes in adding information that you’re not already displaying in your article.

For one, if you don’t have an image associated with each post, you’ll need to add it. The good news is that a featured image will help your social media marketing, too. With a featured image, your Open Graph (or Twitter) markup will include this image with each social media post. Social posts with accompanying images tend to perform better. You probably need to do this anyway. While you’re at it, add your article schema.

Most articles don’t include publisher information, as the Article schema requires. The good news: you can add this as microdata that is invisible to humans. Since the publication information on each page is likely the same for each article, just insert this into your article template.

If you can’t change your article template, you could get this information from the DOM and use Google Tag Manager to display it as JSON.

Review Schema

How will Review Schema help your website?

Have you noticed some websites get stars within the SERPs? If you implement your review schema correctly, Google might give them to you too. Not only does this make you stand-out from your competitors but it adds credibility to your site.

What are the requirements for Review Schema?

Because of the power of review schema in the SERPs, Google has some strict requirements. I won’t bother to list them here. I will note, however, that you shouldn’t try to trick Google. They are handing out warnings for websites with improper reviews. Because of abuses, Google keeps changing the guidelines. If you want stars in the SERPs, you’re aiming for a moving target.

How can I add Review Schema to my site?

Review Google’s requirements. As I’ve implemented this for clients, I’ve learned a couple of things:

  • To earn review stars in the SERPs, you’ll need to display all the reviews that aggregate into the total rating. Google wants to see everyone’s reviews.
  • Google also requires that people can add a review to the page where the schema lives. These user-generated reviews must not be curated by the site. In other words, even bad reviews should be displayed. For some companies, that’s too great of a risk.
  • Don’t confuse local business reviews with product reviews. Use the proper markup for what you’re reviewing on your page.

In Closing

Yes, adding any of these schemas to your site will be difficult. Is it worth it for a slight ranking signal? Probably not. However, all these schemas give several other advantages beyond ranking. Besides, if everyone implements the easy schema, what good is it if you do it too. Make your site better with one of these more difficult projects.

You may also want to readHow Artificial Intelligence Will Impact SEO and Search

Why Small Businesses Must Never Compromise on SEO

Featured image: Copyright: ‘https://www.123rf.com/profile_alphaspirit‘ / 123RF Stock Photo

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David Zimmerman

President/Internet Marketing Consultant at Reliable Acorn LLC
David Zimmerman is an internet marketing consultant who specializes in search for B2B companies. When he's not in front of a computer screen, you might find him hiking in the foothills of North Carolina.