I remember when I first heard the word “schema.” I tilted my head like a perplexed basset hound and said “What?” Then someone told me its definition and I repeated, “What?”
In the digital world there are plenty of terms and tools that can be hard to wrap your brain around at first. You wish people would speak English, not techy. That’s the point of these Girl vs. Internet blogs—to make the complex aspects of the digital/online presence management world accessible and comprehensible to the average person. Schema is a perfect example of a concept that may seem intimidating, but when explained the right way can make perfect sense.
What Is Schema?
First things first, you should know that schema is sometimes also referred to as Schema.org or schema markup. (So if you see these terms, know you are dealing with the same animal.)
At its simplest, schema is a type of code you can put on the back end of your website to help search engines understand more about your site and, thus, provide more information for users when your listing shows up. Basically, schema can be added to the HTML area of your site (where it looks all coded and crazy) to improve how a webpage is displayed in the search result pages (SERPs).
If you want to get more technical than that (and don’t read the rest of this paragraph if that’s not your jam), a colleague of mine describes schema as referring to “the vocabulary to organize the data (structured data), whereas the code that uses the schema vocabulary to mark up the site code is RDF-a, Microdata, JSON-LD.”
How Does Schema Improve Your Result?
When search engines index webpages, they go off of what the content says. Schema helps tell the search engines what the content means. This Kissmetrics blog regarding analytics, marketing, and testing gives a great example:
“Let’s say the word ‘Neil Patel’ appears on an article. The search engine sees this, and produces a SERP entry with ‘Neil Patel.’ However, if I put the right schema markup around the name ‘Neil Patel,’ I’ve just told that search engine that ‘Neil Patel’ is the author of the article, not just a couple random words. The search engine then provides results that display better information for the user who was searching for ‘Neil Patel’.”
Now if you wanted to think of this another way, we can go to an HTML example. In HTML we label headers like so:
<h1>Big Fish</h1> <h2>Big Fish</h2> <h3>Big Fish</h3> <h4>Big Fish</h4>
The higher the number in that header HTML tag, the smaller the header looks once published. In this example I used “Big Fish” as the header. If the search engines saw this, they could index the data in a myriad of ways. You see, the search engines don’t know if you’re referencing the film Big Fish made in 2003, Big Fish the free game download site, or an actual large marine creature. Schema, however, added to the back end of a webpage can provide the missing information that search engines need to fill in the blanks.
Collaborating For Better Results
Schema was a concept brought to life by the team effort of Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Yandex. These search engines worked together to compose agreed-upon code markers that tell each of them what to do with the data found on your website.
These search engines joined forces in this unique collaboration to help users. In addition to assisting the search engines with their understanding of a webpage, schema allows your listing to display extra information people might need, such as:
- Star/Review Ratings
- Location Information
- Product Pricing
- Business Information
- & More!
Just look at this listing for Wonder Woman on Rotten Tomatoes. A normal listing will just have a title tag (line of blue text), a URL (line of green text), and the meta description (the small summary below the rating). That rating and all the other info being provided here are the result of schema utilization, which creates rich snippets like these little callouts of extra information.
Schema & You
As you can see by the above example, schema can make your listing much richer—acting as a mini business card that tells the search engines and the users the important key points of information on your webpage.
There are hundreds of types of schema that can serve a wide array of websites and industries in this way (from movies to local businesses to products and beyond). And because of its effectiveness, schema can get you more traffic and help you rank higher in the SERPs. According to a Searchmetrics study, webpages utilizing schema tend to rank an average of four positions higher than those without. So don’t wait, get started on implementing schema to your website today. For your first next step, I recommend checking out Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper!