5 min

Schema Markup Essentials Pt. 1: Structured Data & Rich Snippets


Structured data is enhancing the way search engines understand the web, and schema markup has become the preferred structured data language for most of the lead players in the search engine industry.

It has also helped change search as we know it with the inclusion of rich snippets to help augment organic results for a better user experience.

One of the underlying goals of search engine optimization is to make it as easy as possible for search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to find and understand the ideas and messages of a website. And while the driving algorithms are becoming increasingly sophisticated by the day, the way crawlers parse information is still different from the way a human can interpret and understand information. The solution that was developed was structured data, which helps fill these gaps in what is referred to as the “semantic web” and allows search engines to quickly scan relevant information.

What Is Structured Data & Schema Markup?

Structured data is essentially a way to specifically denote a subject on a website and its associated information. The subject in question could be an event, a person, a place, a book, business, or a score of different things. Attaching the supporting information about the subject is the real key of the markup language. By piecing out the properties of the subject in question, search engines receive everything they need and use that information in ways to help their users. For example, a website can quickly and explicitly show a book for sale as well as its author, publisher, publishing date, and other pertinent information that search engines can quickly identify, catalog, and then readily utilize.

As structured data became the solution in increased search engine understanding between the late 90s and early 2000s, there were multiple languages being created. Some of the types of languages that came along were RDF, RDFS, and OWL. The problem was there were so many languages being developed that webmasters didn’t know which to incorporate to be the most effective. logo

In 2011, the powerhouses of the search engine industry, Google, Bing, and Yahoo (and later Yandex), collaborated to bring schema markup (and its information hub to the forefront of the structured data world. Its mission: to provide a single, agreed-upon way to structure data and avoid confusion while encouraging further implementation. Launched with 297 classes and 187 relations, schema markup continues to grow to this day, adding new relations and topics for people to explain the subjects on their site.

What’s The Benefit Of Schema Markup & Structured Data?

More Information Means More Informed Results

Structured data helps connect the dots for otherwise ambiguous elements or search patterns. To this day, Google still reports that 15% of search queries have never been searched before, so this information helps provide meaningful answers even when searches have never been conducted before. Structured data is part of the reason why Google can return the result of “The Aviator” for the search [movie with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Beckinsale] instead of an article that just has those keywords scattered about. Because those actors are linked to the movie via schema markup on many of the popular movie information sites, Google can return a more sophisticated answer. It is this kind of information which is also helping build Google’s knowledge graph for an increased understanding of the relationships between different entities in the world.

Organic Results Get A Facelift With Rich Snippets

Google also sometimes gives rankings a visibility assist when structured data (or more specifically schema markup, as that has become the standard) is included on your webpage. You may have even seen these in your day-to-day life while searching Google. If you’ve ever searched a recipe and saw some quick information, you’re seeing the utilization of schema markup in action.

Rich snippet from structured data

These additions to the search engine results page are called rich snippets, and they come in many forms. There are review snippets to show a quick 5-star scale of the particular rating of a movie, book, business, recipe, or other subject. There are also event snippets which help show an event, the venue, and date in a convenient manner.

Rich snippets example

There are even parts of schema that tell Google how your site is structurally laid out, which can help trigger a breadcrumb snippet to show users which category they’ll enter into.

Rich snippet showing category

These are just a handful of the different result modifications that Google can potentially show when a webpage utilizes schema. As you could probably guess, having these little differentiators on the SERPs can help boost your click-through rate by making your result more appealing and informative even before the user has visited the site. Some rich snippets like the events snippet mentioned above even help direct users deeper into the site to get closer to where important conversions can be completed.

Rich snippets are just the beginning of how structured data and schema markup are being utilized by Google to provide a better search experience. Check back for Schema Markup Essentials Part 2 to see the different types of schema markup available, as well as developments in the works, and how this markup language may become even more valuable in the years to come.

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