What is Website Schema?
Website schema is the code that helps search engines provide relevant results for users.
It’s a type of microdata that helps them understand the primary parts of your website and at times use that data to populate rich results into the SERPs.
Found on Schema.org, it was a joint effort by Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Yandex in 2011 to create a unified structured data vocabulary for the web. (However, Bing and other search engines have not officially stated their support of JSON-LD implementations of Schema.org).
Using schema.org, we can find a vast variety of different markups that we can add to enhance a website.
The benefit of website schema relies on the ever-changing SERPs of Google and other search engines. Not only is Google changing its algorithm on a regular basis, but it also test out new design elements.
When typing a person’s name, a business, or even a question, you may see a non-HTML SERP pop-up or even some HTML SERPs even have added features like reviews, pricing, and breadcrumbs.
While not all schema tags produce a rich result yet, it’s good practice to be ahead of the game for when they decide to roll out a new feature.
Also, note that having a website schema does not guarantee a rich result and there is no evidence that schema will improve rankings. I’ve actually seen schema negatively impact rankings and CTR in the past.
The benefit of schema is taking up more retail space on the first page. If adding schema can create a FAQ rich result, a search box rich result, and even sitelinks, you now occupy a huge portion of the first page.
Of course, Google understands that this can be very competitive and can set limits to rich results. An example of this is in 2019 when Google limited 3 FAQ page rich snippets per page.
When starting to use schema, the first step is to determine the type of schema you would like to use.
Schema Org Types
There are three common schema org types.
These are JSON-LD, Microdata, and RDFa. We will be mainly focusing on JSON-LD and Microdata, as RDFa an extension of HTML5 and is not much different than microdata (they are usually intermixed).
When choosing a style, I recommend choosing one and sticking to it throughout your webpage. I also recommend not using both types on the same page. This can get rough when you are adding multiple schema tags on a website and can be hard to diagnose.
JSON-LD is what Google recommends wherever possible and Google has been in the process of adding support for markup-powered features. JSON-LD can be implemented into the header of your content and can take very little time to implement.
The other option is Microdata, which involves coding elements into your website. This can be a challenging process for some odd reason, which is why I do not prefer it. Below are basic definitions of the schema org types.
JSON-LD is now the preferred method of schema markup, and Google has been supporting more types of website schema with this markup language.
JSON-LD is typically added in the header of the website, unlike microdata which is added within elements of the body. You can still implement JSON-LD within the body, just be sure not to try to tag individual elements as you would with microdata. Google’s preferred method is within the header of the page.
JSON-LD was created as an easier way to implement schema markup within the code without having to tag each individual HTML element, like microdata does.
The goal with JSON-LD is to annotate what is found on a webpage using multi-dimensional arrays. This means that when adding JSON-LD schema markup onto your website, be sure that the content actually exists within the HTML page.
Microdata are machine-readable tags that are annotated onto HTML elements. By adding an item type, which is the content on your page, you begin marking up different areas of HTML text to support the website schema.
Identifying and Finding Website Schema
Finding schema can be done multiple ways.
The easiest way to check is by using Google’s structured data tool. Here you can either crawl a webpage or enter the source code and it will let you know what schema is implemented on the website, if it’s causing any errors, and if there are any warnings.
Of course, for multi-paged websites, this can be a difficult task. You can also use tools such as ScreamingFrog to find schema markup within pages. Prior to running a crawl, open up configuration -> spider -> and look under extraction. Be sure to check JSON-LD, microdata, and RDFa.
If you are noticing that a client is getting rich results, but are unable to locate the tags via source code, or the tools mentioned above, check their Google Tag Manager. When dynamically adding schema to a website using GTM, it may not show up on any of these tools.
Common Schema Markups Examples:
There are many known usages for website schema.
Below are the main schema elements used for SEO purposes. Of course, there are a number of things you can add and remove. Be sure to check schema.org for different elements that can be inserted.
Organization schema is a necessity when it comes to clients.
The very basics to this tag is Business Name, Logo, and Website URL. But you can go further into this by adding social media links, operation hours, opening days, number of employees, description, and much more. While not a necessity, organization schema can help fill in the gaps when it comes to a company’s knowledge panel.
** Be sure not to have this schema on all pages. This schema should only be implemented on the homepage OR about us page .**
Sitelinks Searchbox (Website)
Sitelink Searchbox schema, AKA Website Schema, is a small snippet that allows you to add the website name, website URL, website logo, and a URL to the searchbox. This schema markup example will produce a rich result on a branded search.
BreadcrumbList can be added on all pages.
This let’s robots know what page they are on and what the structure was to get there. If wanting to add on all pages it may be best to do this via a Schema Plugin or by using microdata on a breadcrumb list template on the page (see Implementation section).
If your page or blog asks and answers frequently asked questions, this schema markup example can be added onto that page. The typical known case for FAQpage schema is to be used on an FAQ section of the website.
An additional schema markup example would be to use FAQpage schema in blogs. Adding a question/answer section to the blog can boost the blog’s ranking and by using this schema, you can now take more retail space within the SERPs. You can also use this on PLP’s if you use headers as a question and answer the question within the content.
How-To schema can be used on pages that tell a user instructions on using a product or feature. Common examples are installation guides and product set ups.
Not to be confused with FAQpage schema, Q&A schema is to be used when a user asks a question on a page and users have the opportunity to answer. The difference between this and FAQpage schema is that the user answers questions on an open forum and the answer isn’t provided by the website itself.
This can be used on every blog page of a website. You can markup when the blog was posted, who the author was, what the image is, and even the body content. This can possibly populate rich results for articles.
This should be used on every product page of a website. You can add properties such as price, rating, in-stock vs out-of-stock, color, and more. This is a common rich result you will see when shopping online.
Review schema can be used within product schema for individual products. If you have a review of a website or any other type of review, you can still use Review schema as a stand-alone. This common schema markup example will generate a review rich result within the HTML SERP.
This can be added to every page of a website. Possible properties are publish date, logo, image, breadcrumbs, and more.
Video schema can be added on a page that contains a video. You can use this to show the source of the video, timestamps within the video, the video title, and the video description.
For local companies or companies that have local entities, this schema is a must-have to add different hours of operations, location, name, and more.
While these are the top common schema uses, there are more out there designed for your needs.
Examples of other schemas I’ve seen used are for gyms, restaurants, airports, person, recipes, job postings, and events. If you are unsure if your page qualifies for any schema, use schema.org to search for the type of product/webpage you are creating.
Implementation is the hardest part of Schema markup.
If you are using JSON-LD, you’re in luck. Just paste that bad boy within the header of the page and you are good to roll! If you are using Microdata, be sure to identify the itemtype and itemscope of the page and test, test, test.
There are two tools to test your code before and after adding schema to a website:
These tools will tell you if there are any errors, if there are any warnings, and if it will produce rich results.
Be sure to also check Google Search Console for schema issues. When adding schema features, you may see a new section in Search Console designated for the schema you added. Any errors within Search Console will eliminate your rich result for that SERP.
Don’t have access to their CMS? If needed, JSON-LD schema can be implemented via Google Tag Manager. Google does not prefer this method, but it can work. Only downside is that sometimes this will not show within the source code and the tools above.
Dynamic Implementation & Automation
If you would like to use schema across hundreds of pages, manually adding them may not be the best option. There are multiple ways to dynamically generate schema on a website.
A good option is to build it within a webpage template. If you know that each product page contains an FAQ section at the bottom, use microdata on the template page to generate this code automatically. That way you don’t have to worry about adding the code each time you create a new page.
You can also do this by editing other elements on the website such as breadcrumb lists. If you have an e-commerce client, chances are they have a plugin to dynamically show breadcrumbs. Adding microdata to the plugin can help generate BreadCrumb List schema to each page.
Google Tag Manager is also a possibility for dynamically generating schema on a bulk number of pages. In 2016, we were introduced to this method and it was typically used on product pages and blogs. See the full guide on how to create this here. Do note that Google does not prefer this method.
WordPress Plugins… Yes there are many plugins on WordPress that create dynamic tags for product schema, BreadCrumb List, and more.
The most common are All In One Schema and Schema Pro. Be VERY CAREFUL when using these plugins. I have seen countless errors created through these plugins so be sure to run tests.
If the schema is generating an error (even just 1), it is basically useless and you will not receive any rich results from that tag. Poor implementation of this schema can also harm the website by adding the wrong schema to the wrong pages. This can be very confusing for Google and possibly result in a loss of rankings.
Resources on Schema
Starting to use schema can be difficult. Especially when it comes to actually building the code. Luckily, there are websites that can automatically create these for you and get you started.
https://technicalseo.com/tools/schema-markup-generator/ – Developed by Merkle, this website is a plug and chug option for common schema code. Just copy and paste what you need within the website and it will produce the code for you.
https://developers.google.com/ – Are you looking for a particular schema? Chances are it is most likely on Google’s Dev site. Search through their website and see what you can find, most of the time they will also provide you a basic (and working) structure for JSON-LD and Microdata.
Schema.org – This is where it all started. Check this website to see what properties you can use for different types of schema. This website is very confusing, but also your best resource when dissecting a nasty schema error.
Wrapping It Up
The biggest benefit of website schema is taking up as much space on the first page of a search engine as possible.
As Google continues to change up its algorithm on a regular basis, different opportunities for new design elements will continue to pop up. Be sure to stay on top of the various examples of website schema markup examples to stay at the top of the Google search results.
By Ignite Visibility’s Director of Digital Strategy Khalil Kanbar.