Professionals in the world of search engine marketing have been discussing the relationship between schema markup and improved search engine rankings for quite some time. Despite these discussions, there still seems to be some confusion over whether implementing schema markup language on a website can positively impact a website’s search positioning.

While webmasters and SEM professionals are encouraged to include schema markup on their webpages by the major search engines, it is still unclear what effect this additional HTML coding will have on rankings, if any. In an attempt to demystify things a bit, we will take a look at what schema markup is, how it works, the different types of markup that can be applied to webpages, and what sort of conclusions regarding rankings we can draw from this information.

What is Schema.org?

In 2011, schema.org was created through collaboration between “The Big Three”—Google, Yahoo, and Bing. The goal was to improve search engine results by creating a structured data markup schema in order to help search engines better understand webpage information. According to schema.org, schema markup can be looked at as a set of ‘types,’ or informational categories, that are arranged in a hierarchy that allows search engines to categorize webpages based on the topical information they contain. Some commonly used types include Event, MedicalEntity, Intangible, Organization, Person, Place, Product, etc. Within certain types, there are subtypes, which allow for more accurate page categorization. The schema types act as a categorical funnel, starting with a very broad item type (e.g., ‘Thing’) and drilling down to more specific item types (e.g., ‘Restaurant’).

Simply put, schema markup works to help the search engines directly access more structured data about the pages of your website.  In this way, you are enabling search engines to understand and process more information about your webpages, which can lead to enhanced search results and more pathways to your content for users.

What are Rich Snippets?

Rich snippets describe the enhanced text and information that appears under each search result. These informational snippets are considered to be some of the most important benefits that schema markup can offer to a search listing. By implementing the schema.org vocabulary on your pages, you are enabling a multitude of rich snippet information to be displayed with your search result, including ratings, reviews, locations, events, and e-commerce data, just to name a few. This enhanced data has huge potential when it comes to increasing clickthrough rates. In some instances, search result CTRs increased by 30% after schema markup was implemented.

Types of Schema Markup

There are many different types of schema markup that exist depending on what category your webpages fall under. The type hierarchy is robust, with an appropriate category for just about any page of content that exists on the web. E-commerce websites will most likely find the ‘Product’ type highly valuable, which enables the identification of specific product details such as color, size, price, reviews, special offers, and sku number. Sites that deal with event ticket sales can use ‘Event,’ which can be customized specifically for business events, sporting events, concerts, festivals, and social events.

What’s the Verdict?

While Google, Yahoo, and Bing remain secretive on how exactly schema markup affects search engine rankings, we do know that adding the markup to your webpages certainly can’t hurt. Google’s own Matt Cutts has discussed the fact that, while including schema.org vocabulary on your webpages won’t itself improve search engine rankings, it can certainly improve clickthrough rates by making your pages easier to find across multiple search types. This is accomplished through the enhanced organization that schema markup provides to webpages, making them much easier to categorize and find by searchers. Additionally, the creation of rich snippets can greatly increase the clickthrough rate in search listings by displaying more useful and enticing information to users.

The possibility for future impact on rankings has also not been ruled out, so it is a good idea to implement the markup language now, to be sure. After all, if both a search engine user and a search engine spider are able to more easily find your content, then schema markup is on your side.

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