Is schema markup the new SEO?
In a word, no. Schema markup is not the new SEO, but you’ve got to admit, that clickbait headline grabbed your attention! Schema markup has been lauded as the solution to a lot of the issues we face in SEO. That’s definitely an oversimplification, because the debate around how useful schema can be for SEO, is much more convoluted. However, it certainly can’t harm your SEO efforts, especially if it’s tied in with another essential component: user experience.
Wait, what’s all the fuss about schema markup and SEO?
Ok, before we get onto user experience (UX), let’s briefly cover this.
There’s a lot of discussion around whether schema markup can improve your rankings. Some people argue that schema markup gives you a better chance of nabbing the featured snippet. The fight for that position is raging hard at the moment. There’s a fear that voice search will take over, and the competition for the featured snippet is still pretty open. Less than one third of Google search results currently feature one, so it is an achievable goal for a lot of keywords.
While a lot of people in the industry are banging the schema markup drum, there’s nothing concrete to suggest that it’s a definitive solution to all of your SEO problems. Sorry, guys. It seems like everyone and his dog has been claiming schema is the answer. While it is probably very useful, it’s not a magic wand you can simply wave over your site. Wouldn’t that be nice, though?
Ok, so what does schema markup have to do with user experience?
The point of schema markup is to be transparent. When you’re marking up your site with schema, you are naming and defining as many elements as possible. This makes it easier for algorithms to understand, which is where the belief that schema is great for SEO has come from.
That’s all well and good, but if the actual experience of navigating through your site doesn’t match up to the SERPs, you’re going to have issues. UX makes your site easier for humans to understand. This in turn, can reduce your bounce rate, increase your dwell time and perhaps improve conversion rates. All of that good stuff is essential for SEO.
Accurately describing your content gives your user a heads up on what’s happening. Off the back of that, a good UX delivers what was promised. Search engines are told what every element is, and each element will behave as it should. A title will be displayed as and where it should be, so will an image, or a video, or literally anything on your site. Every little bit will be indexed and categorised correctly. That means the information within is better structured, making it more easily found by humans. By taking the time to label your site carefully, and nailing your UX, you’re providing sign posts for your users, to help them find their way more easily.
So instead of focusing on ranking from the off, think of schema and UX as two halves of a whole that make your users’ lives easier. The quicker they can find what they need, the happier they’ll be. I don’t have to tell you that happy customers are return customers, which builds loyalty to your brand. We’re talking increased traffic, and increased engagement, and by dint of all that, better rankings. It all comes together so beautifully. What more could you ask for?
What else do I need to know about schema markup?
Schema lends itself to certain niches more than others, but if you have any data at all, there will be an associated itemscope, itemtype and itemprop, which are the building blocks of schema markup. That means, pretty much anyone can use schema to improve their UX. Take a look at the full list of schema categories to find out more.
In fact, on the schema website it says: “Schema vocabulary can be used with many different encodings, including RDFa, Microdata and JSON-LD. These vocabularies cover entities, relationships between entities and actions, and can easily be extended through a well-documented extension model.” Hooray! Schema for everyone!
Schema markup was founded by individuals from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Yandex, and developments are all made in a community process, shared on GitHub. Seriously, it’s for anyone and everyone so there’s no excuse not to be using it.
There’s evidence to show that search engine results with schema markup result in higher CTR, more conversions and the aforementioned voice benefits if you can nab the featured snippet. Combine that with your improved UX and super happy customers, and you’re onto a winner. Schema markup might not be the cure-all we wish it could be, but it certainly has a part to play in your SEO efforts.