What schema.org is and why small businesses should care

This month, Google introduced schema.org. They called it “A new initiative from Google, Bing and Yahoo! to create and support a common set of schemas for structured data markup on web pages.” Here’s what that actually means and why small business owners should care.

schema

It's semantic, ya'll!

What is schema.org?

First what does Google mean by “schemas for structured data markup on web pages?” Basically, using structured data markup = giving a block of text a label. Let’s say you wanted to add a recipe to your web page. Up until now, the HTML code you’d use to create your recipe would look just like the HTML code you’d use to create a short story with a list.

Search engines would have to use the actual text and context to figure out whether you’d created a recipe or a short story. If your short story was about food, this could be tricky.

How does schema.org help searchers?

Many times searchers are looking for a specific type of data. Maybe they want an address, screenplay or job listing. Google has a much easier time giving the searcher the type of information he or she wants if data is marked up properly and clearly identified. That means the searcher has a much greater likelihood of getting the data he or she wants in one search.

Taking it further, adding tags for data like calories in a recipe would mean searchers could find recipes for chicken dinners that come in under 250 calories per serving in one search.

In addition, when a search engine knows for sure what kind of information it has, it can determine how to best display it in the search results. Maybe a searcher looking for a recipe wants to see a full list of ingredients with each search engine result. Or perhaps someone looking for a screenplay wants to see the name of the screenplay, who wrote it and the year it was published in the search results page.

How does schema.org help webmasters?

Marking up your data makes it more likely it’ll get into the hands on the people who want it. Here’s how SEO Book put it “If you are the first person in your vertical to leverage these new formats that can help your listing look more appealing & help you capture a bit more of the traffic (for a while).”

The Google blog post on schema.org says “With schema.org, site owners can improve how their sites appear in search results not only on Google, but on Bing, Yahoo! and potentially other search engines as well in the future.”

How could schema.org hurt webmasters?

Aaron Wall over at SEO Book explains that there could be a dark side to helping search engines display your data the way they want to. As a general rule, search engines stop making money as soon as you click on an organic search listing. Both searchers and search engines want everything a searcher needs, be it the whole job listing, recipe or fact, to appear right in the search results page. This makes a click through to the site unnecessary. So the webmaster who provided the data gets no traffic, and presumably no profit, for providing the information.

How can I get started?

 

So, understanding the risks and rewards, here’s how you can start marking up your local business website. First check out the local business section of schema.org, where you can find tags and examples of how to use them.

Here’s a WordPress plugin that helps you add rich snippets. http://wordpress.org/support/topic/plugin-gd-star-rating-google-rich-snippet I’m sure there will be more. Found this one via Local SEO Guide.

Once you’re done marking up your data, test your markup using the rich snippets testing tool. Via the Google Webmaster Central blog.

Anyone have any questions or opinions about schema.org? Share them in the comments!

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