"Mark Up Everything" ~Pierre Far, Google - at Pubcon 2014
During the Q&A in the Semantic Search session at Pubcon last week, Pierre Far uttered the words quoted above. I was there and I almost applauded. I'm not going to lie - this was seriously music to my ears. Google has been telling us that markup created from Schema.org vocabulary is easy to use and helps it to better index and display your website for relevant queries. So, if you can better define the role of a piece of information on your website, the more understanding Google will have of your business, content, and intent. If Google really "gets" you, then you're more likely to rank well for relevant phrases.
Far indicated that schema helps Google better index your site, and better indexing could lead to better ranking and conversions. If your listing ranks well - and takes advantage of more real estate in the SERPs via rich snippets - you have the opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
One question I get a lot is "WHAT exactly should I mark up?" Great Question!
My answer has been "everything" and it's great to hear that now Google supports that opinion. While you should ideally mark up anything that has a defined entity at Schema.org, some of that work could take awhile and -- for a small business -- getting the most bang for your buck is important.
So here are my five tips for deciding WHAT to mark up on your website in order of importance. If your competitors are already using Schema markup, you're likely playing catchup, but don't skip ahead in the process just because your competitors have marked their business type up and you want to mark yours up, too. Step 1 is extremely important - and shouldn't be ignored.
- Do not ignore the basics of on-site and off-site SEO. Schema is not a band-aid for someone who doesn't want to do things right. Schema supports great SEO, it does not fix bad SEO. Gaining more and more complete rich snippets than your competitors can make a big difference in organic click through rate, but if your content doesn't rank, searchers won't see them.
- Mark up the things that are important to your customer. How do they contact you, when are you open, what do you specialize in, etc. Not only does this help users, it can influence the Knowledge Graph - and if someone searches for a pediatric dentist in Glenwood Springs, Colorado - and you ARE a pediatric dentist in Glenwood Springs, Colorado - you want to make darn sure people can find that information front and center.
- If you are a local business that has a specific "type" designated in the Schema.org website - use that type. Yes, an attorney is technically a Schema.org/LocalBusiness, an attorney is also a Schema.org/ProfessionalService. Don't stop there, drill in further to Schema.org/Attorney. ProfessionalService is a child of LocalBusiness, and Attorney is a child of ProfessionalService. Be sure you're getting to the closest, best descriptor for your business.
- Markup that doesn't trigger a Rich Snippet is still important. Beyond the rich snippet, Google is doing amazing things with Actions and other types of markup. If you use Google Now on your phone, you can see cards that contain reminders, updates, and more. Many of those cards are influenced by Schema.org markup. Recipe markup in a food blog helps Pinterest.com better categorize and display your recipe pins for specific queries. It also shows the ingredients directly in the pin itself. Rich Pins are influenced by product markup and pricing. Markup has a life outside of Google - be sure you're aware of other websites that use Schema.org markup to better display your information. Many of these sites might be niche specific.
- Take advantage of new Schemas. Right now there is a "Site Search" rich snippet that a website with products, services, blog posts and more can take advantage of. As long as you have site search enabled on your website, you can use this! You are not "guaranteed" a snippet, and it might take awhile for the rich snippet to show up - but it's an exciting way to take search results real estate away from your competition.
With all of the opportunity here, Schema markup has been designed to be fairly easy to implement. Many novice webmasters can handle the basics themselves. Anything more complicated can be tasked to your website design/development firm. In the end, make sure every piece of markup you place on your website validates! If it doesn't validate it doesnt work!