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SEO Relevancy: Assessing the Value of Schema

By: Guest | January 10, 2012 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by John Trader.

The race to the top of search result pages is getting more fierce as search engines drive more and more traffic and revenue to businesses.

Last June, Google, Yahoo, and Bing announced a new initiative called Schema.org  to create and support a common vocabulary for structured data markup on web pages.

The goal was to allow webmasters and SEO experts to improve how their websites appear in search engine result pages (SERP), increase click through rates (CTR) for higher visibility, and drive more relevant web traffic.

Creating this common vocabulary was seen as an immediate boon for site owners who previously had to struggle with adding HTML markup to their pages in different formats according to which search engine they were targeting.

Providing this valuable tool so search engines could better decipher information on web pages allows them to provide more robust results to end users. This means people like you and me can more easily find relevant and personalized information on the Internet.

And we all know in the increasingly diverse web eco-sphere:

Relevancy=Traffic=Leads=Revenue

How Schema Works

Schema simplified obscure and complicated methods to tag websites by developing templates specifically designed for certain verticals, which make it a lot easier for site owners to add language that more effectively categorizes their products or services.

In other words, Schema allows you to more accurately define the attributes of whatever content is on your page.

Schema’s applicability bodes well for sites that focus on topics such as TV, movies, events, and recipes, but  provides additional value for news and e-commerce sites. If, for example, the same article is published in six different publications, a search engine  can look at specific attributes defined in microdata and realize this is all the same article.

So instead of showing you different or outdated results, Schema shows the most fresh and relevant content. Furthemore, e-commerce sites using Schema vocabulary in their markups can draw attention to a listing to help increase CTR.

If you were searching for a replacement battery for your Gateway laptop, following is an example from the Google SERP  for “Gateway replacement battery.”

Notice how the ratings bar draws your eye to the search result snippet? This example from Amazon demonstrates just how effective adding Schema vocabulary to your HTML markup makes the listing stand out.

A product search for “black stapler” in Google produces the following listing for Staples in page one of the search results.

Taking into account brand recognition, this listing does stand out from others from the use of the Schema vocabulary within the microdata of the site.

Why Schema Matters

Adam Justice, who recently blogged about major changes to SEO in 2012, said that prior to Schema,

Most site developers didn’t properly tag or use the correct markup on their pages. The Schema.org project brought attention to a practice even seasoned developers were lacking in, and the amount of websites that now use the correct markup has increased.

I asked Emily McClendon at Nebo Agency, an Atlanta-based interactive agency ,who specializes in SEO best practices, why more sites aren’t adopting the Schema vocabulary.

She said,

As more people recognize SEO as an important priority, they will be able to put more development hours towards optimization and request Schema more frequently.

CEO Brian Easter also pointed out,

One of the biggest benefits of Schema is shifting how search engines view the Web from a glorified algorithm of words smashed together to an object with object attributes.

The advent of Schema is injecting more intuitive skills into the major search engines helping them to more efficiently and effectively index, crawl, and understand the content of a site. That’s good news for marketers executing strategies to establish more relevancy in their niches.

What are your thoughts on Schema? Do you find it to be a valuable SEO tool to establish relevancy?

John Trader is public relations and marketing manager with M2SYS Technology, a recognized industry leader in biometric identity management technology. He has PR and marketing experience working in the financial, publishing, non-profit, entertainment, sales training, and technology sectors. Currently living in Atlanta, he is an avid NHL fan and lacrosse coach for Emory University. He also blogs over at PRBreakfastClub.com  

30 comments
kasser
kasser

Nice and great post.

 

Thanks & regards.

clerisysolutions2011
clerisysolutions2011

SEO is not the only solution for getting tons and tons of traffic to your site, but without a doubt, SEO is the most effective one.

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

What a timely post! Thank you. I wondered about those green bars, too. Thanks for clearing that up! Now, if only we could get all of the SEO 'experts' to use Schema, we'd be in great shape. I'll be bookmarking this for future reference.

JohnMTrader
JohnMTrader

@shonali Thank you for the RT! Will join #measurepr nxt wk was sad that I couldn't be there today.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

I LOVE THIS STUFF!! Thanks, Trader, for joining us and not whistling too loudly. Because of this blog post, a few people have sent me some very interesting articles to support what both you and @etelligence are saying. You're making me smarter and I appreciate that.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

A lot of this stuff goes way over our heads as PR pros and marketers (or maybe I should speak for myself) but I love these types of articles because we all need to understand SEO (whether it gives us a headache or not) and the vocabulary. Yours along with @etelligence 's comment below are points in case. So, while I have nothing of value to add to the conversation, I wanted to thank you guys for sharing what you know!!! LOL.

etelligence
etelligence

The pages are still in HTML, so in the end Schema is a duplication of work, just like all other markup. Someday the markup will be the content, and all the coding will do is format that content into a website design (like CSS does now). We're still a long way away from the Semantic web, but I believe that we'll see certain datasets (possibly medical journals or travel articles) utilize the technology within the next 3 years. Schema is a step in the right direction though, common standards is the correct place to start. Nice article John.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

@ginidietrich@etelligence You were right GD, SEO just has to be part of the everyday vernacular of modern PR pros. If you don't know it, how can you work with clients who expect that you are up to speed on the most recent trends that will maximize their exposure and traffic? It a'int just about writing press releases anymore.

etelligence
etelligence

@Raman_Kia I don't think Schema and the Personal Search are directly related. The kind of represent opposite sides SEO. Not for sure though.

KenMueller
KenMueller

@Lisa Gerber@etelligence I'm with Lisa in that a lot of this goes over my head. For the most part, I've found that if you create good relevant content, it does most of the SEO work for you, without dealing with all the tools that are out there. Again, I'm not in ecommerce, but for my clients, and for myself, that's how I see the most success.

I'm just curious how important the "markup" is. I ask because it's somewhat foreign to me, and I've found that most of the SEO folks who get a hold of websites do a good job of messing them up. But that's my experience and know it isn't universal.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

@etelligence Thank you Adam and thanks for your input on the research. I agree that we are still a long way from the semantic web although slowly but surely we are getting there. Someone recently gave me an interesting exercise to test out. Type in the words "white vans" into a search engine and see what results are returned. Depending on your search history, demograhic and a host of other variables search results for someone who may be younger and closer to the city might yield Vans the shoes as their first few pages of search results whereas someone else a little older out in the burbs who's search history in the past has included cars might get the white van automobile instead. A good example of how search engine results are more refined but still might not be 100% relevant quite yet.

JohnMTrader
JohnMTrader

@shonali Thanks for the reminder -- sounds like it will be another quality #measurepr chat!

etelligence
etelligence

@KenMueller@Lisa Gerber I believe it's easier when you are seeing it first hand guys! Much easier in fact. Articles almost always make it seem like rocket science when it's really just data entry, you just need to know where your spreadsheet is.

Ken, Markup is pretty important. It used to be the most important thing in SEO, and it will be again one day. Wordpress and most blog management scripts do 80% of the markup for you.

The problem with Google's algorithm as technology sees it is that it counts on humans to rank each piece of content through backlinks. Humans are subjective (Spin Sucks is one of my favorite sites, so I'm more likely to backlink to it than another site!), and the end game would be to develop an algorithm that took humans totally out of the equation, but provided higher quality results that couldn't be taken advantage of.

Machines cannot read http documents very well, they mostly rely on meta data. There are however languages that are more readily readable by machines, these include XML (extensible markup language) which is the format Google accepts sitemaps in, OWL (Web Ontology Language) which is used extensively in the medical research field where datasets are extremely large, and RDF (Resource Description Framework) which forms the basis of metadata for web resources, and if most likely the origin of the new Schema.

Schema is targeting the WWW as a whole, don't expect to see backlinks disappear anytime soon from SEO, but it would be feasible to use semantic search for a smaller dataset right now. The standards laid out today will form the basis of what is to come though.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

@KenMueller@Lisa Gerber As Gini pointed out in her post on 12/20, PR Pros would be well served to educate themselves on current SEO trends which are coming at us fast and furious and are having a larger impact on how Web sites are viewed by major search engines. I understand that language in the post may be foreign to some and I was truly trying to stray away from that but its hard to describe schema.org vocabulary without getting into some SEO geek speak.

Ken, I think you have a good question on how important markup is, the quality of an SEO pro goes beyond their ability to understand correct markup protocol. Just like any other profession there are those who excel and those that don't but I can assure you that as billions of pages containing different content are uploaded to the Web, understanding and using tools like schema will be all that more important because search engines are struggling to find ways that they can come together and create common vocabularies that help them to parse and sort this information into something meaninful and relevant to you and to me. There are many ways to continue to use keyword optimization, backlinks, fresh content, etc. to catch the attention of search engines and all of these work well, but common vocabularies (like schema) are becoming a new tool for the search giants to have in their belts that helps all of us have a more positive search experience.

etelligence
etelligence

@John_Trader1 That is interesting John. I get shoes lol, I even tried logging out of my gmail account. I live in an extremely rural area, but I'm 26, and my search history is probably heavy on tech.

I would love to hear from someone who gets Ice Cream trucks and delivery vans!

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

@etelligence Interesting, when I typed it in as I was testing I also got Vans shoes which is probably appropriate for me since I have shopped for shoes recently online and purchased a surfer type piece of clothing recently. Thanks for the feedback.

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