Is Schema the SEO Secret Weapon?
Bob, Sue and Jesse get together to discuss the matter of Schema. What is schema? How does it impact your SEO? And how do we as an SEO firm help our clients improve their schema and their online rankings? This episode will help you better understand Schema, how it works behind the scenes to help your website, and how you can take advantage of it.
If you have a question for our team, take advantage of our questions page! Listener questions help us understand what our listener’s needs are and how to best address our audience. So let us know today!
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What you’ll learn
- How Schema is an easy to overlook feature that can give you a big boost.
- What pages to consider when applying Schema.
- Why Schema can give you the edge over your competitors’ websites.
Transcript For What is Schema and Why is it So Important? – 144;
Jesse Dolan: So, there’s a pretty good chance that, unless you’ve had somebody employed for SEO specifically, and that SEO is up to date and practicing schema and utilizing schema, there’s a pretty good chance this is not on your website.
Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics, where we’re bringing you tips and tricks to get found online. I’m your host, Jesse Dolan, here with Mr. Bob Brennan, Sue Ginsburg.
Sue Ginsburg: Hello.
Jesse Dolan: Talking about SEO here. Sue, this is the first episode where you don’t have a virtual background. We’re testing out our new platform and format here. So, even though you don’t have a virtual background, tell us what’s happening today.
Sue Ginsburg: Well, I will go with being virtually in Egypt because I have this beautiful, hieroglyphics framed art piece behind me. So, for all you listeners or everybody who’s watching this, picture me virtually coming to you from Egypt.
Jesse Dolan: Perfect.
Sue Ginsburg: Okay. Listeners and client question that we will be talking about today. What is a website schema and why is it important to have for a website? This is part of the service that we provide to our SEO clients, and this question comes up a lot. It’s not a term that those of us not in SEO are familiar with it and use. So, I think this is a great question that will help a lot of our listeners today. Quote of the day today is, “Always deliver more than expected.” And that quote is from Larry Page, co-founder of Google. I liked this quote as it applies to the topic today, because many, if not most business owners don’t even know that this exists or know that it’s important. So, we are in essence delivering more than they expected, because it’s something they didn’t even know about.
So, story that I’ll share about this. When I first moved to Minneapolis, every time I drove on a frontage road, I wondered to myself, “How long is this road that is everywhere, and when is it ever going to end?” Then I moved to Austin and it was the same thing. I’m hearing terminology that I didn’t know all the time. “Have you seen the bats?” people would ask, and I’d think, “What are they talking about?” Or, “Are you going to Forty Acres?” Which I then learned was UT Austin. But it’s like, “Forty Acres? Forty Acres where?” I share this because we all hear language that is known to the locals or in business to those in the industry, and until we hear it a dozen or so times, we don’t even think that we may need to know what the heck it means. It’s the same in business. I could have shared examples of when I first started with 3Ms. All the so many acronyms that they use, I’d be sitting there going, “What are these things and can somebody please talk in plain English to me?”
Then you learn after you hear them for a while and you start to ask. So, that’s what today’s question reminded me of, using a term that’s known in the industry and not at all commonly known. Talking about website schema, do business owners know what website schema is and why it’s important to have for a website? I highly doubt it, because why would they know that? Why would they need to know that? Unless you’ve built a website and really got into what it takes to make a website a good website, especially for SEO, you could live your whole life without ever even hearing that term. So, for those who build websites and work on websites for SEO all day every day, of course we understand and know this term and why it’s so important. Today’s question is to let business owners who work on their business all day long every day and not their website all day long every day, no one understand the importance of schema. So, with that, let’s hear what the experts have to say. To you, Jesse and Bob.
Jesse Dolan: Yeah. I think, Bob, I’ll start off. Schema, Sue, to your point is extremely technical, right? It’s right now, at least today, end of 2020, one of the more technical parts of your website and of SEO. We’ve had an expert on, Terry Samuels, a few times interviewed on the show here. And first thing I want to refer everybody to episodes 76 and 77 of our podcast. Go to localseotactics.com and search for those. It was one interview that we did with Terry and it turned into a two-part interview because we got long on time. So, we released it in two different segments, but the entire episode is really about this question. What is schema? It’s a basic introduction to schema. And so we’re not going to do a deep dive into those exact same answers and in those topics, because Terry lays it out really good, but I think we need to highlight it and then demystify it for everybody a little bit here.
So, the point you made about business owners not knowing about this, I think, is pretty valid. And one of the reasons for that is you can’t see the schema on your website, right? It’s not like a new image or a headline or animation or something else on page for you to see. Schema is all in the background. If anybody wants to see some of this, what it is, go out to schema.org, S-C-H-E-M-A.org, and schema is really like a common protocol that was developed by Google, Microsoft, a lot of the big search engines, in a way to standardize some background communications on your website, for lack of a better way of saying it. And what it does is it calls out certain elements, functions, features of your website. Example, Bob, that we use all the time in telling people is, if you have an event on your page, right? Maybe you’re a local bar and you’re going to have a band playing or a block party next week.
If you were to look at the page as a person, you can see a picture of the band, date, time, ticket price, everything else. We can read that as humans and understand that. There’s a date. There’s a time. There’s a ticket price, and we can put it all together. This is an event that’s happening. Google reading that though, as a bot, reading the text and the information, they will see these elements. There’s a date. There’s a time. There’s a ticket price. But they don’t have that convention that this is an event. You know what I mean? That’s a big assumption for them to make that these things mean it’s an event versus a log or a history or something else, right? So, what schema does is in the encoding on your website, on the backside, in this example, you call it out as, this is an event, right?
And now those things that are inside of that that are on that page now have the context of being an event. So, now Google can say, “Here’s an event. Here’s the event date, the event time, the event location, event ticket price, who’s involved in the event,” things like that. So, schema is… You’re thinking about the word schema, right? I mean, it’s an architecture, it’s a design element, and it gives some context to information. And that’s what this does, but it’s invisible to all of us on a website. We don’t see it when we visit a page. It’s only there for search engines to see. And so on a basic level, that’s what the function of it is for, is to communicate to search engines and other bots, if you will, what pages are about, what the website is about, industry references, again, events, special things like that.
In the same way, maybe you just had a brand new website that was developed and paid a lot of money for it and it looks great. It doesn’t mean that your web designer is aware of schema, right? Right now, at least in the digital marketing world and design world, this is very much something that’s leveraged from an SEO standpoint. It’s not mainstream yet like keywords might be, right? Or things like that, or mobile friendliness as a convention that matters. So, there’s a pretty good chance that unless you’ve had somebody employed for SEO specifically, and that SEO is up to date and practicing schema and utilizing schema, there’s a pretty good chance this is not on your website. Now, if you’re using WordPress and you have a plugin like Yoast or something else, there’s plugins that have come out over the last year or two that incorporate schema.
But there’s a difference between… Like you always say, free with a headache or a headache-free, right? You can use some plugins that are out there to do some basic schema for you, but you’re going to get out what you to put into it, right? Again, going back to Terry Samuels, our favorite expert in guru, on all things schema, if you hand code stuff and do research, you can leverage schema to the nth degree, way more than any free plugin or application can, or even a builder online. If you go do a Google search for schema generator, right? You’re going to find a bunch of tools online, some free, some paid, but that’s still all automated.
And the real power from schema comes into the research you can do about, what is this business? Bob, as a business owner, Sue, what’s your history? The information you can find from research and then incorporate that onto that page for schema, depending on whatever your topic is, tools aren’t going to find that. Right now today, it still takes a human being to draw these connections.
Like, “Hey, that’s Bob. Where it says Robert, that’s that same Bob, right?” Or, “Susan, that’s still that same Sue.” And using schema in an automated way through a plugin or a tool? Hey, it’s better than nothing. But I’m just, I guess, giving this context so people know that that doesn’t mean you’re doing it to its fullest extent just because you have it, right? And with that, I guess I’d offer up to everybody, if you’re unsure about this or if you have a question about, are you leveraging it the right way, is it on your website or not, reach out to us. This is something that we can very quickly take a look at your website and tell you that A, if you have it; B, are you leveraging it, right? On the scale of one to 10, are you a one or are you a 10? Where are you at? Just because, for the layperson and pretty much everybody, unless you’re experiencing schema, you really can’t answer that question. So, I think this is a very important topic for everybody, because right now this can be a huge tiebreaker.
Hey everyone, just a quick message about our free SEO audit tool on localseotactics.com, and we’ll get right back to the show. If you haven’t taken advantage of it yet, go on out to localseotactics.com/freeseoaudit, or look for the yellow button up in the top right corner. Click that, and it’s going to take just a couple seconds. You enter in the page that you want to optimize, what you’re looking for the audit to score against, enter in that page, enter in the keyword you’re looking to get optimized for, and enter in your email address. Click the button, and it’s going to take a few seconds and then it’s going to send you off a PDF report via email. It’s a great report.
It’s going to give you an overall score of some vital SEO areas for that page and for your website at large, even though it’s auditing this page, that’s going to tell you some of the good things that are happening, some of the bad things that are happening too, and give you, basically, a checklist of some things that you need to shore up and what you can do to improve your SEO for that page, for that keyword that you’re auditing. Now, you can use this as many times as you want. You can do multiple keywords, multiple pages, multiple keywords on the same page. You can even use this to check against your competitors, right? If you want to do a little reverse engineering, see how they’re scoring for a certain keyword, what they may be doing good that you’re not, and some things to improve there. So, lots of different ways to use it. Completely free. Again, go on to localseotactics.com/freeseoaudit, or look for the yellow button in the top right corner of the website.
All things being equal, again, of Bob and I, I do these examples all the time, if we have competing businesses and have all the relevancy and authority for Google, if I have good schema on my website and he doesn’t, this will definitely be a tiebreaker and I’m going to rank over Bob in that. So, super important to-
Bob Brennan: Jess, what would you say in percentage, like what role does schema play in the percentage of websites? And then I guess, could you, as an example, let’s just say there’s a service that, we’ll just call it Buggy Whips, right?
Jesse Dolan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Bob Brennan: Is one end of the spectrum. And then let’s say the other end of the spectrum is DWI Attorneys. Is schema going to be super relevant with the Buggy Whip person that maybe there’s not a lot of searches versus the DWI Attorney or what have you? I mean, I don’t know if that’s the right spin, but then in the grand… Because when you make general statements like, “Schema is very important and it is responsible for 20% of your SEO,” or 10%, that’s a broad statement. It doesn’t really matter that much, I would assume, for the Buggy Whip person, because if they just do half of their stuff right they’re going to show up because there’s not… You know what I mean?
Jesse Dolan: Yup.
Bob Brennan: Can you expound on that just a little bit?
Jesse Dolan: Yeah.
Bob Brennan: Please.
Jesse Dolan: I think these are some great questions to peel back some layers. So, in general, your first part, as a percentage, how important is it if you’re building your website or your focus for SEO, right? I think it goes back to your point, what you’re getting at, is how competitive your market is, right? So, the Buggy Whip. You’re the only buggy whip manufacturer in town, maybe even in the world still, right? If that’s your niche that you’re in.
Bob Brennan: Well, if you’re an Amish person and your Amish friends are googling you, you want to be right in there, right?
Jesse Dolan: You got to be the one. Yeah. If you’re not very competitive, like if you’re completely dominant right now, right? And all your keywords you want, your proximity’s amazing, you reach the entire state people are searching, I wouldn’t worry about schema or pretty much most other things with SEO because, what else could you possibly achieve? You’re more in maintenance mode, making sure that your website is compliant and that people are still getting there and things like that. That’s pretty rare, I think, for people to be in that position though, right? But if you’re in that position, you are the authoritative expert apparently, right? In your industry, and you shouldn’t have to worry about a whole lot of anything. For everybody else, I think there is some spectrum there. What schema is, for sure, is a new frontier to leverage for SEO, rewinding the clock years, maybe even a decade or more. Just creating a page that was about a keyword and then stuffing that page full of that keyword and related keywords.
If you were doing that and other people weren’t to that same degree, you were ranking, right? It was pretty easy. That went away. That’s extremely spammy now and Google is wise to that, but having a ton of content on your page and a ton of mentions for that keyword is still something that matters for SEO. Google’s able to read your screen now. And us users also can know when we hit this old, outdated spammy website and we just back out of it. So, from a user experience, we’re sending bad signals when we land on a page like that. Google can also see this and demote the page. Schema, on the other hand, is an area, again, it’s not visible to us as human beings so it’s not part of the user experience, and is an area that you can put a ton of content. People who listen to these episodes, Terry mentions in there, it’s almost like a second website for the amount of content in the coding, right?
There’s so much stuff that you put in there that you just couldn’t put on page, because it would be a horrible looking page. It would be almost maybe nonsensical even to look at. But you’re overwhelming Google with the amount of information on the back end, and I mean overwhelming in a good way. So, definitely, it’s an extremely important area for you to pay attention to if you’re not that completely dominant person in your industry, in your location, Bob, to your Buggy Whip part of the question. Back to a more solid answer on how much of a percentage should it be. You got to take care of the core things for your website. You’ve got to be mobile-compliant, right?
Bob Brennan: Yeah.
Jesse Dolan: You’ve got to have a fast website and it has to be secure. Some of these things Google has said are direct ranking factors in the eyes of Google. Those are the number one things, right?
Bob Brennan: Right.
Jesse Dolan: Now, after you’ve accomplished those and you have keywords and content that’s relevant, I’d say schema is now the very next thing, right? As a percentage, is it a quarter of your focus or 20% of your focus? Probably somewhere in there as a percentage, just to try to quantify it. But then again, in the other way, as a more of priorities, I’d say it’s your fourth or fifth thing to look at once you get your core architecture and base down. This all meaning that it is very important, right? Unless you’re dominant, in which case, again, all micro parts of SEO to try to move the needle aren’t going to matter to you because you can’t go past number one already. So, definitely an area. If you are sitting out there listening and like, “I want to improve my rankings because I’m not that dominant person,” peek under the hood for this topic of schema. It can be something that can definitely start to move the needle on your website.
Now, the downside for this too, just to give full spectrum to everybody, to do scheme the right way, like we said, you’re not going to accomplish these results with using an automated tool or a plugin or some cheap solution. Schema is labor intensive. It requires a lot of research, a lot of hand coding. That’s just the way it is right now. Maybe next year or the year after somebody will get a tool that really does a lot of the heavy lifting for us. But just to warn everybody that yes, is this an amazing tool, almost a secret weapon of sorts? Yes and yes. But it’s not something that’s going to be done for 50 bucks. This is going to take hours of time. It’s a page by page thing. Yeah. Just to warn you on that. But it’s worth the investment. Obviously we wouldn’t be talking about this on this show for everybody if it wasn’t important, right?
Bob Brennan: Do you-
Sue Ginsburg: Jesse, I have a-
Bob Brennan: Go ahead, Sue.
Sue Ginsburg: I have a question for you. You just touched on, it’s on every page of your website. I was going to ask you where does schema need to be? Is it certain pages or is it on every page?
Sue Ginsburg: And is it one and done or do you need to refresh it or update it or audit it, check it?
Jesse Dolan: Another great question. It’s one and done from a sense of, unless things change, which unfortunately they always will. Now, whether that means your business information changing. Maybe on your location page or somewhere else on your website, you have your hours of operation. There’s going to be a spot in schema for you to list… When you’re talking about your local business, like hours of operation, right? So, if you change something about your business that’s in your schema, just like it’s on your website, you’re going to want to change that as well. Also, schema is evolving. This is something that’s developed a few years ago. Again, it’s a collaboration between these other companies and some nonprofits to get this uniform language, right? Everybody can agree on. It’s being modified and evolves as SEOs, marketers and other people start to take advantage of it and learn how to use it more and how this language can manage your things.
So, there’s also the part of staying up to date on a new way to use schema or a new function within schema. I think I might have even asked Terry this in the latest episode, which as of today, end of October, is not yet released. It’s going to be very shortly here. And he speaks to that a little bit for how often and how often things change, things like that. But as a rule I’d say, once you get it and deploy it to your website, maybe every six months just revisit it. Ask your SEOs and your marketers, “Should it be updated?” and then initiate a quick audit on it. Unless things have changed for your business, of course, right? Then update that on the fly. But if things have been pretty static, I’d probably, every six months, just check and see, “Is there anything else we should be doing and can be doing as part of a regular audit on your SEO in general?” So, good question.
Sue Ginsburg: Good to know.
Bob Brennan: I mean? So, any idea what bookends are or what you can budget for? I suppose it just really depends on the size of your site. I mean-
Jesse Dolan: Yeah. It depends on the size of your site, the number of pages. Just throwing stuff out there for money is what you’re talking, right? For bookends?
Bob Brennan: Yeah.
Jesse Dolan: Man, probably on the low end. If you’re doing a few pages you might be, I don’t know, 3, 4, 500 bucks. That’d probably about as low as I would maybe expect for the level of schema we’re talking about at least, right? And that’s the hard part on this, Bob, is almost like anything else for gigs or one-off jobs for contractors, like if I, “Hey, I need a new website. Can I get one for 75 bucks right now?” “Yes.” “Can it one for $20,000?” “Yes.” You know what I mean? So-
Bob Brennan: Yeah.
Jesse Dolan: … there is a lot of spectrum in there, to your point on the size of the website and then the person providing the schema, how in-depth it is. But for the kind of schema that we provide, the kind of schema we would expect and that we want on our client websites, you’re talking thousands of dollars, to be frank with everybody, right? Now, that’s going to be a 50 to 100 page website with lots of landing pages and service pages. If you’ve got a dozen or two pages, maybe cut that in half or something like that. But it’s extremely labor-intensive. And the people that build this stuff aren’t making 10 bucks an hour, you know what I mean? It’s-
Bob Brennan: Yeah.
Jesse Dolan: … a lot of research. You got to have the research skills, how to navigate Google and find things. And then you got to have the skills to do the coding. Because this is not just like typing on a Word document. It’s a little bit more like programming when you type out the code for the schema. So, I wish it was cheaper than that right? For our sake and for everybody else’s. And that’s where, if you do have a discussion with us or somebody else about schema, if that budget is scary, this isn’t something where you have to do it all at once too. Again, there’s layers of this. There’s the organizational schema, which you apply to all your pages.
Hey, that’s one thing that gets applied to everything. And then maybe you do your homepage, maybe some location pages, some service pages. This is definitely something you can meter out page by page as you go. And with that too, we always talk about testing things. If you want to dip your toe in the water, pick a few landing pages, throw the schema at those, sit back for a month or two, see if it made a difference. If it did, you’re probably getting our ROI on that money and reinvest it.
Bob Brennan: Yeah. No, that’s a great point. I mean, you don’t need to, if money’s tight, which it typically is for all of us, you don’t need to drop three grand. You can just do 500 with select pages and then see how that affects them.
Jesse Dolan: Yep. And just like everything else, if there’s isn’t ROI, don’t do it. And if people have been listening to our show for a while, I think we’re coming up or past three years, 130, 140 episodes, I think people that are listening or if you’re finding us for the first time here, go back, check our reviews and everything else. We don’t just throw stuff out there that really isn’t effective or is smoke and mirrors type stuff. So, the topic of schema, us being behind it, having people like Terry on, even though it’s expensive, it’s something that’s validated, right?
Bob Brennan: Yeah.
Jesse Dolan: And makes a difference.
Bob Brennan: Yeah, it’s very effective.
Jesse Dolan: I have trust on that.
Sue Ginsburg: Jesse, would you say that adding schema to your website is something at all SEO firms include in the services or is it kind of a clique-
Jesse Dolan: No.
Sue Ginsburg: … or what? I know we do. What are your thoughts on that?
Jesse Dolan: Yeah, I guess I couldn’t put a number on, like a percentage, for how many SEOs do or don’t do this, whatever. I definitely can tell you that it’s something that I would ask my SEO if they even know about.
Sue Ginsburg: Okay, great.
Jesse Dolan: And then show me how you’re doing it. Again, because it can be so hidden. You can’t see it on your website. So, if you don’t know about it, you don’t know about it. And it can be one of these areas that somebody can really pull the wool over your eyes on. Definitely all SEOs don’t know about it. All web designers don’t know about it. And then the other layers, Sue, like we were just talking, where if they do know about it, are they deploying schema just because they have a plugin that does basic schema, right? There’s degrees of this. How in-depth is it?
So, unfortunately there’s a spectrum there, but I think it just comes on to making sure, if you’re listening to this and you’re concerned about your SEO, which if you’re listening to this you are, that’s what we do on the show, this is something to check into for your website. And again, if you want, you can reach out to us.
Just go to localseotactics, look at the contact form, submit a question, pick a spot, send us a message, and we can check your schema and at least give you a thumbs up if you have it or not. A deeper consultation or developing schema, definitely be a paid service. We can talk about that. But we definitely know what we’re doing here and can help you look under the hood. So, worth a check.
Sue Ginsburg: Good to know. Good to know. Anything you want to add? Anything else you want to add, Bob-
Bob Brennan: No. No.
Sue Ginsburg: … or Jesse?
Bob Brennan: This is Jesse’s lane. So, he knows more about it than I do.
Jesse Dolan: Pretty technical topic. Super, super exciting topic, right?
Bob Brennan: Yeah.
Sue Ginsburg: There’s so many different things-
Bob Brennan: Just so it gets results. As a business owner, it’s-
Jesse Dolan: Right. I’ll do almost anything just so we get to the top.
Bob Brennan: Yep. Stay up to date on the best practices as an owner. That’s the number one thing, right?
Jesse Dolan: Yeah.
Sue Ginsburg: Awesome. Well, if you remember one thing and one thing only for our listeners, schema is a highly technical term and part of SEO. Just because you can’t see it does not mean it isn’t important. Make sure your website has schema on it on each page. It’s very important for you to show up in online searches for your services, and needs to be paid attention to. Going back to the quote of the day, “Always deliver more than expected,” by Larry Page, co-founder and the king of Google. That’s what we at Intrycks like to do. How many of you who even worked with us ever knew that we worked on your schema until we told you, or it showed up someplace that that’s what we’re working on this month?
Jesse Dolan: Yeah. No, that’s perfect, Sue. Like you said, it’s definitely part of our SEO recipe, which is why we’re sharing it with everybody. That’s what we do on the show, right? Tips and tricks to get found online. So, schema is for sure one of those things. So, that was a question that wasn’t from a specific direct client or listener, but something that’s more general that we get asked about and something, as you’re bringing it up, Sue, that it’s important, we wanted to make sure we shared. If you have a question out there listening, maybe it’s a question expanding on schema, right? Or something we talked about in the show that you want us to talk about, or you’re looking for answers on it, we can help you. Go on out to localseotactics.com. Scroll down to the button. Click on the link for submit a question.
You can type it in on the form or you can call it in and leave the voicemail. We got a few of these, Sue. We’ll get to playing them on some future episodes here. Right now we’re experimenting with a new platform, right? So, one thing at a time. Baby steps. But if you do call in and leave a voicemail with your question, we’re going to send you off a free T-shirt and play the audio on the show and give you that shout out to you. So, love to hear from you. And if you can help the community learn more about SEO, get some questions out there, the tide’s going to rise for all of us, right? All right?
Sue Ginsburg: Sounds good.
Jesse Dolan: Thanks for tuning in, everybody. Catch you on the next episode.
Bob Brennan: Bye now.
Sue Ginsburg: See ya.
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