Four Steps to Getting Started with Schema with Jonny Ross

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Is schema an active part of your SEO strategy?

Maybe it’s something that you were involved with a couple of years ago when you were setting up a new website, but you haven’t thought about much since.

In this episode, we’re going to be looking at what works effectively in schema right now. And if you’re not actively using schema, we’ll share four steps to getting started with schema right now.

The steps are:

  • Identify the Schema Opportunity   
  • Implementing Schema     
  • Verify your Schema implementation     
  • Measuring your success
Joining me today is a marketing consultant and fractional CMO who helps companies hone their in-house digital marketing skills. He’s a speaker, blogger, podcaster, and all-around cool guy. Welcome to the founder of Fleek Marketing, Jonny Ross.

Four Steps to Getting Started With Schema

J: Thanks, great to be here, really excited. And the fact that it’s your 100th episode. I’m pumped up about that.

D: I was going to say that it’s episode number 100 so no pressure, this has got to be excellent! So Jonny, has schema changed much over the last couple of years?

J: Well, I think the awareness of schema has hugely changed. But the fundamentals of schema probably haven’t changed hugely, it’s a language. But there’s been much more buy-in from the likes of Google. And it’s clear that it makes a very big difference in terms of ranks. Although having been on a podcast only yesterday talking about this, there is contention around whether some of the SEO community believe whether schema has a positive impact on ranks or not and Search Engine Journal are saying that it doesn’t. However, I strongly believe it does.

D: So what are their reasons for saying that it doesn’t?

J: Good question. It was that there was no categorical proof that there was a direct link and correlation even. And for me, we all know that SEO is difficult. There are so many different things that add up to make a difference. And the thing I suggest is applying common sense. How can you not make it better? You are adding a whole layer of trust, a whole level of detail. You’re entering data into the right parts in Google’s database. How can it not from a common-sense point of view?

D: Indeed, if something isn’t measurable, does it exist? So today, you’re sharing your top four steps on how to get started with schema. Let’s start off with number one, identify the opportunity.

==> Check out the Rank Ranger Schema Markup Generator

1. Identify the Schema Opportunity 

J: So this is about understanding your website, understanding the structure of it, the different content, all the different aspects of the website. And then considering the different types of schema and how you can use those across the different areas of the website. From the really basic level, it’s asking if we are an organization or a local business. Now, if you’re a dentist, for example, there is schema for dentists. And it amazes me that I would suggest 80% of dentists still are not using dentistry schema. And that’s an ability to be able to say to Google that we’re officially a dentist. Why wouldn’t you be using it?

So the first thing is deciding between local business versus organization. Do I fall into any of the subcategories within or do I just choose one or the other and go with that. And that’s about marking up things like your logo, things like your address, your company name, and all that sort of stuff.

Then the next level of detail is understanding all the different types of content you’ve got. So whether it be articles, blogs, or perhaps you’ve got things like recipes, or events on your website, or maybe even job listings. All of these things can be marked up. It’s about identifying the different pieces of content, understanding all the different types of schema that are available, and thinking those are the different things that I could use. For example, even FAQ schema, and making sure that you’ve got questions and answers on some of your key pillar pages, marking them up using FAQ schema.

D: Sticking with the dentist example. If you’re a dentist and you mark up your page with schema, where is Google going to use that information? Are we talking about giving you greater prominence in something like Google Maps or something else?

J: Yeah, that’s the theory. Absolutely. If you’re searching for a dentist and Google’s aware of a number of different websites and some of them are using dentistry schema, isn’t that common sense? Isn’t that more obvious that they are definitely a dentist compared to some of the others that perhaps they’re not 100% sure about? We’re talking about robots understanding content here, aren’t we?

2. Implementing Schema 

D: Step number two is implementation. Are we talking about simply marking up your most important pages with schema? Or is implementation something else here?

J: I guess the real key here is how to do it. I think there are three options in how you implement schema. You’ve got the old-fashioned way, which is hard code. So that’s about wrapping schema around content. It’s literally in the code of the website. The other option you’ve got is using plugins. There are a lot of plugins available. Some of them are great. Some of them aren’t. Depending on the website, you might not even be using WordPress, but there are certainly Shopify plugins as well, Drupal plugins, and Joomla plugins. But it depends on how your website’s been built, and the theme depends on which plugins work, etc. So it’s difficult to recommend the best one. But certainly, the second option is to use plugins to implement schema.

The third option, which I’m hugely favoring, and perhaps a mixture of options two, and three, to be fair, but the third option is using tools like WordLift, and InLinks. And InLinks is my absolute favorite tool at the moment, I just love it. It’s basically a bit of JavaScript, add it to the website, and that enables the code to be layered on top of the website, but loaded immediately at the same time that the website is loaded. So that makes it a lot easier. Imagine it a bit like Google Tag Manager. It’s the ability to be able to apply schema on top of the website, and for Google to be able to understand that. So that’s what implementation is all about.

D: Wonderful. I love that great overview there and a great recommendation for that tool, InLinks, as well. What if someone is using a WordPress site, for example? WordPress is still a very common CMS to be using. Is there a particular WordPress plugin that you would recommend as well?

J: This is what I was insinuating is difficult because it depends on the theme that you’ve got, it depends how WordPress has been built, what plugins work, and what conflicts. And I must admit that having tried many of them, it really does depend on the site as to which one’s the best. In terms of SEO plugins, I’m really loving RankMath at the moment. And whilst Yoast is certainly delivering a lot at the moment and really building more into the plugin, I think RankMath is overtaking and there’s an element of schema that you can apply through RankMath. I avoid recommending a particular plugin because some of them just do not work on certain WordPress sites.

D: Do you mean not work in terms of not injecting the schema correctly on the webpage?

J: Yeah, they can conflict. And one of the biggest issues you’ve got is that if you implement it incorrectly, you end up marking the wrong parts of the content. And that’s when you can cause bigger issues. So it’s about making sure… Well, in fact, that takes us to step three, but it’s around verification

D: Understood. Essentially, what you’re trying to say is, don’t just use a plugin or a third-party tool, and then assume that it’s doing the job correctly. You have to get on there and uncheck your source code.

And number three is to verify the implementation.

3. Verify Your Schema Implementation 

J: That leads us very nicely to number three which is all about verifying the implementation. There are a couple of simple ways that you can do that. There’s a validated tool that schema has. All you do is if you Google ‘Schema validator,’ you’ll get to it very quickly, input the URL of the page that you’ve injected schema into. And very quickly that will show you what schema is on that page, what rich data is available on that page. But the great thing about it is it will highlight any errors as well. So it’ll highlight where you’re missing properties, or perhaps there’s invalid data in a particular product property. The other thing to bear in mind here, and this is sort of part of step two and step three is that Google has a number of guides on implementing schema. For example, FAQ page schema, job posting schema, it’s absolutely worth reading the guides because they’ve got some specific stuff about the best ways to implement, and then when it comes to validating, you can then check on Google’s guidelines in terms of the properties of each one that they need.

For example, a job has to have a salary marked up, otherwise, they’re going to ignore the job. An event has to have a date. Some really simple stuff, but some of the things that you might not have thought about. And then the second way of verifying schema is using Search Console. So ensure that you are verified inside Search Console. If you then have a look at the enhancements area in Search Console, as Google indexes the schema, you’ll start seeing more enhancements being populated inside Search Console. You can then dig into those and have a look at if there are any issues, whether they’re valid or not. And really understand if you’ve achieved what you were hoping you were going to achieve in step one, which is working out which schema you’re applying to which content. And step three enables you to actually see if that’s worked or not.

D: And one other follow-up question in relation to verifying the implementation. Is it possible to obviously use software to identify other opportunities that you may have missed? So you may have correctly marked up the content that you intended to mark up. But what about identifying content that could be marked up? But you weren’t aware that there was schema available for that?

J: That’s a good question. I’m not sure I know the answer to that. Although to feed into that, you can run a tool like Screaming Frog on the site, which will analyze the entire site from a schematic point of view, and put the whole thing into what may as well be called an Excel sheet to make it easy to understand what you’ve implemented.

In terms of opportunity, I think that’s a really good question. I don’t know if I know the answer to that. And because I think maybe there is an answer, I’d struggle to understand how it would work. Because the reason schema has been built, is on the question of how does a robot know what that content is about? It’s obvious to us looking at a recipe that we can understand, as a human, we can see the ingredients, we can see the cooking time, we can see the picture and the title of the dish, but is that obvious to a robot? So I’m skeptical as to how good software could be doing that.

D: Well, if you’re listening to this, and you’re on Twitter at Rank Ranger, if you’ve got any thoughts in relation to then let us know what tool would you use to identify what content specifically you should be marking up with schema?

That brings us up to number four and that is measuring success.

4. Measuring Your Success 

J: In terms of measuring success, that’s around understanding the key metrics that schema can have an impact on. Going back to what we talked about right at the beginning with Search Engine Journal saying that there’s not a direct correlation in terms of a rank, but there is a direct correlation in terms of, for example, a review snippet, or, for example, an FAQ snippet. Now, how can you then not say that you’re not getting more impressions or more click-throughs? Well, of course, you are. As you then drive more clicks and more impressions, you get more engagement on the site, and that, of course, is going to have an impact on the ranks.

But going back to how you measure this, what are the key metrics? The key metrics, going back to basics on SEO, would be things like ranks, impressions, impression share, more importantly, things like click-through rate. So a lot of that data is available in Search Console. But certainly using, for example, SEMRush as well, to be able to look at traffic rank share and to be able to look at impression share and get a wider picture. So it’s about analyzing the results. And having implemented schema on many sites, what I can absolutely say against Search Engine Journal, is that I’ve not seen a single site where the impressions haven’t increased quite dramatically from simply implementing some basic schema.

Pareto Pickle – Implementing the Right Keywords 

D: Let’s finish off with the Pareto Pickle. Pareto says you can get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. What’s one SEO activity you would recommend that provides incredible results for modest levels of effort?

J: I guess I’ve got to say schema. However, moving away from schema just, for now, I think it’s really back to basics and some people listening or watching this might think this is a bit old hat, but keywords. I think just really understanding your audience, understanding what they are actually typing into Google and making sure that you implement that phrase, that particular keyword, in the right position on your page. Are you using it in basics? Are you using it in the URL? Are you using it in the headline? Is it marked up as an H1? Are you using it in the subheadings? I’m not talking about keyword stuffing, I’m just talking about some real common sense. Do you want to be found for a particular thing? Make sure you’re bloody talking about it.

D: Great thoughts. And it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the latest SEO tech thing, be it schema or JavaScript or something else. That sounds exciting and interesting. But I guess if you’re not incorporating keywords in your own page content then you won’t be ranking for much.

J: And the thing is, you think of a keyword but have you actually thought of the language that the user might use. And that’s the key thing that is often overlooked.

D: I’ve been your host, David Bain. Jonny, thanks so much for being on the In Search SEO Podcast.

J: It’s been delightful. Thank you.

About The Author

In Search is a weekly SEO podcast featuring some of the biggest names in the search marketing industry.

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