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How "Schema tags" can boost your internet traffic

by LLB Reporter
30th Oct 12 7:36 am

A fantastic way to turbo charge your internet taffic is to implement Schema mark-up

Nowhere near as technical as it sounds, Schema is a set of schemas or protocols for marking-up structured data so that search engines can better understand the data. Add them and your traffic from web searches will increase.

What is Structured Data?

Some data, including written non-tabulated data can still have a structure. If I sent you a text saying “let’s meet at 10:00”, you would understand that “one-zero-colon-zero-zero” means ten o’ clock in the morning. That’s because you’re an intelligent human being and over time, with context and learning we infer meaning from the way data is structured and presented to us. Machines however, are not that smart. Inferences, learning and context are not gleaned in the same way. Using HTML mark-up like Schema actually tells machine programs like search engine crawlers such as those used by Google (whose groovy datacentre is pictured above) where and what type of structured data we have on a website; so that this data can be “understood” and used accordingly.

Who Can Use Schema?

There’s a schema for almost any kind of structured data you can imagine so that you can mark-up all kinds of data from job titles, to cooking time, to average of star-ratings. Schema is also a convention as well as a set of HTML tags, as all three major search engines in the UK have agreed to work with this format. Prior to this agreement around the use of Schema different search engines used different types of structured data mark-up (such as RDFa microdata and microformats) leading to confusion and replication of efforts and messy code. Although each search engine will honour the previous formats they recommended; now with Schema anyone implementing a structured data mark-up can use this format and know this will work for Google or Bing equally well.

How Does This Get More Traffic to My Site?

Now this is the clever bit. Structured data is by it’s nature directly comparable to data of the same structure; therefore extremely useful for search engines to display in their results pages. Many types of Schema have a display format when appearing in search engine results pages; which is called a Rich Snippet. Let’s look at some examples:

Query: [luxury fish pie recipe]

Schema results with mark-up

In these examples the first result has marked-up the average rating for the recipe (3 out of 5 stars) and total number of reviews. The second and third recipes have marked up the count of reviews, plus the total cooking time.

Compare how more informative and pretty these results look compared to others in the same results page without such mark-up. This shows what a big difference Schema tags make.

Search results without Schema

Does Schema Really Work?

Yes! From my own personal experience working for a search engine, results with Rich Snippets get many more clicks than results without. In recent times we’ve tested and measured the impact of Schema for one of our clients which saw the click-through-rate to their site increase by between 100 to 300% when rank for the terms stayed the same or even decreased; post-implementation of the Review Schema.  

How Do I Implement Schema?

Schema is pretty simple to implement and your web developer can add this HTML for you, or come to an agency like us if you need more formal guidance and pre and post implementation measurements. If you are implementing Schema yourself you will be pleased to hear that there are some awesome preview generating and code validating tools that are completely free of charge. Our favourite is this Schema Creator from the guys at Raven Tools. In addition you also have Google’s own Rich Snippet Testing Tool.

So there you go! A simple page-level way to get a lot more traffic whilst simultaneously presenting more useful information to search engines and users! Try implementing Schema and please let us know in the comments what kind of increase in traffic you experience.

Nichola Stott is former Yahoo! head of UK search partners and she left in 2009 to set up theMediaFlow, a boutique search and social media agency

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