Schema – What You Should Know and Do

By jcormier     |     June 03, 2011

Schema.orgYesterday, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft rolled out what appears to be an extremely significant update to the way the web’s leading search engines will be indexing content now and in the years to come.

Honestly, initial engagement around this news leads me to believe people are not understanding how significant it actually is. Time (and search results) will certainly tell – but in the spirit of helping companies do all the right things to get and keep high search engine visibility – here’s some quick insight:

What’s Schema and Why Should We Care

Schema is a collection of new HTML tags that help search engines more accurately index relevant content within web pages.

Since the collaboration and roll-out of this new tagging system was coordinated by the three leading search engines, everyone should be looking at Schema (schema.org) as a new standard for making web pages as search engine friendly as possible.

Note: I appreciate the arguments about how The Big Three have dictated this change, essentially skipping organizational/open review processes often associated with creating “standards.” But what’s done is done – so in the spirit of Heartbreak Ridge, it’s now time to improvise, adapt and overcome.

What You Should Do
Start by making sure your webmaster or whomever is handling SEO/search engine visibility for your web properties is on this. I’d recommend proceeding as follows:

  1. Get oriented on why and how: The Schema site FAQ is a good overview of the purpose and reasoning behind the big change – but the real meat of what and how to implement the new markup language resides within the Getting Started documentation.
  2. Get familiar with the Schema vocabulary applicable to your web pages: This begins to get technical, but the Getting Started document provides a good understanding of how information within your web page can be structured through “types” and “properties.”Even without being technically-minded, you can look at the full list of item types to get a quick idea of the kind of web page attributes which can now be indexed via the new standard.
  3. Create a Schema plan: Conduct an audit of your web pages/sites to match applicable content with the Schema item types. You have numerous options for documenting how you will go about making changes, depending on how detailed you want to get. A spreadsheet might be the most helpful for organizing items types and properties by page, content sections, etc.
  4. Make the Changes and Test Your Results: Google promises the Rich Snippets Testing Tool will soon support testing of the new Schema tags to ensure you have an opportunity to see how your content is parsed/displayed in the search results. I would recommend implementing your schema plan regardless of how long it takes for this tool to be ready for prime time. As always, keep an eye on your analytics to see the results of your changes.

A couple of other thoughts that come to mind with this change pertain to how we’ll begin seeing search results adjust due to those taking advantage of Schema vs. those who are not. Other than our own clients’ search results, we’ll of course be watching organizations like SEOMoz to see what they come up with in terms of research to validate the predicted significance.

I’m also curious about how the use of Schema might effect quality scores on landing pages used in conjunction with pay per click marketing. I can only guess that search engine ads driving traffic to pages that leverage schema will have a greater likelihood of higher placement and lower cost per click.

As Marshall Kirkpatrick stated yesterday, “This will change the way people design websites, it will change the way people do search marketing, it will change a lot of things. It should be very, very interesting.” I agree. How bout’ you?

About jcormier

Co-Founder, Room 214. As a previous interactive agency owner, Jason leverages his experience around usability, information architecture, search marketing and operations to build social media and word of mouth marketing systems for large and emerging brands.

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