You may have heard recently about Schema. Basically, that’s short for “structured data,” and it has to do with the way search engines like Google read your website. It’s an important tool for local businesses who want to find customers online. We recently sat down with our SEO expert, Austin, to discuss the basics of Schema, the outlook of Schema in the next year, and why as a local business you should be implementing this strategy in your SEO efforts. Enjoy!
Nick: So, let’s start at the top. What is Schema?
Austin: Schema is a type of structured data code, but that’s obviously not very helpful if you aren’t up-to-date on all your web coding standards. I like to think of Schema as coded ‘sticky notes’ for critical information on your website. You can identify yourself as a local business, and label important tidbits like your address, phone number, and even service offerings.
Here’s an example, let’s say Googlebots read  somewhere on your website. Is this a price? area code? street address? Even if Google can get clues and thinks it’s a phone number, is it for your business or some other business or individual?
Schema allows us to say: not only is that area code for a phone number, but it’s also our business phone number!
Nick: You touched on Schema being “Structured Data”. What is Structured Data?
Austin: Structured data refers to the idea that you are adding structure (labels or sticky notes) to the data (the information on the page). If we want to get a bit more technical, Structured Data is the system of connecting those dots, and Schema is one set of vocabulary to do that – but they are often used interchangeably.
(Microdata is another one of these terms that many use interchangeably, but technically refers to a specific way to put the code on the page – we use JSON-LD because Google recommends it)
Nick: At the end of the day, why Does Schema Matter?
Austin: Why does it matter that Google knows what is what on your website? Because Google decides where to rank you based on what it knows about your business – especially when it comes to local SEO (and the Map Pack).
An easy way to think about Google ranking is that it is based on trust. The more confident Google is in the fact that your business exists, and all the info that entails, the more comfortable they are with ranking you higher (amongst other factors).
Adding Local Business Schema to your site is just another way to be more authoritative in Google’s eyes, especially when combined with making sure that info is accurate across the Web in the form of citation & directory listings.
Nick: How would you describe Schema’s impact on SEO?
Austin: I’m not going to gild the lily here and say that Schema is the silver bullet, and if we implement Schema, all your SEO woes are over. Schema is just one more small factor in search, but all of these small factors add up to success online.
That said, Google reps have explicitly said that you should use Schema on your website.
“Schema is one of those things that I want you to pay lots of attention to this year… we started building lots of new features that rely on structured data. That is an important hint for you if you want your sites to appear in search features.”
-Gary Illyes @ PubCon on Fall 2017
It is unknown whether or not Google will rank you higher just because you use Schema, but they have said that they can use Schema to better understand your site. Most SEOs agree that this is Google-code for saying that if you’re doing okay at SEO, to begin with, this will only help.
Here at Brew City Marketing, we believe that Schema may help with organic ranking, but is even more likely to help with map/local ranking. The magnitude of the effect is still up in the air, so we waited to roll this out until we found a way to do it efficiently – without increasing SEO package pricing.
Nick: Is 2018 the year for schema?
Austin: For small local business, 2018 is absolutely the year for Schema. Gary Ilyes, a Google rep, said in November of 2017:
“Structured data. This is one of those things that I want you to pay lots of attention to this year.”
Google does not say stuff like this often, so this doesn’t feel like a flippant piece of advice to keep SEOs busy.
Additionally, if this is the first time you’ve heard about Schema or Structured Data, it is not really new. It was launched June 2, 2011, by Bing, Google, and Yahoo! As an SEO, it has really started to blow up in the past ~3 years, both in terms of adoption, support, and expansion of the different types of ‘sticky notes’ you can use. If you are a large corporation or blog with millions of readers, I would say that 2017 was the year for Schema.
We know that Schema can be confusing, just like lots of other parts of the SEO and online marketing process.
If you have questions about how this works or what else we can do to give your company an advantage, just send us a message and let us set up a meeting for you. Our office is conveniently located in Milwaukee, near Wauwatosa, just a few blocks south of Mount Mary College. We’ll make sure you get the answers you need!