The words “schema markup” can be terrifyingly technical for those of us WordPress users that aren’t developers. However, when broken down into its basic parts, schema becomes much more approachable and dare we say, useable.
That’s the goal of this article. To guide you step-by-step through why you might want to use schema, explain what it is and how it works. And, show you how you can get started with Schema.org in WordPress.
Why Use Schema.org?
Every day, search engines are getting better at understanding what web pages, and the content on them, are all about. With that said, they still aren’t always great at placing web pages and their content in the proper context.
For example, it might be hard for search engines to understand if a bakery website belongs to a local business or an industrial bread company. However, with schema, a small local bakery can add local business markup to their site and an industrial bread brand can add corporation markup to theirs. This will help the search engines place each in the correct context and proper search results.
In the same way that those companies can add company schema markup that defines what kind of business they are, they can also add schema markup that helps define the different types of content on their site. There dozens of different kinds of content that you can define using schema markup. Google outlines the most useful in its search feature gallery.
Why is Schema Important for SEO?
Beyond allowing you to classify your site and the content on it, schema markup allows content on your site to appear in search results in a more visual manner in the form of rich results.
Rich results also give you the ability to have more control over your brand. You can define your logo, website, social media channels and other important information your customers might find useful. Here’s La Brea Bakery's rich result that is generated using schema markup:
Not only do rich results present your brand in a more appealing way, certain rich results can increase the click-through rate to your site and improve overall site traffic.
Now that you know what schema can do for you, let’s take a look at what schema actually is.
What is Structured Data?
Before we get deeper into schema, we need to discuss structured data. The easiest way to understand structured data is as a snippet of code that provides search engines information about how a web page and its content should be classified. Structured data adds context to web pages.
You might hear the terms, schema, structured data and microdata all used to explain the same thing. However, schema and microdata are just types of the overarching structured data concept.
What is Schema.org?
As for Schema.org (or what we’ve been referring to as schema), a bunch of big players in the search engine world (Google, Bing, Yahoo) were having trouble understanding all the different ways people were using structured data. So, they got together and came up with a common vocabulary that they could all understand.
This vocabulary is defined on Schema.org. The actual word schema in the English language is defined as “a structured framework or plan.” And, it's kind of the perfect name for a vocabulary that helps classifying web pages and the content on them.
With that said, this Schema.org vocabulary needs to be properly formatted for search engines to understand it. That is where JSON LD, RDFa, and Microdata come in.
What are JSON LD, RDFa, and Microdata?
JSON LD, RDFa, and Microdata are three different formats that people can use create structured data.
Google’s preferred form of structured data is a combination of the Schema.org vocabulary formatted using JSON LD. This is a good thing because it’s a relatively easy (you don’t have to be a programmer) form of structured data to read and write.
What is Schema.org Markup?
Schema markup is the actual snippet of code that gets added to a web page or piece of content. Each piece of schema markup is simply information about a page or piece of content written out using the schema vocabulary and one of the formats above (preferably JSON LD). Schema markup for an article looks like this:
This code can be added anywhere on a web page. Best practice is to add it to the piece of content it is describing or in the header or footer of the page it is describing.
Fortunately, if you have a WordPress website, there are several plugins you can use to simplify the process.
Add Schema to WordPress with a Plugin
There are a couple dozen different plugins that allow you to easily add schema markup your WordPress content.
If you can afford $79/year or $249 for a lifetime subscription, we recommend you go with the Schema Pro plugin. It gives you ample flexibility in terms of the content types you can add schema to and it allows you to add it using Google’s preferred JSON LD format. Plus, unlike many free plugins, you don’t have to change the appearance of your content to add your schema markup. And, it allows you to test your markup right in the plugin.
The two most popular free schema plugins in the WordPress space are Schema and All in One Rich Snippets. Although these plugins are great, they have their limitations in terms of what content types they allow you to add schema markup to and how much content they allow you to mark up on each page. There are several other useful free schema markup plugins, some better than others depending on the type of content you are trying to mark up.
We recommend you identify the type of content you want to create schema for e.g. recipes, reviews, products, etc., and do some research to determine which plugin is the best for marking up that specific type of content. Or, just go with Schema Pro if you can afford it.
Does Yoast Do Schema Markup?
Yes and no. The free Yoast SEO plugin is great because it does give you the ability to add what it considers “essential forms” of schema markup. These essential forms include homepage and basic organization information, social profiles and breadcrumbs.
If you are using Yoast in conjunction with another schema plugin, we recommend you investigate how they interact. Most have some documentation addressing the overlaps.
Yoast is also developing structured data blocks for those of you using Gutenberg. They have already created How-To and FAQ blocks that will allow you to add structured data to those types of content. We are hoping to see them develop more structured data blocks in 2019.
With all that said, Yoast still doesn’t allow you to add schema markup to most other important content types. That’s why we recommend you pair it with another plugin, or schema markup you write and implement yourself.
If you want to go beyond plugins altogether and implement great structured data for free, we highly recommend you learn more about it from Google.
How to Learn More About Schema Markup
If you would prefer not to install another plugin on your site and want to learn more about structured data, start by doing Google’s Structured Data Codelab.
The Structured Data Codelab will show you how to create structured data for your site, how to add it to your site, and how to validate it with Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. It only takes about an hour to complete the module and you will gain a much better understanding of structured data, the Schema.org vocabulary, JSON LD formatting, and how it all works together.
Learning how to create Schema.org markup yourself gives you the flexibility to create schema markup that plugins can’t. This means you can add it to more of your content and give that content a better chance of showing up in rich results.
Final Thoughts About Schema.org in WordPress
To bring it all together, you now know that schema.org is a vocabulary that you can pair with JSON LD (and other formats) to add structured data to your web pages and the content on them. By adding structured data, you are giving your content a better chance of appearing in rich results that can improve click-through rates and overall traffic.
If time and ease of use are factors, we recommend you add schem.org in WordPress using a plugin. The premium Schema Pro plugin is your best option, but there are plenty of other free options that will get the job done depending on what content types you want to mark up.
If you want more flexibility and a better understanding of structured data, we recommend you complete Google’s Structured Data Codelab. This will give you the ability to create and implement your schema markup without having to rely on plugins.
Erik loves breaking down complex SEO topics into understandable instructions anyone can follow. In his role as an SEO coach, he guides Pathfinder SEO customers through the SEO process on a daily basis, giving them helpful tips, instruction, and advice along the way.