Posted On 15 Nov 2018
If you are a local business owner looking to attract more online traffic to your website, ignore schema markup at your peril.
The purpose of this post is to enable you to understand the value of schema markup SEO [search engine optimization] so that you can attract more online prospects and convert them into customers, clients, or patients.
What we want for your website is for people who use search engines like Google, Bing, and others to find it quickly and easily when they search for relevant phrases. If you are an attorney in Buffalo, for example, we want prospective clients to find your website when they type in phrases such as “family attorney” or “criminal lawyer” for the geographical area around Buffalo.
Google uses a frequently-changing algorithm to list the results of such searches on a search engine results page [SERP]. We’d like you to be found on page 1 and not lower than page 2 of the free (“organic”) results for relevant search phrases.
Actually, it’s best to be listed in the 3-pack, which people often use as a shortcut to find relevant solutions to their problems. However, not all SERP’s have 3-packs and, when they do appear, they may have more than 3 listings. At least the 3-packs are always on page 1.
The exact nature of the search engine algorithms is not public information. Google and others don’t want people to be able to game their systems. That’s why it’s impossible for anyone outside Google to guarantee either a listing in a 3-pack or on page 1 of a SERP. Depending upon how competitive the search phrase used is, it can be very expensive to be listed highly on a SERP – or free!
There are many factors relevant to how Google ranks listings for a given search term.
For example, a very important ranking factor is “backlinks,” which are easily measured. What are they?
A backlink for your website is simply a hyperlink somewhere else on the world wide web that points to your website; when someone clicks that link, that person is taken to your website. Both the quantity and number of backlinks are search engine ranking factors. Google considers backlinks as like votes or recommendations.
This is why, for example, press releases work to boost SERP rankings. If it is well-written and well-distributed to lots of high-ranking new directories, a single press release can provide hundreds of backlinks. It’s a good idea to do 1 per month. Since the news directories often purge them after 90 days, their backlinks will cease to work, which is why it’s a good idea to keep doing press releases regularly.
(Incidentally, at Ironox Works we offer an affordable press release service. It’s included in a normal client’s monthly fee. However, we can do an individual press release for you at a modest fee. If you prefer to do any for yourself, it’s possible to purchase single press releases. If you are interested, one of the best sites for that is prweb.com; they have various packages, but a single press release costs between $99 and $389 depending upon distribution – and more if they write it for you.)
This also explains why social media works well for local businesses. For example, suppose that you have business pages on some major search engine platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Assuming that those social media pages are properly set up, there will be links going from them to your website and from your website to those pages.
(If you have not set up any or as many social media business pages for your local business as you want, just let me know. I’ll email you written instructions on how to do it. Except for the time spent doing it, there’s no cost to doing it.)
It helps to post regularly to those social media platforms. Post at least 1 to 3 times daily. Of course, that’s a lot of work. If you try to produce fresh content daily, you’ll likely burn out quickly. A very good solution is to find relevant content that is already popular online and repost it. That can be done manually yourself or you can use curation software or you can hire someone else to do it.
(We at Ironox Works offer a $199 per month service, which is about one-half the frequently=charged rate, to post twice daily on up to 10 social media platforms for you. So that’s something like 400 to 600 high-quality backlinks for your business monthly, which will really help boost and maintain your SERP rankings.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention in this context that we at Ironox Works happen to have a backlink special going on for the first 10 who sign up. It’s a 70% discount on getting at least 240,000 high-quality backlinks to your blog over the next twelve months! Just contact me for the almost unbelievability low investment required.)
Similarly, suppose that we were to publish 30 video commercials for your company each month on YouTube. Guess what? There will be 30 more high-quality backlinks from those ads to your website. (Since Google owns YouTube, Google really likes those backlinks, too.)
You get the idea about backlinks. Of course, an active local business should also have a well-designed website, one that is mobile-optimized, one with proper legal pages (including those related to the new GDPR regulations), etc.
The point is that, since yours is a business website, it’s important to have it as highly ranked as possible on relevant SERP’s so that prospects can find it quickly.
Websites can be set up poorly or well. A well set up website is one that is optimized to make it as easy as possible for the search engine algorithms to find it. The process of doing that is called “search engine optimization” [SEO].
Since minor changes to the search engine algorithms occur frequently (even daily) and major changes occur not infrequently, the best tactics for SEO are constantly changing. Since they are working hard running their businesses, it’s almost impossible for local business owners and managers to keep up with SEO changes. It’s not even easy for professionals to keep up.
Still, there are some one-time standard improvements that are free to make as well as important.
For example, again, it’s important to set up related pages on at least the major social media platforms.As you understand, regular posting to those related social media pages can be very helpful in boosting and retaining high SERP rankings, but even just having them helps because it shows legitimacy.
For example, it’s important to set up properly the related Google My Business [formerly, “Google Maps”] page for your business.
That’s the big picture.
Schema markup [schema.org] is a structural data vocabulary that defines online entities, actions, and relationships for pages on websites, emails, and so on. Its purpose is to make it easier for the search engines to provide a better user experience by clarifying the content of online properties.
Google’s main business is search. The Google search engine is the best in the world, and it’s in Google’s interest to keep it that way. Google wants searchers to find what they are looking for quickly and easily. They don’t want, for example, someone who searches for “Buffalo attorney” to find a listing for an Albany lawyer. Contrary to what some people think, the search engine companies want to make online search work well.
Schema markup is simply an HTML code that is put on, say, the homepage of the website of your local business that aids search engines in returning more relevant results to their users. In other words, schema markup helps to structure the information on your website to get more attention from Google and the other search engines.
In return for making it easier for Google, Google makes it easier for local businesses. Google has said that properly structured data can enhance how a website’s listing appears on a SERP.
Google already has the data that is provided by your website. What schema markup does is to ensure that that data is correctly interpreted.
(In case you understand what they are, this is why HTML tags are insufficient. They don’t provide the search engines with any information about what a tag really means. For example, if “AVATAR” were a tag, does it denote a movie or a profile type? Without schema markup, in other words, without more information, there’s no way to tell.)
Schema markup is a powerful way to optimize website pages, but it’s also infrequently utilized.
Once schema data is added to your website, it will give you a ranking advantage compared to the websites of your competitors that lack it. One study showed that websites with schema markup rank on average 4 positions higher in SERP listings. That’s just one improvement. Imagine how much higher rankings can be boosted by using multiple improvements such as press releases and video ads!
Schema markup also has other advantages as well as higher SERP rankings. For example, because users will understand better in advance what they’ll find when they click through to your website, schema markup can increase the rate at which they click through.
Another important advantage is that schema markup also makes a local business’s physical location easy for the search engines to read.
Furthermore, schema data can also add a more professional look to a business’s SERP listings, which can instantly improve credibility.
According to Google itself, only 40% of all searches include schema data. Worse, 95% of local businesses fail either to have schema data or have incorrect or missing data!
There’s no downside to using schema markup. It really just includes all the relevant information about a business such as its name, address, phone number, email, business hours, social media links, geographical location (latitude & longitude), founders’ information, and so on. It’s all potentially useful information. None of it is controversial.
75% of local business websites are HTML websites. Many of the others are WordPress sites. Once you have the html code for schema data, adding it to either kind of side is quick and easy; it just involves copying-and-pasting the code into the right place.
It’s setting up the HTML code properly that can take time. Of course, one has to understand in advance how to set it up; there are hundreds of markup types. It can be set up manually or using a software program.
(Yes, we at Ironox Works offer that service for a modest fee. Contact me for more information.)
Bottom line: if you own or manage a local business and want more online traffic to provide you with an increased number of prospective customers, clients, or patients, you should be using schema markup.