Structured data should now be an integrated part of any organic marketing campaign. However this is not always the case, and some businesses are slow to adapt to this new markup and the benefits it brings. This is especially true of local blogs and businesses who often feel that they do not need to be as quick to implement new strategies as businesses in larger more competitive niches. This is simply not true.
With a variety of structured data semantic vocabularies available to website owners, there was some confusion as to which markup should be used. Instead of letting the market decide, Google, Bing and Yahoo clubbed together and in an unusual combination of forces to put their combined weight behind Schema.org.
Schema markup is a relativity new form of optimisation, it involves adding code to the website to help the search engines better understand individual aspects of the site e.g. the telephone number, and the website as a whole e.g. this is a website about an attorney. In return, the search engines provide better information to the users which help organic positions and improve a website click through rate. Schema markup is not a substitute for your current source code but it works in tandem with it – complementing and improving.
The main use for a local business is to highlight your NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number)
It is important to remember that the search engines consume information online differently to the way humans do. The real purpose of schema markup is to give very clear instructions on what the content means. This removes any form of guesswork on the search engine part and delivers a great experience for the user.
Not only is this great for the users but it is also a wonderful opportunity for business owners to give the search engines as much information as possible about their business. With local SEO getting more and more competitive by the day, it is now an essential ingredient to getting (and staying) ahead of your competitors and standing out from the crowd.
Schema.org for a while was implemented using microdata, this worked well but it could be awkward to integrate into a page. The reason for this is it needed to be coded around the content already on the page.
Google did provide webmasters with a useful Markup Helper Tool that allowed you to highlight sections of your website and it returned the necessary markup needed.
Some users with templated content management systems found implementing this very difficult as they tried to hack apart the structure of their website. In some occasions, it caused more issues than the benefits Schema brought.
Getting to grips with schema markup for local businesses can be a little daunting for the not so technical local business owners, however, the Local Business section on Schema.org is a really well-organised directory of what you can implement. This site is a massive resource to help you.
There is a long list of different options you can mark up anything from the business’ opening hours to if smoking is allowed.
To make things even easier, you can use a JSON-LD Schema Markup Generator. This easy to use simple tool will populate the fields for you. This tool allows anyone to add the JSON-LD vocabulary to their website without dealing with coding it themselves.
Just simply fill out the text boxes and the tool will populate the code for you. When it comes to inserting the longitude and latitude for your business, I use this tool to make the process easy. Just put in the location and then copy and paste the finished code out of the JSON-LD generator.
Here is the sample code I received (from a made up business):
“name”: “The Happy Animal Shelter”,
“description”: “The Happy Animal Shelter is located in the East Midlands and looks after unwanted animals of all shapes and sizes.”,
“streetAddress”: “123 Animal Road”,
“postalCode”: “NG6 909”,
“addressCountry”: “United Kingdom”
“openingHours”: “Mo, Tu, We, Th, Fr 08:30-17:00”,
Type of useful local business JSON-LD are:
- Business Name
- Phone Number
- Email Address
- Business Hours
- Geo-location Information (coordinates and map)
- Business Description
- Social Profile Links via sameAs property.
- Site Name
Additional useful local markup types include:
- Media (images and videos)
- Corporate Contacts
- Sitelinks Search Box
Just to be on the safe side it is advisable to test your schema with Google’s own Schema Testing Tool. Input your page’s URL into the tool and you will receive a breakdown of what Schema markup is present on the page. The tool will also report on any wrongly formatted or broken markup allowing you to fix it easily.
However, this tool has two main drawbacks, firstly, i does not give recommendations for what Schema a page needs, and secondarily, the testing tool only allows you to test one URL at a time.
This, however is just the start of getting to grips with schema. To really take advantage of all the markup and options available to your niche, vertical and business type it is highly advisable to markup as much information as possible – you can never have too much.