In my last Local Search Tips blog post, I wrote about the multitude of local products released (and for some, rebranded and rereleased!) by Google over the years. Clearly, making constant product improvement tweaks is their idea of a successful business model. Well, last week sure was eventful in the world of local SEO! That’s because Google did it again. On April 8th Google announced another major change to the way they digest and display location-based data in their search results pages:
“Today, we are launching support for schema.org markup to help you specify your preferred phone numbers using structured data markup embedded on your website. Today we’re also introducing recommendations about the best way to build these location pages to make them easily accessible and understandable to Googlebot, and more importantly, Google’s users.“
To summarize, Google now fully supports the use of schema.org structured data markup on location pages of business or organization websites.
As a local business owner, you’re probably wondering:
- What are structured data? What is schema.org? Why should I mark up location pages on my business website?
- What are the benefits, and are there any downsides to applying schema.org markup on my website?
- How do I correctly mark up my site with schema.org structured data in accordance with Google’s guidelines?
Keep reading this schema.org structured data markup guide for business owners for answers to all of the above! Google rich snippets & Knowledge Graph search results
In order to fully grasp the importance of structured data, you’ll need to start with a basic understanding of rich snippets and Knowledge Graphs as they appear in Google search results:
- Snippets: Few lines of text that appear under every result of a search engine results page. Shown for all webpages.
- Rich snippets: If Google has a better understanding of your webpage’s content, they can display special rich snippets for that page in search results. Custom formatted to contain detailed information relevant to users’ search queries. E.g. someone searching for a concert listing might find rich snippets with event dates and venue locations, while someone searching for a cooking recipe could be served rich snippets containing cooking times and total calorie count.
- Knowledge Graphs: Similar to rich snippets, if Google has a better understanding of what your webpage is all about, they will display a summary information box on the right side of their search results for relevant keyword queries.
Structured data & Google supported schema.org markup
Generally speaking, it’s a good thing to have your business show up in Google with rich snippets and Knowledge Graphs… so long as it doesn’t hinder your business goals if searchers find this additional information directly in search results instead of by visiting your website (more on that below). With that being said, what do you have to do to get them to show up? Introducing structured data! To be eligible for rich snippets, you’ll need to mark up appropriate sections of your business website using one of three Google-supported structured data formats:
Don’t worry if all of this sounds foreign to you. You just need to know that of the three, Google recommends using the first. Microdata refers to a set of special HTML tags, used by webmasters to label webpage content. The main purpose? Describe specific types of items (e.g. events or reviews) and their corresponding properties (e.g. venues or starting times for events), so that search engines can have a better understanding of what the page text is all about. In turn, they can display this content in a relevant and useful way, such as in rich snippets or Knowledge Graph search results for Google. Launched in June 2011, schema.org was a joint project that was created with full support from all major search engines (i.e. Bing, Google, Yahoo! and Yandex). Schema.org microdata tags or “schemas” are universally recognized by the main search providers. By using them to mark up your webpage content, you will be helping search engine algorithms extract relevant information from your website. Rich snippets and structured data are not new. Schema.org/Organization or schema.org/LocalBusiness item types have always been available. But just because these schemas existed, that doesn’t mean they were officially supported by Google… at least, not until this past week! With this latest announcement, certain location-based schema properties are now recognized by Google. In addition, schemas also factor in to the ranking process and impact the way search results are displayed. The list of Google-supported schemas for marking up location pages on business and organization websites include:
- Type of local business or organization
- Business name
- Short company description
- Business phone number
- Business address (street address, city, province & country)
- Opening hours
- Business website link
- Restaurant menu link
Marking up location pages with schema.org microdata
Before we dive into the basic rules for marking up your business website location pages, there are a few important guidelines you need to keep in mind:
- Google only supports the use of schema.org markup on location pages (i.e. any page that houses location information about the company) of local business or organization websites. Schemas should NOT be used to mark up other businesses’ contact locations that appear on your website. Why? Because you don’t want someone to find rich snippets displaying the address or phone number of another company when searching for your business!
- Google recommends having separate, dedicated webpages on your website for each business location. Make sure all location information is presented in an easy-to-understand format, and double check to see if these location pages can in fact be discovered and crawled by Google’s search spiders. You can confirm this by searching in Google and seeing if those webpages come up.
- Don’t mark up non-location pages with schema.org structured data, never implement schemas that aren’t officially supported by Google, and generally avoid misusing or abusing structured data markup in any way that goes against Google’s rich snippets guidelines. Failure to comply with any of the above could lead to an algorithmic or manual over-optimization penalty… something you definitely do not want!
- Unsure if you’re doing it right? Make use of Google’s handy structured data testing tool. It’s completely free, and provides you with a live preview of what your webpage would look like in Google search results.
Now that you’ve got a handle on the restrictions and guidelines to using schema.org markup, it’s time to go over the basic rules:
- Microdata uses simple attributes in HTML tags (often <div> or <span> tags) to assign brief and descriptive names.
- The basic foundation? Start by identifying sections of page content contained within <div> or <span> tags as items by adding itemscope markup to the tags. Then identify the type of item by adding itemtype markup (e.g. itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness” would refer to a local business).
- Once you’ve got your foundation established, you can then use itemprop markup to identify various properties associated with your specified item type (e.g. itemprop=”name” and itemprop=”telephone” could be used to mark up the name and telephone number of a local business). Itemprop schemas are assigned to their own sets of <div>, <span> or even <p> tags, that MUST be nested between your main item type defining <div> tags.
Confused? Here are a few typical examples of location-based page content that’s marked up with schema.org structured data. Example #1: Marking up a local business’ name and short company description
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/LocalBusiness"> <p itemprop="name">ABC Plumbers</p> <p itemprop="description">24/7 emergency plumbing services in Toronto, Ontario.</p> </div> Example #2: Marking up an organization’s contact information
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Organization"> <div itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress"> <span itemprop="streetAddress">123 Main St.</span> <span itemprop="addressLocality">Toronto</span> <span itemprop="addressRegion">Ontario</span> <span itemprop="postalCode">M1M 1M1</span> <span itemprop="addressCountry">Canada</span> </div> <p>Phone: <span itemprop="telephone" content="+14165555555">(416) 555-5555</span> </p> <p>Business Website: <a itemprop="url" href="http://www.bizsite.com">http://www.bizsite.com</a>.</p> </div> Example #3: Marking up a store’s hours of operation
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Store"> <p>Open: <time itemprop="openingHours" datetime="Mo,Tu,We,Th,Fr,Sa,Su 11:30- 23:00">Daily from 11:30 am until 11:00 pm</time></p> </div> Final advice Are you a local business owner? Want your business website to show up in Google search results with rich snippets highlighting your company’s address, phone number, hours of operation and other contact information? Then I recommend you take a deeper look into properly marking up your location pages with schema.org structured data. Of course, as with all local search engine optimization efforts, you should only mark up your site with schema.org microdata in accordance with Google’s guidelines. You don’t want to risk a possible penalty, it’s not worth it! Read through this entire blog post and still not sure what to do? Feel free to ask any question you may have on schema.org markup for location pages by leaving a comment below.