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Types of Schema In SEO (Plus Structured Data Tips & Industry Uses)

Schema is no longer a secret weapon for SEO and improved search engine visibility.

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Most SEOs, by now, are well attuned to what schema is and why they should be using it. 

And yet, structured data markup remains to be an under-utilized tool in many SEOs’ arsenal.

Why is that the case? 

The simple fact of the matter is a lot of SEOs don’t know where to begin when using schema markup. As with many things technical SEO-related, schema is a bit of a quandary.

Like: what types of structured data do I need to be using? And how do I effectively deploy them? 

As part of a team that’s deeply immersed in all things tech SEO at the Gray Dot Company, I want to demystify the ambiguous nature surrounding structured data markup. In doing so, I share some simple tips and pointers on how to use it, including some of the most SEO-impactful schema types I recommend for nearly any type of site as well as specific industry verticals.

Types of Schema In SEO

What Is Schema Markup?

Schema markup is a universally shared vocabulary of structured data (aka, a simple markup language similar to HTML) that enables search engines like Google to better understand the information on a particular page. 

Why should you use it?

  1. Structured data adds greater clarity while minimizing the guesswork behind what a page’s content is all about. This allows search engines to efficiently interpret the relationship and meaning behind specific properties or entities that are mentioned.
  2. Perhaps the most desired outcome from using schema (particularly for SEO) is the ability to earn richer SERP listings. These “rich snippets,” which come in the form of average star ratings, recipe details, expanded FAQs, and creative work details (to name just a few), help pages occupy greater real estate and visual appeal in the SERP. In turn, such pages can achieve higher organic click-through rates, which can be a significant edge in a competitive landscape.

That said, structured data that doesn’t cause SERP listing changes is still useful – and relatively underleveraged vs. the markup that does.

Universal Tips for Schema Structured Data 

Regardless of the schema type that you choose, there are a few universal tips that apply across the board. 

  • Don’t feel limited to using only the schema types and general guidelines that Google has listed in their documentation. There’s greater potential to be had by considering the whole spectrum of structured data possibilities found at Schema.org.
  • According to Google’s John Mueller, structured data does not provide a direct ranking boost when added to your content. However, it can help in adding rich snippets to your search results listings. Using an optimized content structure combined with specific Schema types (e.g. Recipes and List), can improve the likelihood of occupying a stronger search presence, like owning a featured snippet.
  • Always, always make sure that the content in which you’re adding structured data does in fact exist on the target page so that users will be able to glean from it as well. In other words, tread lightly on using structured data in ways that don’t actually serve users (e.g. adding FAQ markup where no FAQs exist or applying Product markup to a category page containing multiple products).
  • As you’re including more information, and possibly nesting entities into others, be sure that you use URLs and IDs to note the relationship (e.g. if you add a Service that your Local Business offers, be sure that the Service notes the page URL about that Service as both the URL and the ID.) Also, any other references of this Service should be that same URL/ID combo.
Structured data nested entities

Types of Schema In SEO for Nearly Any Type of Site

While schema types are generally used to markup specific pieces of information depending on its context (e.g. People, Places, Products, etc), several types are more widely used across nearly all types of websites. 

Organization or Local Business 

In most cases involving a business website, either Organization or Local Business schema types are applicable. The latter is commonly used for SMBs that cater to a specific local or regional market.

It’s worth noting that LocalBusiness structured data also supports more specific business types, such as Dentist, Real Estate Agent, Legal Services, and several others.

Pro Tip: using the “sameAs” property can help immensely if you’re having difficulty getting your site to rank above your social profiles for branded terms.

Schema type sameAs

Similarly, Organization can be used to denote a certain type of business without any sort of local or geographic limitations. This could be an organization relevant to Medical, Educational, Governmental, and Sports, among several others.

For Organization schema, “contactPoint” is oftentimes used to accurately populate a business or brand’s Knowledge Graph, specifically contact information found in the SERP Brand Panel.

Schema type organization

SearchAction

If a site has search functionality, SearchAction is a powerful form of schema worth leveraging. It’s become one of the most widely used schema types and is particularly impactful for branded queries.

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Just search “Adobe,” “Thesaurus,” “Reddit,” or “WebMD” and you’ll see a site search feature directly in the SERP. While SearchAction enables Google to add a site search field in SERP listing, keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that Google will use it.

SearchAction is very useful for helping Google understand all the URLs that are generated. For example, on WordPress, it’s generally example.com?s=[search-term] so the ?s= is the search indicator. For more about SearchAction structured data (also referred to as Sitelinks Search Box), see Google’s guidelines.

Breadcrumb

For large websites with substantial navigation, categorization, and subsequently, URL paths, Breadcrumb schema is useful for showing content relationships in the SERPs. Breadcrumb markup indicates a page’s position in a site’s hierarchy, thereby promoting a seamless connection between the user and content.

Articles / BlogPosting

With most brands invested in some form of pillar content strategy, publishing articles and blog posts is one of the most prolific activities conducted on the web. In turn, using Article or BlogPosting structured data is an SEO asset for sites that are publishing news, research studies, or simply blog posts and articles. 

 Similarly, publishers can use NewsArticle schema for content that reports news or provides context to help readers understand certain stories. This form of structured data can enhance your content’s appearance in the SERPs by showing up in the news carousel at the top of SERP for timely and newsworthy topics.

Collection

On the topic of strategic content optimization, Collection markup can be used for your brand’s blog roll page (also sometimes called blog index page). It can also be leveraged for just about any form of creative work portfolio as well as eCommerce product category pages.  

Pro tip: you can make great use of “hasPart” to nest the appropriate blogs themselves that fall within a given collection. Using schema like Collection also provides a great opportunity to work with a developer to automate this type of data, or alternatively, only include featured or evergreen articles in the schema so you’re not having to constantly update by hand.

VideoObject

If you’re using videos on your site, it’s highly recommended to utilize VideoObject schema. Structured data around videos helps Google understand details about videos’ content, as you can explicitly provide information like a video description, thumbnail URL, duration time, etc. — even the transcript!

Depending on how they’re marked up, video content can show up with different video enhancements like key moments (essentially time-stamped clips) or live badges for broadcasted events. The former can be especially dominant and eye-catching in the SERPs, offering a momentous boost for SEO.

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Specialized Schema Markup Types for SEO by Vertical

Within certain industry verticals, brands can benefit from using specific schema types that reflect their business model and the products and services they offer. This is particularly the case in competitive SEO playing fields (which is commonly the case for each of the examples below) where leveraging these structured data is oftentimes a requirement to be a top-ranking contender.

Below I discuss industry verticals and some of the more specialized schema types that pertain to each.

SaaS

A saturated landscape that’s laden with savvy SEOs, Software as a Service brands stand to gain tremendously from using structured data. Among some of the most relevant types include:

  • SoftwareApp: Particularly great if you have a mobile app as well.
    • Does your SaaS brand have multiple Software products? Create schema for them all!
  • Reviews: These should be used for your software product, not your company.
  • Services: Do you offer ad hoc services with your solution?
    • Onboarding
    • White-labeling 
  • How-to’s: Do you have an introduction, manual, or “getting started” guide?
  • FAQ: Usually found on the actual FAQ page, and also the pricing page or for specific blog content.

eCommerce

In the online retail space where organic search visibility is prized marketing real estate, eComm sites need to be using structured data to stand out.

While the schema types below cover the fundamentals, I go a bit further in my thread:

  • Product: The foundation for rich snippets surrounding specific product details. 
  • ProductCollection: This markup helps establish a thematic or logical connection between a set of related product variations. 
  • Reviews: Using Reviews markup for specific products is preferred but this can also be used for the brand or company if you don’t have product-specific reviews.
  • How To & FAQ: A powerful supplement to product pages, manuals, review posts, and just about any content FAQ or guide related.
  • Local Business: This is easy to tie in if an eComm brand also has brick-and-mortar stores.
    • Do you offer Services there? Think delivery, gift wrapping, alterations, customization, etc.

Finance

From banks, credit unions, and financial institutions to specialized lenders, wealth managers, and financial advisors, there are many schema types that can be explored in the world of finance.

  • Financial products, including:
    • CreditCard
    • BankAccount
    • BrokerageAccount
    • InvestmentFund
    • MoneyTransfer
    • LoanOrCredit (Very powerful for mortgage loans!)
  • Use the right LocalBusiness type (even if you’re a national brand):
    • FinancialService is the broadest
    • AccountingService
    • BankOrCreditUnion: if you’re a multi-location bank, you should create schema of this type for EVERY location
    • InsuranceAgency

Medical

Not intended for publication sites like Healthline, Medical News Today, or Mayo Clinic. Rather: these structured data types are for businesses that offer medical services. Among the most impactful forms of schema markup include:

  • MedicalClinic: This is a type of Local Business schema so you can also have Reviews (and highly recommended) but make sure that they are not curated by the brand or else Google will not show them.
  • MedicalProcedure: Use this to describe different types of services – extremely helpful for those offering cosmetic services
  • MedicalTherapy: Essentially the same as the above, but in a therapeutic context versus a specific medical procedure.
  • MedicalCondition: This may not always apply as doctors are hesitant to post condition information (which is understandable given the regulations and guidelines around it).
  • Physician: It’s essential to use this for the primary medical professionals and experts behind the brand.

Whether for your clients or your own projects, I hope some of this guidance provides a bit more clarity and direction on how to use schema markup to support your SEO efforts.