What B2B Marketers Need to Know About Schema.org & Micro Data

November 23, 2013: Have you ever wondered why some of your competitors’ search engine results feature images, address listings, or even video and e-commerce catalog information? One of the reasons this might be happening is because of the micro data and schema.org markup on your competitors’ web page templates.

Rich Snippets Screenshot
The use of micro data, in particular schema.org, is becoming a more important component of search engine optimization for web marketers. Many resources on schema.org and rich snippets focus on consumer-oriented benefits like ratings and product listings, making this functionality less frequently discussed in B2B marketing.

But B2B marketers cannot ignore the potential impact. Micro data and schema.org enable B2B marketers to better distinguish their web content in search engine results, with a goal of driving greater click thru rates and improving the exchange of information across social media platforms.

The objective of this blog post is to provide a list of recommendations for establishing a schema.org tagging architecture to use for B2B websites specifically. We will seek to outline the following information:

  • General background on schema.org and the potential impact on B2B websites, including B2B e-commerce sites
  • Important and required terminology
  • Specific schema.org markup vocabularies and list of benefits, references, and recommended implementation (with examples where possible)

What Is Schema.org?

Schema.org is a tagging vocabulary (i.e., HTML tags) that marketers and website owners can use to mark up their pages in ways recognized by major search providers.

Via the Schema.org website:

On-page markup enables search engines to understand the information on web pages and provide richer search results in order to make it easier for users to find relevant information on the web. Markup can also enable new tools and applications that make use of the structure.

What Google says about schema.org:

Search engines are using on-page markup in a variety of ways—for example, Google uses it to create rich snippets in search results…over time you can expect that more data will be used in more ways. In addition, since the markup is publicly accessible from your web pages, other organizations may find interesting new ways to make use of it as well.

Important Schema.org Terminology

The following tagging elements and syntax is present across all implementations of schema markup.

  • itemscope –  defines that an area of HTML in a particular <div> section is associated with a particular item (class of information). Required in all schema tagging mechanisms.

    Usage: <div itemscope>HTML</div>

  • itemtype – defines the specific type of schema.org item within the itemscope. Required in all schema.org tagging mechanisms.

    Usage: <div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/URL”>HTML</div> NOTE: The majority of all schema recommendations actually begin with the itemtype variable.

  • itemprop – defines variables and behaviors associated with an itemtype. For marketers, itemprop usually provides the specific information search engines or social media sites need for displaying desired content attributes. itemprop is frequently embedded into standard HTML markup or specific <span> tags.

    Usage: <h1 itemprop=”name”>HEADING</h1>Usage: <span itemprop=”streetAddress”>374 Congress Street, Suite 507</span><br/> <span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Boston</span>, <span itemprop=”addressRegion”>MA</span> <span itemprop=”postalCode”>02210</span>

  • Embedded Items – there are subsets of itemtypes that can be explicitly or implicitly used in schema.org markup to better define behavior and information.

    Example: itemtype=http://schema.org/PostalAddress is actually a subset of itemtype=http://schema.org/LocalBusiness

    Another Example: Even though itemtype=http://schema.org/LocalBusiness is actually a subset of the Organization hierarchy, it can be used within itemtype=http://schema.org/WebPage (a subset of the CreativeWorks hierarchy) to eliminate data confusion.

Schema.org Implementation

Schema.org tagging is integrated directly within the web page or web page template, in the specific area of HTML applicable. Hierarchy of tagging is defined within each element. There can be multiple “itemtypes” found on a single web page / web template.

Example on the KoMarketing Associates website (address area within the footer of the website template):

  • HTML code before schema markup:

    <div>&copy; 2008 – 2013 All rights reserved.<br /><br />
    KoMarketing Associates, LLC.<br />
    374 Congress Street, Suite 507<br/>
    Boston, MA 02210</div>
    (781) 209-1989 Toll Free: 1-877-3B2B-SEO</div>

  • HTML code after schema markup:

    <div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/LocalBusiness”>
    <div>&copy; 2008 – 2013 All rights reserved.<br /><br />
    <span itemprop=”name”>KoMarketing Associates, LLC.</span><br />
    <div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/PostalAddress”>
    <span itemprop=”streetAddress”>374 Congress Street, Suite 507</span><br/>
    <span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Boston</span>, <span itemprop=”addressRegion”>MA</span> <span itemprop=”postalCode”>02210</span> </div>
    <span itemprop=”telephone”>(781) 209-1989</span> Toll Free: <span itemprop=”telephone”>1-877-3B2B-SEO</span></div>

While this might seem complex at first, B2B marketers should realize that this tagging vocabulary is best implemented as a change to broader web page templates and programs, as opposed to manual integration on a page-by-page basis.

Recommended Schema.org Markup for B2B Websites

The following is a list of recommended schema.org markup elements for B2B marketers to consider (organized alphabetically) and tactical examples where applicable.

Image Object

The schema object provides information in association with image assets on a website or web page and is designed to increase or improve relevance and search engine understanding of the image content.

Image Object Schema Example

Recommendation
Image markup should be found in the HTML IMG SRC element of corresponding image assets. Additional markup can be enabled if appropriate/applicable based on presentation objectives (example: an image gallery or proprietary information). The following sections of address content could contain markup:

  • The web address of the image
  • A related image heading (“name” property in schema.org)
  • A related image description (description property)
  • Publishing characteristics (date published, author, comments, etc. properties)

Example in Search Engine Results

Offer Object

“Offer,” which is like an extension to the “Product” schema.org object, provides the specific structure of markup to support product information meant for sale online. This specific schema.org object should be reviewed in coordination with supporting schema objects like image (above) and video (below).

Offer Object Schema Example

Recommendation
Web page markup should be found in the HTML template of all web pages, specifically individual product pages of an e-commerce catalog. The following sections could contain markup designed to support the Product/Offer schema object:

  • Typical product information like “name” and “description”
  • Product specific pricing information (“price,” currency types, etc.)
  • Specific product information like “manufacturer” or “brand” or “model”
  • Supporting schema object information such as related Images and Video
  • User generated information such as ratings and reviews

Example in Search Engine Results

Organization: Local Business

B2B marketers might not think the local business markup is relevant but optimizing dealer and distributor information can be of significant value. This schema.org object provides information on an organization’s specific office locations, thereby supporting local listings where geographical intent might be a clue in search relevance.

Local Business Schema Example

Recommendation
See the example above on basic schema.org implementation, which uses the local business address markup for reference. B2B marketers should consider implementing this markup in the following locations:

  • General organization address information
  • Local office locations
  • Address information of regional dealers, distributors, and resellers

Example in Search Engine Results

Video Object

Similar to the image object discussed earlier, the video object provides specific information in association with video assets on a website or web page, designed to increase or improve relevance and search engine understanding of video content.

Video Object Schema Example

Recommendation
Video markup should be found in the HTML template of corresponding video assets, in support of embedded video. The following sections of address content should contain markup:

  • The web address/embed code of the video
  • A related video heading (“name” property in schema.org)
  • A related video description (description property)
  • Publishing characteristics (date published, author, comments, etc. properties)

Example in Search Engine Results

  • Query: 3d printing (YouTube and third party video results)

Web Page, Blog Posting, or Article

These three schema.org objects provide an overall structure of markup to better support information shared in social media platforms and interpreted by search engines. We have experienced inaccurate markup being displayed in social media sharing, particularly in Google+, if this tagging element is not incorporated into the web page template.

Social Sharing Example

Recommendation
Web page markup should be found in the HTML template of all web pages, particularly articles and blog posts. The following sections of address content should contain markup:

  • Add itemscope value to top <HTML> parameter:<html itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/WebPage”>
  • A related heading (“name” property)
  • Publishing characteristics (date published, author, comments, etc.)
  • Supporting media characteristics (image markup, video markup, etc.)

Example in Social Media

Final Thoughts

The search community is beginning to see more examples of micro data and schema.org in search engine results. B2B marketers should consider how examples such as those listed above improve (or adversely impact) search engine results, to prioritize execution on site over time.

My broad recommendation is to pay attention to competitive and complementary examples, looking for areas of weakness in one’s own B2B SEO initiatives and places to take advantage of the competition leveraging best practices in related industries.

Additional References and Resources

  • davematson

    Great article, very helpful examples in explaining schema.org.

    Is there actually an easy way to add schema markup to a post, page or article ? It seems like there should be a wordpress plugin that exposes these fields easily. Particularly with fields that need to be dropped in the header on a per page basis.
    Same for embedded videos or images, which I guess are slightly easier to add on a per post basis, but still requires me to dig around in the html text of the page.

  • Derek Edmond

    Hi Dave

    Thanks for commenting and appreciate the compliment! I am not familiar with a plugin that does this but am sure one will come around soon (or maybe Yoast will tackle :-)).

    We modify template code for the broader vocabularies (blogpost, article, webpage) but I do have to go in manually to posts for more specific in-post updates

    Derek

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  • davematson

    Yes, I was thinking that exactly, Yoast could just drop a few extra fields in the SEO plugin, problem solved.
    I am playing with a few plugins, but also noticed that one of my Genesis themes seems to drop some schema info into posts automatically. It’s not perfect, but something.
    I’m sure this problem will become easier to solve, and Google will also get better at interpreting schema info, even without precise markup.
    But thanks again for the post.
    Dave

  • Derek Edmond

    I have seen examples of rich snippets where no micro data / markup is present so Google is clearly already drawing assumptions.

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  • Derek W

    Great article Derek!

    I work for a web agency and we came across this topic one day and we are wondering if we should even spend time on something like this.

    Will this increase the SEO value of sites? Are there really any benefits to this besides rich snippets?

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  • Susan Reed

    This was a very good write up about microdata!

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