SEO

Using Schema markup on your website to enable rich snippets and increase your presence in the SERPs is not a new strategy. However, we generally find that our new clients may have previously refrained from implementing it, or struggled to because of a lack of time or resources.

But the headaches of implementing inline microdata are a thing of the past. Google is not only supporting, but advising that you use JSON-LD (JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data)Implementing JSON-LD Structured Data for your structured data, which is a huge step forward. It means that rather than having to hard code inline microdata, Google will now crawl JavaScript to access your structured data instead.

This is great, because JSON-LD is easier to work with, and to read and write if you are so inclined. What’s more, there are now more ways than ever to implement your structured data.

“But, what if I don’t know how to write JavaScript?”

The good news doesn’t stop here. This post will walk you through some of the easiest ways to implement your structured data, as well as list some very useful resources for learning about JSON-LD.

Google’s Data Highlighter Tool

First of all you have the option to use Google Search Console’s Highlighter tool, which allows you to implement structured data without having to look at a single line of code.

You can add Schema for a range of data including articles, events, products & local business information. The tool will then give you a preview of the page so that you can directly highlight specific content, adding the markup for you as you do:

Google Highlighter tool - adding schema

This is the easiest and quickest way to add structured data to your website. So why bother doing it the hard way?

Well, the problem is that Google’s data highlighter only speaks to Google. So while it’s a great place to start, you shouldn’t stop there.

We’re seeing continuous developments in the way Google uses structured data. Most recently there was an announcement for Rich Cards on mobile:

Google Adds Rich Cards on Mobile

It isn’t just limited to Google either—the giants of social media have found ways to utilise this data. Pinterest for example, enable Rich Pins to pull in data about products, recipes, places and so on.

There are lots of cool things you can do with Schema markup that you can’t do with Google’s highlighter tool too. For example, why not try to add your social media profiles to the knowledge panel like ASOS has below:

ASOS social profiles schema markup

Perhaps you want to add a sitelink search bar like BuzzFeed have below, to allow people to search within your website from within the SERP (that’s so meta):

BuzzFeed Sitelinks search box schema markup

For all of the reasons above, we would strongly advise that you use Google’s data highlighter tool as a short term solution, while seeking to ensure you code your Schema markup on your web pages as more of a future proof solution. This will give you full ownership and management of your structured data. It may also benefit you in Bing and other smaller search engines.

Easy Ways to Add Schema Markup

If your website is on WordPress you could utilise a plugin such as the Schema Creator by Raven. This handy tool will guide you through the process and create a shortcode for each Schema you create, allowing you to edit it afterwards:

Raven Schema Creator Form

If you don’t use WordPress and you still want to hand code your JSON-LD structured data, or if you just want to learn more about the subject, then this is where Google Tag Manager comes in!

Using Google Tag Manager to Push Structured Data

The exciting thing about the search engines supporting JSON-LD is that it will be picked up anywhere in the HTML, even if it is dynamically inserted by a tag management system like Google Tag Manager.

Getting to Grips with JSON-LD

Before you begin you will have to spend some time familiarising yourself with JSON-LD. Luckily, you can find a lot of useful resources online, but if you still don’t feel confident then you will need to consult either a developer or marketing professional with experience of working with JSON-LD.

Here’s a few links to get you started:

Step-by-Step Guide

Now let’s take a look at an easy to follow example of using Tag Manager to push JSON-LS structured data to get you started. Note: If you aren’t already using GTM to deploy and manage marketing and analytics tags, read this simple setup and installation guide.

Step One – Add a tag

First of all, add a new tag:
add a new tag - google tag manager

Step Two – Name your tag

Name your tag something that makes sense. In this example I am going to concentrate on adding Organization Schema Markup:
JSON organization schema markup

Step Three – Select Custom HTML Tag

As we are using our own JSON-LD markup, you need to select the custom HTML tag option and press continue:

Select Custom HTML Tag

Step Four – Enter your JSON-LD markup

Now you need to enter your markup in the HTML box. In this example I’ve used the JSON-LD format for Organization found here.

Step Five – Choose when the tag should fire

For this particular set-up I want to select fire on all pages, because it’s an ‘Organization’ markup and thus site wide. To do this I can simply select ‘all pages’ before saving the tag. My implementation is then complete:
Fire on All Pages

If you wanted to add Schema which is specific to a particular page or group of pages, you can use the ‘some pages’ option to specify a specific page:

Selecting some pages google tag manager trigger
You might want to do this if you were adding Local Business information for your contact page, or if you have several business locations to markup.

Tip: If you wanted to specify a group of pages, you could use the page URL ‘contains’ operation or the RegEx (regular expression) operation.

Another Tip: You could combine your structured data (code) into a single custom HTML tag or logical groups of tags to reduce the number of tags you have in your container.

Step Six – Testing

Although you can use Google Tag Manager’s preview and debug mode to test whether your tag is being fired, you also need to ensure you check it is working outside of the Tag Manager platform:

Preview, debug and publish in GTM

Google and Bing both have handy tools for testing your structured data and making sure everything works as it should. Just remember to publish your container version in Tag Manager first.

Test your structured data

Make sure you use these free tools when testing your implementation, whether you’ve used a plug-in, Tag Manager or hard coded your Schema. Google has recently made some improvements to their tool, refining features such as highlighting, search and replace, and auto complete.

This method will let you insert a JSON-LD snippet on to a page or pages without a problem. But if you want to get more technical and use Tag Manager to dynamically generate your snippet, for example using {{page URL}}, it will not work. Chris Goddard recently wrote a great post including a work around for this over on the Moz blog.

Conclusion

Recent developments over the past few years have made it far easier to implement Schema markup on your website. Google’s own Data Highlighter tool is an easy way to quickly add Schema for Google’s benefit, but it is advisable that you plan to code your Schema, either by using plug-ins, Google Tag Manager, or by hand.

Implementing JSON-LD structured data is now the most widely accepted and recommended way to format Schema markup. While it does not guarantee that your search results will show rich snippets or rich cards, this should not discourage you from providing the search engines with the best data possible, providing it is implemented correctly.

If you need help implementing structured data on your website, get in touch.

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