The State of Schema Markup

Have you ever wondered who in the world is doing schema markup and what are the challenges they face day to day? We were curious, and so this past February and March, we asked the schema markup do’ers around the world to tell us who they are, what challenges they face doing schema markup and the tools they use today to solve them. Below is the summary of what we discovered as well as quotes from our survey respondents.

Was there anything shocking in the results? I am most shocked by how many people choose to do the markup manually and the burden it must be to keep it up to date, deployed, and error free (but I’m biased as the co-founder of Schema App). However, I was not surprised by the varied actors, ranging from SEO Specialists to business owners and CTOs.  I talk to our Schema App users weekly, and see the range of skills and have started to understand why business owners find themselves doing new and innovative things to move their business forward. What was most refreshing in the survey results, was the passion, energy and enthusiasm for doing schema markup.  Everyone has their own way of doing it, but they share the same challenges, and yearn for the same outcomes.

Here are the details…

Who is doing Schema Markup?

In our survey, 40% of our respondents are doing schema markup for small companies with <5 employees. The second largest group is large enterprise, comprising of 13.3% of respondents. What does this tell us? Everyone is doing schema markup! From SMB to Enterprise.

On top of it, it looks like Digital Marketing Agencies and SMBs make up the majority of our Schema Markup’ers. So it is a mix of companies and agencies using this as part of their online strategy.

While we aren’t surprised to see Head of Search, SEO Specialist, and Digital Marketer as some of the top schema marketers, did you think the Business Owner, CEO and CTO would also be on the list? When I asked a CEO why he was doing it, he said that he was the one at the company looking at how they can differentiate using new tactics and strategies. Schema Markup was one he was looking at.

Frequency of Schema Markup

Have you ever wondered how often others are updating their schema markup? We asked and they are primarily updating it monthly, some tending to do it weekly. This will be interesting data to map to size of business or role.

Challenges doing Schema Markup

Finally, we asked what they key challenges are doing schema markup. The top challenge were:

  1. Showing the value of doing schema markup – reporting the impact and results
  2. Maintaining “health” of Schema markup when Google makes changes
  3. Developing a strategy on what I should markup with schema

We are excited to help solve these challenges with Schema App – specifically with our Semantic Analytics and the ease of maintenance with our central management approach.

Options included:

  • Implementing JSON-LD on different web platforms, not always easy to find a way to add to page
  • Understanding Schema markup vocabulary
  • Maintaining “health” of Schema markup when Google makes changes
  • Showing the value of Schema markup – reporting impact/results
  • Developing a strategy on what I should markup with Schema
  • Discovering existing markup on the site or markup competitors are doing
  • Figuring out how to do Schema Markup at scale
  • Other

In their words…

“When I first learned about the existence of schema, I was so confused on how to implement it. I am not a developer. After trying many online generator tools and finding them unsatisfactory, I turned to my programmer hoping he could take over this task for me. He explained it was a different code altogether than what he writes. I felt overwhelmed when he confided he had no idea at all how to do it, even after spending a little time looking at it.”  Owner Digital Agency

 

“I began learning schema markup a few years ago by reading online articles about it. The examples given on schema.org were not clear and sometimes it seemed they did not follow even their own rules.” Performing Artist

 

“Worse is that some of the schema is supported (but the rich snippets team) but not in the Structured Data Testing Tool.  In addition, there’s usually very little way to communicate the value of schema, though it remains a ‘hot’ topic so it’s still easily sold to clients.” CEO of Digital Marketing Agency

 

“Schema markup is one of those things that when I first approached it felt a bit like witchcraft. However, after reading up a bit more on it I getting much more familiar with the structure and syntax. It’s still very much a trial and error process for me as I find that some of the guides out there, when put through Googles tool, don’t actual parse correctly. Very frustrating… but I’m getting there.”

Tools for Schema Markup

40% of respondents do their Schema Markup today manually, while the others use a range of plugins, add-ons, generators and Schema App.

Schema App

Schema App empowers digital marketers with the tools they need to do ongoing maintenance of structured data and to create high value custom reporting. It is a suite of tools that allows users to create and manage Schema markup without requiring them to be an expert in the Schema.org language or writing code. Through this app, you can save time, stay on top of Google’s requirements, and gain new business intelligence.

Pros (+): Simplistic, Quick creation of schema, easy to understand and implement

Cons (-): Opportunities for UX improvement, too many properties to choose from

What people are saying:

“The Schema App is extremely beneficial to us, because it allows us to create schema for our clients quickly.” – Chad, SEO Specialist, Digital Marketing Agency

“The SUPPORT from Schema app is what makes the big difference in my efforts, not just the tools” – CTO, Digital Marketing Agency

“Rapid Deployment” – Business Owner, Small/Medium Business

“I like that when I create markup in Schema App, I can re-use it easily to connect it to other entities.  It saves me time and reduces my errors ” SEO Specialist, Digital Marketing Agency

WordPress Plugins

WordPress plugins are extensions to the WordPress site that expand its functionality. Popular schema markup plugins: Schema App, Yoast, All in One, WP Social.

Pros (+): Easy to use and simple, automatically solves problems, flexibility for coders and non-coders

Cons (-): Generic schema markup

What people are saying:

“Things are simple, and plenty of resources for help” – Chris, Digital Marketer, Digital Marketing Agency

“Generic and that is my biggest issue too!” – Mike, SEO Specialist, Small/Medium Business

“Seamless integration, fast loading, works perfect with WordPress Genesis.” – Business Owner, Startup

“I like Yoast, Schema App, and All in One SEO plugins”

Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager(GTM) is a tag management system that allows you to update code snippets and tags from your website or mobile app. You can deploy schema markup directly in GTM or integrate GTM with Schema App.

Pros (+): Extremely powerful, do not have to use development resources

Cons (-): Do not know what is valuable to use, keeping up with changes

What people are saying:

“Google Tag Manager has saved the day for off-platform SEO services” – Ellen, SEO Specialist, Digital Marketing Agency

“GTM is extremely powerful. Not having to use development resources for schema is a huge benefit at times” – Wade, Digital Marketer, Digital Marketing Agency

Structured Data Testing Tool and Google Documentation

Structured Data Testing Tool is used to test for rich snippet display and structured data markup on a website. Google documentation  provides details on Google’s requirements for schema markup.

Pros (+): Detailed guidelines, easy validation, easy to test in advance, quick

Cons (-): no links to relevant schema documentation, not enough clear use cases

What people are saying:

“Easy validation” – AJ, CEO, Digital Marketing Agency

“Complete inventory of what info we can markup, full J-SON examples; more detailed guidelines” – Amandine, SEO Specialist, Small/Medium Business

“Google tools have good transparency and validation” – Head of Search, Enterpise

Web JSON-LD Generators

Web JSON-LD Generators provide an easy way to add schema markup to a page. The user fills out their desired structured data and JSON-LD is generated from that.

Pros (+): easy to use, free, starting point for validation

Cons (-): not complete in functionality, no strategy for implementing JSON-LD

What people are saying:

“I’m Comfortable with them.  They often work as a starting point for validation.” – Joel, Digital Marketer, Digital Marketing Agency

“Challenge was that often a local business does not fit the schema template and requires a bit of thinking and creativity to come up with useful JSON-LD code that validates.” – Digital Marketing Agency

Other Tools Mentioned

Google Search Console, Structured Data Linter, Umbraco, Google Data Highlighter

What people are saying:

“I use many. Schema APP, SDTT, Structured Data Linter, Several tools Google provides, etc. Many offer a deeper look and different take on the same issue.” – Jeannie, Digital Marketer, Small/Medium Business

“Internally developed tools and markup checkers that were developed for our specific needs.” Head of Search, Enterprise

“I ask for help in online communities and usually get answers. The definitions and examples have become better over time in both schema.org and Google.”  Business Owner

Schema Challenges by User Type

Head of Search

Role Definition: A Head of Search is someone who defines the plan and strategy of search engine optimization. They ensure that the SEO’s performance objectives are strategically aligned.  On a daily basis, they respond to client questions and ensure their needs are met by the Search team [1]. There are 7 people in our survey who have this role.

Famous Head of Search: Amit Singhal – Google Search

Overview of Findings for Head of Search Role

Head of Search has the biggest challenge with showing the value of schema markup and figuring out how to do Schema Markup at scale. This may be related to the fact that 57% of them create their markup manually and have no guideline on where to start schema.

What they wish was solved by a tool/automation:

“A page wizard. Eg. -Enter url>what is page about> Suggest schema starting point” – Joey, Small/Medium Business

“Bulk schema that pulls page-level information” – Enterprise

SEO Specialist

Role Definition: An SEO Specialist is someone who optimizes webpages for search engines through maximizing site traffic and increasing page rank. They review, analyze, and implement changes on the site [2]. On LinkedIn, 3,025 people have this skill and majority of them work as a freelance. Their main skills include social media and marketing. There are 35 people in our survey who have this role.

Famous SEO Specialists: 

Overview of Findings for SEO Specialist Role

SEO Specialists have 3 main challenges when they create schema markup. They have problems showing the value of schema markup – reporting impact/results, maintaining “health” of schema markup when google makes changes, and developing a strategy on what they should markup with schema.

Challenges:

What they wish was solved by a tool/automation:

“It would be great to have a tool that was flexible enough to across clients in different niches and had all the fields we required and not just the basic name, number address” – Pete, Digital Marketing Agency

“More easier to understand warnings for the markup (more understandable explanation of what has been flagged and what needs to be done to resolve it” – Ryan, Small/Medium Business

“A question and answer system: What are you trying to mark up? And then you’d receive an answer with how to mark it up as well as live use cases” – Ellen, Digital Marketing Agency

Digital Marketer

Role Definition: A Digital Marketer is responsible for promoting products or brands through electronic media. They develop marketing strategies, manage social media campaigns, and work with search engine optimization [3]. On LinkedIn, the top companies for Digital Marketing are Google, Accenture, and IBM. There are 1,722 digital marketing members in Google and 1,520 in Accenture. There are 9 people in our survey who have this role.

Famous Digital Marketers:  

Overview of Findings for Digital Marketer Role

From our survey, 20.00% of Digital Marketers have the biggest challenge of showing the value of Schema markup – reporting the impacts/results. This may be related to their experience with schema as they have only worked with the basics: local business markup, reviews, and contact data.

What they wish was solved by a tool/automation:

“Automatic JSON-LD markup that can be modified and de-prioritizes existing microdata tags that clash” – Daniel, Digital Marketing Agency

“A validator that keeps up with Google’s testing tool” – Wade, Digital Marketing Agency

“Knowing what’s needed for my type of customers” – Digital Marketing Agency

Business Owner

Role Definition: A Business Owner is someone who owns a business entity. They make the decisions in the business and are the first to receive profit [4]. On LinkedIn, the top companies for Business Owners are ACN and Forever Living Products (UK) with 3,155 and 1,898 members respectively. The top industries they work in are Construction and IT Services. There are 10 people in our survey who have this role.

Famous Business Owners: 

Overview of Findings for Business Owners

Business Owners have the biggest challenges of maintaining the “health” of schema markup when google makes changes, figuring out how to do Schema Markup at scale, and developing a strategy on what they should markup with Schema. To solve these issues, 40% of them use WordPress Plugins because it makes adding schema markup easy. However, they would like to make this process even easier by having an automated markup based on page URLs.

What they wish was solved by a tool/automation:

“I would like to submit a webpage and have a machine do all the markup appropriate to what I tell it are my priorities” – Chris, Performing Artist

“What data is actually being used by consumers” – Small/Medium Business

“A tool to highlight all schema markups” – Startup

CEO

Role Definition: CEO stands for chief executive officer and they are the highest-ranking official in a company. They make major corporate decisions, manage the company’s resources and operations, and act as the main communicator between corporate operations and the board of directors [5]. The top industries for this role are IT Services and Marketing and Advertising. There are 5 people in our survey who have this role.

Famous CEOs:

Overview of Findings for CEOs

CEOs usually work on scheme markup monthly. They use a variety of tools equally but find that there are limited examples for the wide range of schema. This makes it difficult for them to decide what to markup.

What they wish was solved by a tool/automation:

“Well documented with versions of the schema full site examples i.e. not just a single page” – Oliver, Enterprise

“More suggestions on what to mark up and how to maximize SEO” – Chris, Digital Marketing Agency

Web Developer/Manager

Role Definition: A Web Developer is a programmer who is specialized in developing applications for network applications. They often use HTML/CSS, C#, Ruby, and PHP to create their applications and websites [6]. On LinkedIn, the top companies for Web Developers include IBM, Upwork, and Microsoft with 2,707 , 2,469 , and 2,455 members respectively. The top industries for Web Developers are IT Services and Computer Software. There are 4 people in our survey who have this role.

Famous Web Developers:

Overview of Findings for Web Developer/Manager

From our survey, 75% of Web Developers/Managers create their schema markup manually. They work for a wide variety of companies, such as non-profits, that are usually less than 5 employees.

Challenges with schema markup:

“It is hard to get schema examples to fit for all the different business sites that need it” – Web Design Firm

What they wish was solved by a tool/automation:

“If a venue’s address is given on one page, other pages could (and should!) refer to it by ID only [Referring to Google Structured Data Testing Tool] ” – Amateur Theater

Summary

The results from the survey clearly state that Schema Markup is not reserved for the SEO elite, but is a language that is actively being adopted by SEO enthusiasts and experts alike to translate their content to be understood and perform in search engines.  They share the desire to have more examples, and answers on best practices so they can figure out how to best represent their brands. While there are tools available on the markup that automate most of the process, while giving advanced users tons of options, many choose to do schema markup manually.

Throughout the different user types, there is a strong desire for automation based on the page type. Specifically, Heads of Search and Business Owners wish for a tool that suggests schema based on input URL, SEO Specialists desire an automated schema markup tool that generates the frame of schema code with all possibilities, and Digital Marketers want automatic JSON-LD markup that is page specific. There is a clear interest in automation tools, but the reason these users still choose to manually create schema markup may be that their goals in automation are not yet reached by the current tools.

The tools they currently use are Schema App, WordPress Plugins, Google Tag Manager, Structured Data Testing Tool, and Web JSON-LD Generators. A common benefit among these tools is that they are easy to use/simplistic. This characteristic is what attracts the people who are currently using these tools, to continue utilizing them.

I look forward to seeing how the schema markup Ninja’s in the world evolve their tactics and strategies as we see more technologies use schema markup to provide answers and context and the role automation will play as the use cases scale. I plan on conducting another survey in 6 months to see what changes in the landscape.

References

[1]  [2]  [3]  [4]  [5]  [6]

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