Out-thinking the competition


Approximately 10 million websites, or just one per cent of all sites, use the digital marketer's toolkit schema markup to improve their search engine optimisation (SEO) according to Schema.org. Incidentally, this statistic was delivered to us from Search Engine Watch via Google’s featured snippet function — something that Schema.org could well have dominated if it had been marked up accordingly.

By Thomas Roden, junior account manager

Schema is one of the latest, greatest tools in a digital marketer’s toolkit, and it’s one that will only become more powerful in the years ahead. Essentially an intuitive means of making web page semantics easier for search engines and web crawling software to understand, it’s the key for many brands to capitalise on the growing number of digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home.

Even if you don’t think that your target audience will necessarily use voice search to find information related to your brand, marking up pages with schema is invaluable in taking advantage of Google’s featured snippet function.

At the outset of the article, we cited Search Engine Watch as the source of a statistic from Schema.org. This is because Google’s algorithms identified that the article from Search Engine Watch was the most appropriate answer to the question of “how many sites use schema markup” and presented it in the featured snippet. This is despite the fact that the original source of the statistic is Schema.org. However, because the article on Search Engine Watch more accurately answers the search query, the Google algorithm considers this more relevant.

Most marketers and general search users will be familiar with the featured snippet area, as it appears above the organic search results with a pull-out quote answering the search query. Interestingly, these snippets are not necessarily taken from the search result that is ranking at number one, presenting an opportunity for marketers to leapfrog their competitors and reach what SEO specialists refer to as position zero.

Marketers can achieve this in two complementary ways. The first is to ensure that page content is relevant to what their target audience will be searching for. This can be done by identifying keywords, researching the long-tailed search queries typically associated with those keywords and then creating web copy that gives a simple, elegant answer.

Crucially, marketers need to understand the best format for these answers to ensure they are a strong contender for position zero. This will vary depending on the question posed by the user, ranging from a short Q&A response to a bulleted list of answers. Many digital marketers bring in SEO content specialists and digital PR agencies to improve the chances that their content hits the mark.

While using the right copy and answering the right question will significantly increase a brand’s chances of appearing in position zero, schema markup increase this likelihood.

For example, an article on “how to apply an industrial degreaser” could be written in a list format and marked with a HowTo schema, indicating to search engines that this entry is an informational one. From there, each entry would be marked according to whether it is a HowToSection or a HowToDirection, which allows the data to be clearly and easily distinguished.

With only one per cent of websites using schema markup, it’s the perfect complementary tool to help marketers get one step ahead of their competitors. By using schema alongside captivating copy that answers the questions your audience is searching for, marketers can earn the coveted position zero in search rankings — and be their audience’s first port of call for insight and information.

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Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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