Time to Learn About Schema.org
Search engines can use ‘detailed’ webpage mark-up (also called structured mark-up) to emphasise relevant information in search engine results. For example, the main telephone number, the mailing address or the date and time of an event can be highlighted and help potential site visitors find precisely what they are looking for.
You can encode HTML pages using Schema (Schema.org) mark-up to identify key data elements and improve the presentation of that data to Google, Bing and other search engines. The Schema mark-up significantly enhances the rich snippets that are displayed underneath page titles in search results.
Schema.org was introduced in June 2011 and has had plenty of time to percolate into website configuration best practice. We carry out large numbers of searches, but we do not see a material proportion of the results reflecting Schema mark-up. The missing mark-up piqued our interest, particularly its adoption (or lack of) by online education websites: specifically, those sites offering online courses.
We ran a simple experiment. We examined 224 online education websites for Schema encoding. We found 40 out of 224 used Schema mark-up. That result represents less than 20% adoption (17.9%). Perhaps more importantly, our finding suggests over 80% of sites are missing out on the search results benefits this technique offers.
For the sites making use of Schema mark-up, the biggest single use was in identifying a search action on the site, followed by categorising the organisation (as educational) and providing location details.
The survey results are mildly dismaying, as there is so much more that can be done with Schema mark-up. First, there is a schema type specifically for Educational Organizations, at minimum this allows the organisation’s name, contact details and physical location to be highlighted in a search snippet.
There is an Educational Events schema that can be used to highlight upcoming courses, workshops, webinars or other events of interest to prospective learners. And, the Media schema (only one site in our survey is doing this) can specifically identify online educational material. The Review schema can be used to highlight comments received from past online course participants and with enough data reviews could be rolled into the Aggregate Rating schema to provide a star-rating for the course or programme.
Using schema.org mark-up is a low-cost, high-impact way of making your web presence more effective.