SEO visibility, non-brand share, and traffic increase materially with error-free advanced schemas vs. sites without schemas
Rich media search results have replaced the traditional plain blue links and made the mapping of results to intent more dynamic and complex. Rich results not only improve the experience of users by offering relevant results, their visually attractive nature prompt engagement and often boost the organic traffic of a website. Rich results, in many cases, are now powered by schemas or structured data, and this is precisely because schemas play a vital role in entity definition and recognition.
From Google’s Panda Update to its latest BERT algorithm, search has evolved from keywords to entity which focus on enhancing its relevance for users and their overall experience. Entities are language agnostic and are centered around ideas, characteristics, and their relationship with each other, making search results a lot more apt to the user query. Schemas on the other hand, give search engine bots and help boost the visibility of the content on search.
Milestone Research set out to measure the impact of the organic performance and results of websites that use error-free advanced schema markup. Milestone Research defines advanced schemas as using more than 8 schema types and using nested architecture between the schema types and properties. Error-free means there are no errors according to Google’s structured data markup validator.
Milestone Research analyzed 88 sites, over 65,000 pages, 391,000 keywords, hundreds of millions of impressions, and millions of visits and sourced data in May and June 2020. The data sources were Milestone Presence Cloud, Milestone crawler, and SEMrush. Sites were mapped into 2 groups and matched for industry and number of pages. Additional analysis was done with non-matched cohorts where the data was indexed by dividing the number of site pages to assess visibility probability per page in the SERPs.
Schemas increase visibility of rich results
Milestone Research found that using entity markup helps search engines clarify content and facts it can use to match to queries to improve the relevancy of search, particularly in universal or rich results. Sites with error-free advanced schema outperformed sites with no schemas in the following areas.
Featured Snippets visibility up by 124+%
Featured Snippets appear in about 22% of mobile SERP results. If you’re talking about rich results, featured snippets which are often referred to as the ‘zero-click’, ‘answer box’, is the prime spot at the top of the page. Featured snippets are basically the most relevant answer to a query according to the search engine and its unique position on the SERPs (just above #1 result) ensure maximum visibility in traffic, brand exposure, and is a vital ingredient for the content to be picked as a voice search answer. We believe that optimizing for voice search is optimizing for featured snippets and our research proved that websites that have advanced schemas had a 124%+ spike in visibility in comparison to websites that do not have schemas.
Visibility of ‘People Also Ask’ up by 89%
People Also Ask has become the dominant SERP type in around 60% of mobile results. The ‘People Also Ask’ section is a universal result that takes significant shelf space on Google’s SERPs and basically offers related type of questions for a certain query. For a business, preparing for related queries or possible questions that customers could ask, is important to be featured in this section. What our research proved was that websites that implemented schemas that defined the entity and its relationships experienced an increased visibility in the ‘People Also Ask’ section on SERPs by 89%.
Featuring in the Local Pack increased by 36%
Local 3-pack appears on about 18% of mobile results, indicating how much people use mobile search as they prepare to transact. For any local business, featuring in Google’s Local 3-Pack could result increased brand exposure, traffic, and direct revenue. For any local business query, Google displays the Local Pack with the business listings to contact, seek directions, and book and schemas have increased the visibility of the Local Pack results for websites by 36%.
Knowledge Panel visibility up by 42%
The Knowledge Panel is an important universal result particularly for entity search (organizations, people, businesses, etc.) as it gives key information about the entity for brand or personality searches. Having visibility for a business on the Knowledge Panel of Google Search is imperative for brand exposure and our research found that having relevant schemas implemented for the Knowledge Panel drives visibility by 42%.
Images visibility on search increased by 19%
Images appear on about 22% of mobile searches. It’s no secret that having an image with product or service-related information draws more clicks than just plain content. Of course, optimizing the image is important for it to reach top-funnel visibility on search, and our findings proved that schemas tagged to images increase its visibility by 19%.
FAQs visibility on search increased by 98%
Particularly after Google’s BERT algorithm, which favors longtail and conversational content, FAQs have become a must-have for any local or national business. Not only do they answer queries of a business in a conversational format, it paves way for the content to be picked up as a voice search answer. Having schemas tagged to the FAQs to give clear context of the content to search bots has proved as per our findings to boost websites with error-free advanced schemas visibility by 98%.
Site Links up by 143+%
For a business that shows up as a relevant result, having sitelinks (which appear just below the main URL) to direct traffic to a particular web page for customers to take an action is crucial to the organic traffic of a website. With this study, Milestone Research proved that visibility of sitelinks for websites with error-free advanced schemas increased by a phenomenal 143+%.
Schemas increase non-brand traffic share
Optimizing for non-branded content is essential for any website to receive new organic traffic, and it helps the content be visible and rank high in the SERPs. Based on our findings, non-branded content tagged with relevant schemas increased the non-branded traffic by 121%. The average share of non-branded traffic increased from 15.4% to 33.9%
Schemas increase organic traffic
Milestone Research compared sites of similar size, industry, and geography with and without schemas and found an average of 31% organic traffic lift for the sites with schemas.
Conclusions and Limitations
Measuring single-variable impact in organic search is difficult because there are hundreds of variables used to determine the rank results. That complexity often means that managers who do one advanced technique are more likely to have done others as they follow the guidelines and best practices issued by the search engines. So, sites with error-free advanced schemas are also more likely to have better page load time than sites that are not being optimized for either.
Although schemas have been under discussion for almost 10 years, there has been almost no data published that proved a positive impact. These findings change that and prove that schemas correlate with visibility and increased non-brand traffic share.
Throughout this analysis, the Milestone Research team saw that schemas are not a binary element that is on or off, but a very complicated set of elements on a spectrum from basic to advanced with quality and relevancy of the underlying content, if that is poor, the schemas will have little to no impact as we all as users would hope and expect.
Therefore, start with a technicality solid site that is easy to use, helpful, and loads fast on both mobile and desktop.
Next add in content that is useful and addresses the questions and queries people have about your industry and brand.
Produce all of the popular asset types: text, FAQs, images, infographics, and video.
Then add in error-free advanced schemas, using the most relevant types and properties from the 840+ types listed at Schema.org to expose the facts and answers in your content.
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