How to E-A-T, Speak & Breathe Schema Markup
Right now, most SEO’s are adapting their strategies to optimize for a radically changing age of discovery. We are looking to optimize for E-A-T (or Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness, which is the acronym for how Google defines quality content), capture user attention with on-SERP optimization, and make a splash in voice search. However, many of the recommendations for tackling those three items boil down to “have a great site” or “produce great content”. If that makes you want to pull your hair out, you aren’t alone.
Luckily, Schema.org structured data markup is the trusted tool in your SEO toolkit that can help you gain a competitive advantage in all three of those areas.
Developing a Forward-Thinking Schema Strategy
Let’s get the basics out of the way — structured data is not going to turn your content into something it’s not. You won’t be successful (at least not for long) if you don’t have quality content, and you certainly can’t get ahead by spamming the search engines and marking up information that isn’t there. If you don’t have good content in place, you can stop reading this now and go work on that. If your content is in a good place, and you have the Schema fundamentals down, like Organization and Product, then you can start expanding.
The key to a future-ready Schema strategy is leveraging this very basic fact: structured data provides context to search engines. Is it a coincidence that as Google makes entity understanding a more central part of indexation (maybe the core of indexation), they are simultaneously pushing webmasters to adopt new structured data types? Not in the slightest. Use Schema to clearly map out the key entities of a page, and then take out any of the guesswork by clearly identifying the relationships between those entities and other entities, so that Google can easily interpret the data.
Layer context on top of context to be truly successful.
If I were going to bore you with a metaphor right now, it would definitely be one about Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and how his technique of layering thin coats of pigment created the depth in color and soft focal effect that, five centuries later, people come in droves to see in person — even though its kinda small and set behind bullet-proof glass. The metaphor being that your markup properties should build on each other, layer upon layer, to create a bullet-proof masterpiece.
Optimizing for E-A-T
Who’s hungry for visibility?
The quality and authority of your content has long been a critical part of SEO, but ever since Google released its updated quality rater guidelines last summer, SEOs are all trying to crack the code for how to tactically optimize for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
How can you use Schema to improve your E-A-T? Focus on the fields that will strengthen the reputation of an individual or organization. Definitely start with the basic properties like name, contact info, address, etc., but then move on to include anything that proves authority or expertise. Properties to pay special attention to include: ‘affiliation, honorificSuffix, alumniOf, publishingPrinciples,’ and so on. Did you do your homework when you wrote this content? Include the property “hasCitation” on key citation links and prove it to Google.
When you are pointing to an external entity, like in ‘affiliation’ or ‘alumniOf,’ include ‘sameAs’ and call out the entity’s homepage (add context to your context). Your markup should be like that blowhard at the party that loudly brags and name drops so that everyone knows just how important they are and how many famous people they’ve met. Basically, as long as the information is accurate and relevant to the page content, be as heavy handed as you need to in letting Google know that you have a famous friend.
We can also see that editors are trying to develop properties to help call out topical expertise, such as ‘knowsAbout', which is a pending Schema. This is definitely worth keeping an eye on in case fields like this one become published and can help prop up your expertise even further.
It is also important to note that E-A-T is about more than just proving how good your content is. It’s also about proving it isn’t bad. And by that, I mean that nothing is going to sink the S.S. E-A-T faster than thin content. So, if you have content that is behind a paywall or requires a subscription, try implementing ‘isAccessibleForFree’ or ‘requiresSubscription’ to denote to search engines that your content isn’t low quality.
Capturing On-SERP Visibility
Because content scraping is cute when Google does it.
Utilizing Schema for on-SERP visibility is a bit of an old hat. From the little review stars on product results to optimizing your brand panel, there are a million ways you can use Schema to help you achieve better visibility in the SERPs. We have written about it in regards to earning featured snippets and optimizing your branded SERP, so I am going to breeze through this part of the post. If that’s a bummer for you because you don’t know where to start, try beginning with ‘Organization’, ‘Product’, ‘JobPosting’, or ‘Event markups’.
Targeting Voice Search
You might have heard of it?
Earlier this month, in a session on structured data at Google I/O, Google rolled out support for FAQ and ‘How-to markups.’ In that session, they showed us the new interactive rich results that these markups will make your content eligible for in both Google SERPs and the Google Assistant. This is huge in that this is a way for you to immediately start building visibility in the Google Assistant without needing to develop a separate Action. This means that, even with limited resources, you can start targeting voice search in a clear, tactical way.
You can now verify these particular Schemas not only through the Structured Data Testing Tool, but through the Rich Results Test, which will show you what the snippet you could earn with the markup will look like — which is actually pretty neat. If you missed the session from I/O, I highly recommend you check it out here.
Another consideration in optimizing for voice search is location, since local-based queries are a key area where we are seeing users adopt voice search and voice assistants. If you have a local footprint in any capacity, mark it up with either ‘LocalBusiness’ or properties such as ‘hasMap,’ ‘areaServed,’ and even ‘address.’
As previously mentioned, we have been keeping our eye on SpeakableSpecification Schema for a while now. Last summer, Google announced that it would be adopting this markup. And this year, at the end of April, the documentation moved from ‘pending’ to ‘live’ on Schema.org. The Google documentation on Speakable markup is still in beta, which means there is some gray area about the efficacy of this markup in the short term for publishers other than news outlets, but there is a lot of information there for you to get started. There is no doubt that the opportunity here is growing and this markup will inevitably be rolled out to additional content types.
Want some tips for being successful with this markup? Do not blindly markup all text on page. Instead, use this markup to highlight text that provides a succinct answer to a conversational invocation. When you are looking to make those optimizations, be sure you are also referencing the Evaluation of Search Speech Guidelines, and pay attention to whether or not the content you are marking up fits within the ‘Information Satisfaction,’ ‘Length,’ ‘Formulation,’ and ‘Elocution’ guidelines.
Never Set it and Forget it
Now that your markup is future-ready, what’s the best way to keep your Schema future-ready? Regularly test and update it. What passes in the Structured Data Testing Tool one day may trigger the new ‘Unparsable Structured Data’ warning in Search Console the next. New properties and types are regularly being added to the library, so the best way to ensure you are ahead of the curve is to check the documentation frequently and always look for ways you could be improving. After all, it takes a long freaking time to make a masterpiece. Just ask Da Vinci. Or Google.