Use Semantic Markup to Improve Your Local SEO

This is an article I recently wrote for the Triangle edition of Natural Awakenings Magazine. It appeared in the February issue and can be viewed here.

Semantic markup can significantly improve the Click through Rate (CTR) of a small business’s listings in search results. Semantic markup is an underutilized on-page SEO tactic in the small business space.


What is semantic markup?

Semantic markup is a collection of schemas (html tags) that small business webmasters can use to markup their pages in ways recognized by major search providers. Search engines, including Google, Bing and Yahoo, rely on this markup to improve the display of search results, making it easier for people to find the right web pages. Using the right schemas to markup the most important bits of data about your local business can help your search listings stand out from your competitors, gaining your listings a higher Click through Rate. Over time, this can also improve your search rankings because Click through Rate is one metric used to determine ranking. There are many schemas, and some are more important than others. I believe the following list is valuable to nearly every
small business with a website.

The authorship markup allows your personal profile and picture to show up beside your  website’s search result listings. Authorship can be used by any business owner and can be very valuable for those who do business based on their personal reputation and  expertise, such as a dentist or attorney. To learn more, go to Google and search: Google authorship.

Local Business Schema
This schema is used to markup your business address and contact information. There are related markups, such as hours of operation and payment types. This schema is essential for any local business that serves customers from one or more physical locations.

Testimonial semantic markup identifies text on your site as customer testimonials about your products or services. If you markup your testimonials, Google may include them in some of your search listings. If you serve people directly, as in a restaurant or a car repair shop, you will be surprised by how many times people are searching “your business name reviews.” Adding testimonials with the correct semantic markup can help your website show up and get better Click through Rates for “review” related search queries.

The products schema is a set of markups that structure product data so it can be displayed as a rich snippet. Product data points include price, customer rating and inventory status. This is a great set of schemas for small businesses that sell products online or those that only sell out of their store but do list their available products online.

Meta descriptions
One of the earliest forms of semantic markup is meta descriptions. Most small business websites either don’t have meta descriptions or have the same one duplicated on every page. Each page should have its own unique meta description of no more than 156 characters. Instead of copying and pasting the first sentence of the page, write a short description containing descriptive keywords of what each page is about. The search engines still use the meta description (sometimes in its entirety) as the descriptive (black) text of your page’s search listing. Make it count.

Detailed semantic markup is the relatively low hanging fruit in the world of small business and local SEO. Chances are, most of your local competitors aren’t employing semantic markup to achieve the rich snippet search listings that will make your business stand out from the crowd. Depending on your website configuration and what data you are trying to
structure, semantic markup can require extensive coding. While the upfront cost can be significant, it is easily justified by the improvement in your listing’s Click through Rate over the short term, and the improved search rankings for your site over the long term.

Contact Allie Mims at Komodo Online Marketing, 1009 Wade Ave, Ste 532 in Raleigh. Phone 919-432-4506

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