What is schema markup, and why should lawyers care about it? In this episode of Lunch Hour Legal Marketing, hosts Gyi Tsakalakis and Kelly Street talk to Martha van Berkel about all things schema markup, a.k.a. structured data. Martha explains how this data language helps search engines understand what people are looking for in the real world and connects them to optimal search results. They discuss how lawyers can apply schema markup in their SEO and how understanding what drives online engagement can help lawyers make better business decisions.
Martha van Berkel is the co-founder and CEO of Hunch Manifest (the creator of Schema App).
Mentioned in This Episode
Lunch Hour Legal Marketing
Optimizing SEO with Schema Markup
Gyi Tsakalakis: So Kelly.
Kelly Street: Hey Gyi.
Gyi Tsakalakis: How are you?
Kelly Street: Doing well, doing well, just living inside this world.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Living in the world, the real world.
Kelly Street: I think so.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I have a question for you.
Kelly Street: Okay.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Would you choose the red pill or the blue pill?
Kelly Street: I can’t remember which one is which.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Okay.
Kelly Street: I also tend not to just take random pills that random people hand me.
Gyi Tsakalakis: It’s good smart policy. Have you ever seen ‘A Star Is Born’, just kidding. Obviously you have seen ‘The Matrix’?
Kelly Street: Yes, I don’t remember which pill was which though. So what were they again, what did the —
Gyi Tsakalakis: Forget about the pills, forget about pills altogether.
Kelly Street: Okay, all right, forget about the pills, doesn’t matter.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Do you remember the scene where Neo starts to see the underlying code of The Matrix?
Kelly Street: Yes.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Everything turns green and it’s all symbols and whatnot?
Kelly Street: Yes.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Well, today’s guest helps write the code that machines use to read websites and applications and yada yada yada.
Kelly Street: Whoa. So she is creating the matrix.
Gyi Tsakalakis: She is the architect of the matrix.
Kelly Street: That Elon Musk — yes, that Elon Musk thinks that we are living in, right?
Gyi Tsakalakis: I don’t know. Does Elon Musk think we are in the matrix?
Kelly Street: He thinks that there is a, I believe it’s like a 90% possibility that we are living in the matrix.
Gyi Tsakalakis: He is a brain in the vat guy person.
Kelly Street: Yes. And I have to admit until this past weekend I also wondered if we were just living in the matrix.
Gyi Tsakalakis: It’s certainly possible.
Kelly Street: And then I realized, I don’t think so, I think we are all real, I think we are all real people, just really living in the world.
Gyi Tsakalakis: How do you know?
Kelly Street: I just decided.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Cogito, ergo sum, you think, therefore you are.
Kelly Street: Yeah.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Only you. But you only know that you are thinking, you don’t know that I am thinking. Like what if I am here, with if I am a projection of your mind?
Kelly Street: Here’s the thing, it’s fine, even if it is, it’s all fine.
Gyi Tsakalakis: It’s all good. It doesn’t matter, right? Now, here’s the question, do you care to know whether the steak is real or not, it tastes like steak, smells like steak, looks like a steak, but is it a real steak and do we care?
Kelly Street: I mean I think I am a little freaked out about what the steak could be if it’s not real, but that’s a topic for another day.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Schema, it’s made out of schema.
Kelly Street: It’s made — oh, okay, yeah, it’s made out of schema.
Gyi Tsakalakis: You know what, I wonder if there is a schema for steak.
Kelly Street: I am sure there is, we can ask Martha, I am sure she would know. And you know what, here’s the thing, if the schema steak tastes really delicious, then yeah, bring it on, put it on the menu man, I am all for it.
Gyi Tsakalakis: There is a menu schema.
Kelly Street: There is.
Gyi Tsakalakis: And let’s see it has attributes — well, we will let Martha talk about this. She is the expert, what do we know?
Kelly Street: She is the expert. Well, I am super excited, I am super excited to talk about the matrix and see if she can figure out schema for steak and all other weird things that she has no idea yet that we could get into, super excited.
Gyi Tsakalakis: She doesn’t realize it yet, but she is going to regret on this podcast.
Kelly Street: Okay.
Gyi Tsakalakis: No, she won’t. We will have a great time.
Kelly Street: Welcome to the matrix of schema with Martha van Berkel.
Gyi Tsakalakis: All right, we are out of here. Enjoy the episode.
Kelly Street: Yes, we are done.
Intro: Welcome to Lunch Hour Legal Marketing, with your hosts Gyi Tsakalakis and Kelly Street, teaching you how to promote, market, and make fat stacks for your legal practice, here on Legal Talk Network.
Kelly Street: All right, so excited to have Martha van Berkel here with us to talk all things schema, and we will get into what that is and why you should care about it and pay attention to it, but first, Hi Martha, will you introduce yourself to our listeners?
Martha van Berkel: Sure. Thanks so much for having me. So my name is Martha van Berkel. I am a proud Canadian and I am actually the CEO of Schema App. And Schema App is a Software-as-a-Service that does schema markup or structured data everyday all day, so I have a team here and this is all we do, and I am absolutely delighted to bring our expertise to all of you today.
My background is not in SEO. I actually have an engineering degree and then spent 14 years at Cisco doing everything from strategy and product management. So it’s been really interesting, ramping up in this new area, in this new industry over the last five years and lending sort of that different perspective into this world.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being here today. And needless to say, as SEOs ourselves, we think you are in a good spot with this and can’t wait to dive in and talk about structured data and what it is and why lawyers should care about it.
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely.
Gyi Tsakalakis: So let’s start there, what is structured data?
Martha van Berkel: So the way I usually explain it to my mother is really the language of search engines. So structured data, which also to be clear, is also schema markup, those are exactly the same things. And it’s really a language of the search engines that was created by Google, Yahoo and Bing in order to help them understand content better.
And it actually like totally makes sense, because if we actually take the burden of explaining exactly what some thing is about, their job of matching it to searches or voice queries becomes a lot easier.
So structured data is code that is basically written in this language of search engines, and most people that adopt it today sort of know it, because when they do a Google search, they are seeing extra information in their search results, like stars or price or a specific answer to their question.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Awesome, that was a great description. I think my mom would also understand what it is based on that.
Kelly Street: And I understood what it was based on that. I did know already people. No, but that’s so great, because earlyish on into my more digital marketing side of my career, I was like structured data, schema, what are these words.
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely.
Kelly Street: And I have a feeling some of our audience may also raise their hand and feel the same way I did about that, so, so glad that you have the for your mother explanation.
Martha van Berkel: Actually Kelly, one thing to add is, people also refer to it as Schema.org, so just to kind of add that extra piece. Schema.org is like where you actually go on the web to like see this, what we call vocabulary. And so Schema.org is again like the language or I call it like the dictionary for doing structured data or schema markup.
Kelly Street: Awesome, thank you for adding that. Is this something that typically people are adding on to their own site or doing themselves, or is this something that’s kind of better left to a professional or a web developer?
Martha van Berkel: I have lots of different opinions on that, but it’s for sure a specialty skill, and so I think — right now I am actually doing a Twitter poll to ask people like where they need help with training, because one of our values at Schema App is to not only train our customers and our agencies, but also to train the market in better understanding this area. And right now the leading training is structured data strategy which is like trying to figure out like how and what you should actually translate into this language of search engines.
And we started doing this in 2013, so we were like way, way, way, way ahead of the market on it and even so, like we have just seen in 2018 it become I will say more common knowledge around one, that you should do it and sort of how you can apply it.
And we are like now in 2019 and when people ask me like where the market maturity is, which is important for my business, right, because we basically only make money if the market wants to do and apply this stuff, and I think we are still in that like early majority. So we are just starting to see like more and more people do it, which tells me that like the experts are doing it today.
Most of the time when we try to teach business owners or in this case it could be like the head of a law practice to do it, there are so many other things that they need to be thinking of that they are amazing at. Like I often joke, I am like go get a billable hour and pay someone who is an expert in doing this, because that will be a much more value of your time. Because there is such a big learning curve to just trying to figure out the vocabulary and understand like what you should apply it to, let alone how you are going to actually write the code or produce the code and get it on your website.
Gyi Tsakalakis: For the record, I responded to your Twitter poll, but I chose connecting entities.
Martha van Berkel: Okay. Well, we will talk about that. Like that’s I think to me one of the things that actually is like how do you do this properly. And so that you treat it as a strategy and not a tactic, like to me that’s again sort of something that differentiates what we talk about and what we evangelize versus sort of like the low-hanging fruit.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Cool.
Kelly Street: I am curious, what do you mean by the difference just in how you talk about this as strategy versus tactic?
Martha van Berkel: Sure. And this is I think, like my background is a strategist, like I am a dot connector and so when I think about structured data, most people are looking at the Google features. So these are the stars, these are like the price information, this is sort of like — now sort of we have evidence that it contributes to answer boxes, sort of those answers that show up right under the ads.
And so most people when I say they are treating it as a tactic are feature hunting. So they are like, what little bit of code do I need to put on what pages in order to get that Search Engine Results Page feature. And so to me, that’s treating it as a tactic, like you do want to try to get the most out of the SERP result.
But if you actually step back and think about the fact that they created Schema.org and structured data in order to help understanding, the question I often like to start with when I talk to somebody about what they want to do is what is it actually about your business that someone needs to understand? Let’s start there, because that’s actually like the more strategic question to ask.
Because we don’t know how the SERPs are going to change, and we assume we need to make sure that they are finding out those things. So in a law practice it might be that you just hired this killer lawyer who specializes in asbestos legal suits, like something really nascent. So you actually want people to know, not only like that this is your law firm and that you offer services for asbestos defense or whatever they call it, but that this person is on your team and that they are the one who are delivering that service.
And so if you were feature hunting, you will be like okay, I am going to optimize my organization and tell them about my Twitter and my Facebook, and those pieces are, if you are thought-forward you are going to do service markup, because you have read in my blog about like how you should do service markup, or you are going to probably stop there, because there is no Google features for service, there is no Google feature for person, let alone like using some of these connections to say like we do legal suits for asbestos, like there is no rich snippet for asbestos like in search results.
And so at that point you would have actually missed this huge opportunity, where like for your business the things you need people to understand aren’t in those features but can be absolutely translated into this language of search engines, so that people can find you, and find you today, whether that be through a Google search or a Bing search, but in future, like through whatever other means that they are trying to find information; today sort of most prominent is voice assistants.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right. And the thing I love about this conversation, which we will dive into more as well, but in terms of getting information to the machines, to me the real future of all of this, if you listen to what Google is saying is this is the switch from links to actually understanding stuff in the real world, and even though they are not quite there yet, to me this is the thing that makes the most sense, because as you mentioned, if you have a lawyer who has a reputation for a specific category or maybe they teach and maybe they take leadership positions at other organizations, this is one of the things we talk to our clients about all the time is that’s the kind of information that if you can help the machine understand that, they are going to reward you because they are trying to — search is trying to understand the real world with proxies like links and then of course in the future schema and structured data.
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely. So topics and entities are sort of like what people talk about, like the movement from keywords to topics to entities. And I often have a lot of laughs and people are like well, why can’t I see impact like when I look at my keyword results, right, because that’s the old way of measuring things. And actually most of our clients we are seeing what I call quality traffic. So at the very beginning, like back in 2015, 2016, a lot of the evidence of why to do structured data was around like you will get more clicks, you will get more impressions because of these features or rich results in search, but that’s like really evolved over the last three years.
To where even like Google’s case studies, so if you go into structured data in developers.google.com and under Structured Data, you will now see their case studies, and they talk about everything from clicks, all the ways through like page time, how long people are spending on pages, how many pages they have visited, all the way to conversion, whatever that conversion is, could be like filling out a contact form, to purchasing something, to downloading something.
And so we are really seeing that across all of our customers, across all the industries, that quality of traffic increase substantially month over month as a result of doing structured data, and again, doing it properly where you are translating the important things to be found and connecting them in a way that sort of connects those dots so that there is really no question about your business and what things are about.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right. It’s the step they need to take in order to be the Star Trek computer.
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely. A year-and-a-half ago like no one was even like thinking about voice assistants and now it’s a question of like, what do you mean, like you don’t have Alexa in your house or like you don’t have Google Home?
And I think what’s most interesting about how things are changing so fast is when you see how children use it. So I have a three and a five-year-old and like do you think I can get them to sit at the dining room table without asking Google a clarifying question about a topic or like trying to play their favorite My Little Pony theme song, right? And so here’s all of a sudden these three and five-year-olds who don’t know a world where they can’t get information or ask questions or interact from anywhere.
And so I think as we think about as entrepreneurs, whether you are a lawyer or you are running your law firm, you have to be thinking today people are still interacting on a desktop. We are seeing Google make bold moves like around the mobile, whether it be through AMP or mobile indexing. The next piece is like what happens when like we don’t even have a website they are going to, because our data is what they are interacting with. And I often get told not to talk about this because it scares people, but like I actually — search for a flight on Google, we used to go to Expedia, we used to go to these well-known brands in order to find this information to do our research. Google does that all for you now.
In fact, just yesterday Google announced that they are going to have a question and answer, so it’s like goodbye Quora, right?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right.
Martha van Berkel: How ironic that Google announced their Question & Answer Schema Markup in December, right? And so they gave you a means of breaking down that information into question and answer. So for me I was like, oh, this is like so to support voice and people asking voice queries, and voice queries are still like very much like a home like entertainment thing more than a business research thing today, we will have to see how that evolves. But now Google is going to own that experience with regards to questions and answers.
And so part of me as a business owner is like you want to be in control of how your company and brand is understood and structured data is a way today to start getting in that practice as we see sort of the way people interact with their data changing very quickly.
Kelly Street: Completely. So one of the other things about schema markup that — so you have written a lot about it, you have talked a lot about it, you live and breathe it, and I was wondering you have kind of a downloadable or PDF sheet on your site about just kind of an overview of schema markup. And one of the benefits that you talk about is reaping the rewards of other leading edge technologies such as chatbots, voice search; we have obviously already talked a little bit about that, but I am curious how schema, structured data, and chatbots.
Martha van Berkel: So I was recently talking to some people at a large chatbot company, actually one of our agency was like, you should really talk to them, and I won’t name them just so that I don’t sort of 00:18:27 them. And part of what I was trying to do, again, I am a strategist, so I am trying to see like what evidence do I have of people applying this, because we haven’t, even with some of our largest enterprise that we work with, we are still like ahead of that curve, like we are still on this early adopter phase, so some of the things that we have validated like in concept and in sort of in beta in our world, the rest of the world isn’t really ready for. So I was talking to them and I was like I am just trying to validate like am I full of crap or not? Can we reuse a knowledge graph for a chatbots?
And let me just pause here to describe what I mean by a knowledge graph, because I do think this is really important, because when people think of a knowledge card in Google results, it’s basically like if you were to Google, I always think of like Starbucks or some big brand, on the right hand side you see this knowledge panel, this knowledge card that explains like Starbucks is publicly traded, this is the stock, like this is how you reach customer service, this is who the CEO is, etc. So that’s a knowledge card.
Most people kind of think of that sometimes as the knowledge graph, but the knowledge graph is actually that like web of information that Google has, Amazon has, Microsoft has, that’s sort of connecting the dots through this information.
So to go back to our legal practice example, this would be like oh, this is our legal practice, we have these five locations, there are sub-organization, those five locations offer these services, these services are provided by these specific lawyers. So if you actually could visualize like I am connecting that law firm to the location, to the service, to the lawyer, right?
And when you start connecting these dots it can be like — that lawyer could be an alumni of let’s say Harvard Business School or Harvard Law School, or like there are other pieces, Harvard Law School was established on this date, so all of a sudden now I have connected this law firm to the Harvard Law School.
And that’s because I have like kind of — remember those like connect the dots, 12345 and you have like built a picture of like a duck or something; again, I have a three and five-year-old, so welcome to my world, but we are kind of doing the same thing, we are trying to connect like how is this information together.
So if I were to say does Martha’s law firm, does it have Harvard alums, the answer is yes, and this is the name, but I have connected the dots because they now know how those things are related. When you start relating those things and you use the language of structured data to do it, you are actually building your knowledge graph. And these knowledge graphs are what power what’s call the Semantic Web, where they can then sort of infer things.
And the other inference example I often use is they sort of create these things in what’s called triples; I am getting way too detailed here.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Go for it.
Martha van Berkel: Women can have babies, right, so we know that exists, that’s a truth, right? And if Martha is a woman, then I can infer that Martha can have a baby. So by actually connecting these dots or like this law firm offers this service, this lawyer provides this service and this lawyer is from Harvard, I can then sort of conclude that that law firm is associated to Harvard Business School or Harvard Law School. So that’s sort of where this knowledge graph becomes important.
And why do I talk about this, well, a knowledge graph is actually the basis of what a chatbot uses in order to answer questions. So if it can’t figure out that Martha van Berkel is a lawyer who went to Harvard and that I am now an employee of this law firm, it can never point you to that right person to then say, do you want to set up a time with Martha in order to support this case, right?
Kelly Street: Yeah.
Martha van Berkel: So it’s being able to infer it back to chatbots, the conversation I was having with this organization was that their AI chatbot group was specifically trying to get more into this inferencing or deeper understanding, and they are a leader and like they are just kind of getting into this AI chatbot space. And by the way, they are building a knowledge graph about how like language is understood.
So bing, bing, bing, my assumption that if an organization is trying to build a deep knowledgeable chatbot that can get into all their content that they have written or to understand their organization, the answer is yes, if you do your structured data properly and you work with a company like Schema App, where we understand structured data and knowledge graphs, you can extract that knowledge graph and reuse it in really cool ways, including a chatbot.
Gyi Tsakalakis: And get ready for Google to announce their chatbot.
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely. So they are working on it, I know they are working on it, which is so exciting, and they have talked about making it native to structured data. So if they don’t do it, we will try to beat them to it, since we are small and fast, but more importantly, to just actually drive adoption of structured data so that they can then use it.
So absolutely, word on the street is that is happening and they are going to use it as a —
Gyi Tsakalakis: And if you beat them, there is always Google Ventures.
Martha van Berkel: Oh yeah, yeah. We are not worried about beating them, we are actually just trying to beat them to like help prove the point that there is like — if you do this properly there is all kinds of benefits across your organization and not necessarily just for SEO purposes, which then leads us to analytics, which you can let me know when you want me to dive into that.
Gyi Tsakalakis: We are ready.
Kelly Street: Let’s go there. I mean we are right there, let’s get into analytics. This is all — I mean I just have to pause and say, thank you so much Martha for your obviously deep knowledge that you are somehow able to explain on such, I shouldn’t say basic, because it’s definitely intermediate, but on at least an intermediate level, and so I appreciate how you are laying this all out for, not only our listeners, but also us.
Martha van Berkel: No problem, happy to do it. Again, we stated a business and it took me like two years to explain to my parents what I actually do. So I have had a bit of practice, and this is my favorite stuff to talk about.
So analytics are the other kind of area. So one area that’s hard, so you think about like on the poll that I am doing on Twitter, like where I get a lot of questions, especially from experts, agencies and digital marketers is, how do you correlate the impact of structured data in your results. And any engagement I start with a client, my first question is like what does success look like for you in your business, because if we are not trying to impact that and measuring against that, like who cares, the rest are just 00:24:58 matrix.
And so again, I am trying to drive that quality traffic to lead to conversion to help like whatever that business driver is, and we do have evidence that that’s happening.
And so one thing I think that’s not great around analytics, so Google Search Console has just changed and word on the street is that the Structured Data Report is going away.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Oh.
Martha van Berkel: Gyi is like what?
Gyi Tsakalakis: I am just — no, that has been a disaster. If John is listening, I am very frustrated, but I have already told them.
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely. So I have sent some messages to my contacts at Google to say, I know you are really trying hard to drive adoption of structured data because it helps you, this is something that’s going to work against you, because the Structured Data Report in Google Analytics tells you like when it started seeing these things and they are moving to really now just show you the rich results.
But if we go back to the first conversation we had, which is like what do you need understood about your business, it might not necessarily be one of the 26 that Google lists on their website. It might be a service, which I think John Mueller, the Webmaster, like someone was asking him very clearly, like are you going to publish a feature for service, because it’s so well used. Actually probably one of the biggest impacts we have had is really driving people to both understand how to use the service schema markup and adopt it.
So part of what we will have to figure out is like how do you take other data you have, so you still have impressions, clicks, time on page, conversion and map that to structured data. So one of these, like a Google Data Studio Report is something we are trying to pull out to help peoples sort of map that correlation.
But the more strategic piece that you can do is if you do your structured data, you can actually add that structured data into your analytics and therefore structure your analytics.
I will give you an example. Let’s talk about t-shirts, because it’s just an easier example for me to think about than law service, but I have one probably around attorneys. So if you sell t-shirts and you want to know does the color of t-shirt actually impact shopping cart size, which is an interesting question, right? But like you would actually have to go manually tag all those URLs in Google Analytics in order to figure that out.
So what you can do through like Tag Manager and then we have automated a solution is actually take the structured data and take color for a product and actually add that as a custom dimensions analytics so that you can actually start cutting all your data by any property. So then I could actually say like well, let’s look, let’s add color to analytics and lo and behold, purple t-shirts drive the larger shopping cart. All of a sudden your SEO is not just then impacting online sales, you can then go to your promotions team and say hey, by the way, we should be promoting purple t-shirts because they drive the larger shopping cart.
So let’s talk about how this could work in law practices. So let’s say you have a very large law firm and you have like 120 lawyers, I don’t know, is that a large firm?
Kelly Street: Pretty large, yeah.
Martha van Berkel: So you have a large amount of attorneys and you want to know does where they go to school actually impact conversion off their like profile page. So does it matter that you went to Harvard or Stanford or Queen’s University, wherever you went, right? So you can add that alumni of, like where did they graduate and actually look to see if there are web behaviors that tie to where they went to college.
What then that becomes interesting is you go to your recruiting team and you are like hmm, this is just web traffic or this is like what we are seeing conversions on contact, but like everybody who went to a West Coast school drives more traffic than those that went to an East Coast school, how might we change our recruiting as a result of knowing that about how people interact with our firm online.
So all of a sudden structured data isn’t just this nerdy code that’s trying to help search engines understand, but it’s now actually going to help you understand key elements of how your content or people or services, how that is actually influencing people’s behavior online and therefore helping you make better business decisions.
Kelly Street: Can you think of an example or how someone would do this for practice area or kind of the kinds of cases they have won, so it’s a smaller personal injury law firm, who they have done medical malpractice, they have done asbestos, like you mentioned, they have done all of this kind of variety of trials or suits related to personal injury and they are trying to figure out okay, how do we — we know that we can do all of these different kinds of things, we want to get a niche practice down and figure out which one — yeah, where do we focus, can you think of an example for how someone could do that?
Martha van Berkel: Yeah, so the first would be to like make sure you understand all the elements of those cases, and I probably would think of them as like it’s an article, like an article, the most generic type of like blog posting or news article, etc. I like article because it’s kind of more researchy.
And when I think about calling out a case like in law practice, like you are often kind of calling out the details, that sort of influence data, what was maybe referenced, etc. So it could either be a blog posting talking about it, which is sort of anything that’s posted on a blog should be a blog post, but if it’s more of a research article kind of talking about the cases in detail, then you might use article or even technical article if it’s about a very technical topic.
And so when you are describing those things, you are going to have things — and the reason I think of content is because like we all know that, like it has a headline, it has an author, it has a topic or keywords, and so all those things that you are already putting let’s say in your WordPress blog, like to describe those things, you could look at that sort of like oh, we are going to use the category, because we are going to actually — in our blog we actually categorize things by these different practice areas.
You could actually then use the category schema and add that to your analytics to see sort of how that’s converting, or which one drives the most traffic to see sort of, how is our content working. And then depending on who is writing that content and sort of how that content leads to engagement with them, you could then sort of correlate that perhaps back to, is this where we are sort of excited.
And I can relate this a little bit to our business, because in our journey to creating Schema App, we actually did SEO for SMBs, so for small and medium-sized businesses. And for us it was like what do we actually like writing about and doing, so a lot of it was personal preference, which was like the nerdy structured data stuff; again, we were really early in the market. But also like the content we wrote on the stuff was really starting to get a lot of interest and people were starting to see us as sort of experts in this space.
So part of it I think with a firm is they are looking at the data, it’s sort of one piece of the puzzle and sort of understanding — as well as one piece of the puzzle generically across SEO, what drives traffic, this is more sort of understanding like what is the category, how does that influence people’s online behavior.
Gyi Tsakalakis: That’s fantastic.
Martha van Berkel: Is that helpful?
Gyi Tsakalakis: No, it’s great. I love it too, because it’s a — not a lot of people are talking about it or thinking about structured data the way that you just suggested or at least not in my experience, so that’s awesome for our listeners.
I think the other thing that I will just maybe take it a step down from that level of awesomeness is on a basic level for the folks that are like, if you are a small firm or you are a solo, I think maybe talking some tactical stuff.
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely, let’s walk before we run, right?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah, yeah, and again just — but still to validate for the people that are still feature hunters these snippets and rich results, they certainly are compelling, they drive engagement. So not to get into all of the black box of what Google is using, but I know — it’s been hot in the news right now, Bill Slawski has been publishing about the patents that they just filed relating to user engagement. But certainly stars and cards and all these rich results drive engagement and so therefore it’s likely that some of those user signals are going to play a role in how you appear in search too. .
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely.
Gyi Tsakalakis: So another reason.
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely. So where do you begin, and I guess like to tie this all back, like the tactic is the first step to enabling these other things. So this is step one for everybody.
So the first thing we talk about is like what should you optimize? And I have been using examples that actually relate directly to most law firms, whether they are very small or very large. So the first is your organization and there is sort of this concept of classes, something that I will just talk a little bit about the vocabulary in Schema.org. So there is this concept of classes. So classes are like the big things, so an organization, a product, and then things sort of become more specific.
So for example, in an organization, you can be an organization, you can be a local business, you can be a legal service, and then you can also be an attorney, and the difference between those is I really see a legal service as being like a law practice, with multiple attorneys, whereas an attorney is more like a one person job.
And so the first thing you want to do is understand like what is those key things about your business, about your law firm that you want people to find. So the first is like, you are going to want them to either find you as an attorney or find you as a legal service, so you want to kind of define the organization.
And when you define the organization you want to include things like your address. There is one thing, and I believe this is in our local business blog, so here is a fun one, Google Schema Markup LocalBusiness, and I usually beat Google in the search result, but it actually gives you like down to the detail about like how to do local business schema markup, just insert legal service as the class instead of local business and that will work great for legal companies.
And for the legal service, one of the key things you want to do is also call out area served, and I highlight this because it’s so important to kind of call out the region. So most law practices or most local businesses, correct me if I am wrong, like serve either a primary city or a county or certain regions, and so area served is again one of these properties. So every class has a property, so think of these as like the ways that you describe the thing.
So in a legal service we are going to use things like an address, what’s the contact number, area served is one of those key things to define like what area do you actually serve, and I really like this, because a lot of law firms that we have worked with are trying to rank for criminal lawyer, Kansas City, right, and so here is a really direct way that you can call out that service area.
Okay, so that’s where I would start, like make sure you kind of — and the schema markup would go in your homepage, like the primary page that talks about your organization. When I talk about primary page, the other thing to learn about is like, you should have like a primary page that talks about those important things in your business.
And Gyi and Kelly, like I can make sure you guys have a link to like how to create a schema markup strategy, so we have like a long training video and document that kind of gives you tables and things and questions to ask to kind of go through this. So that’s a great online resource for everybody.
But like you want to make sure that like you have one page that talks about it. So if you are offering a specific practice, a practice is kind of like a service that you are offering, you want to make sure that that content is like on a specific page, because then if someone is looking for that criminal lawyer in Kansas City, like they are going to go to the criminal law practice page, is what you want to actually try to rank for.
Now, when we talk about rich snippets and trying to rank for them, the ones that mostly apply when it comes to service and local business is ratings. So when it comes to like can you actually capture ratings, and I know that — I don’t know what the legalese for attorneys is, if that’s different from doctors, because I know in some regions like doctors can’t ask for reviews. Do you know Gyi and Kelly, what that is for lawyers?
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yeah, it’s a whole massive review, states —
Kelly Street: It depends.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Go ahead Kelly.
Kelly Street: Yeah. It depends on the state. Every state typically has its own ethics guidelines, but yeah.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Check with your state bar lawyers.
Martha van Berkel: Check with your state bar lawyers. But that’s a really great one that if you can get ratings, again, for specifically either your office, so if you have multiple offices, the different offices, or you are over at a law firm, or your specific services, so the way rating works or aggregate rating works in schema is that like it has to be associated to the thing its talking about. So it’s a no-go to like get reviews for your whole law firm and then plastered on every page; again, the idea is that like your schema markup describes like the page that’s talking about that main topic, going back to the earlier comment around like, we are moving to topics versus keywords.
So what is all that information about that one topic and then what’s the rating for that, and there is a possibility, like if you have done a really great job working on getting ratings on Google My Business, for example, there is another blog you can do third party review Schema Markup LocalBusiness, and we have another blog on how you can appropriately reference that and use that on your homepage; great debate across the SEO world. It won’t impact your knowledge card, which is like that rating thing, but it can help your rich result and understanding.
But the key thing is for those practice areas, most people don’t think about getting ratings like for their actual services and so that’s actually I would say like low-hanging fruit, if you can based on the 00:38:37 rulings.
The other piece then is your people. Like I really think for law firms, like a lot of people go to a lawyer. Like when I ask — I was asking someone recently about a recommendation and like they named a person, like they didn’t go like go to that law firm, like they named a person.
So I think the other one is like schema markup — there is schema markup for person, and while it sounds really generic it’s like alumni of, that they are an employee of, or they are a founder of, so you can really describe that person in detail.
Now, the other thing with schema markup to know is that anything you are putting in the schema markup does have to be displayed on the page. And so if you get really excited when you are first starting and looking at like everything you can describe about the person, but that information is not on the page, think of that as then informing your content for the page.
Like the search engines created Schema.org to define all the things that they wanted to know about these different topics. So you can kind of backwards engineer it to be like oh, that’s really interesting for a person, they want alumni of, they want contributor to, like they actually wrote these documents, so perhaps there are some policies or different kind of precedent cases that they have worked on. If those are documented somewhere, you can actually again link those together and forming that knowledge graph about that person.
So I guess like legal service and attorney, just knowing those differences is important. Service is really important and then if you are also doing videos you can link the video to whatever that topic is, so whether the video is about something or let’s say that this practice is the subject of that video.
Gyi Tsakalaski: It’s awesome.
Martha van Berkel: Now, people often ask like, that’s great that you know what to put on it, then you have to figure out like how to actually get the code on your website, so there are free generators so depending on people want to use. Google has their own sort of highlighter you can use, it doesn’t include service in some of these areas served at these more advanced pieces. There’s free generators online. If you don’t have a list of those I can make sure that you have a link. We have a document that’s actually like all tools around structure data, so that’s a good reference, and then of course, Schema App is awesome because it allows you to generate and integrate it, but I am not here to sell, I am here to inform today.
Gyi Tsakalaski: Absolutely, and I’ll reiterate definitely check out. Schema App puts out so much great information between the blog, even the knowledgebase on Schema App itself is fantastic, so if you’re — if you want to dive deep and really get into doing a lot of the stuff that Martha was talking about, that’s a great resource. I am trying to think of other things that come to mind. Q&A is a big one like —
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely.
Gyi Tsakalaski: — and I know that they are — and you can refresh my memory but there were three new rich results. Q&A, how to and something else I think, they just announced recently.
Martha van Berkel: That’s good luck.
Gyi Tsakalaski: That’s good luck.
Martha van Berkel: Now, so Q&A for sure is a hot topic and again like they know yesterday they were announcing like their own Q&A platform like Aura it’s really based on structured data where people like vote or contribute ideas. I think of it as like a community or knowledgebase where people are adding their insights and information, and then you are kind of picking the best response. Q&A was for sure sort of tailored for that and if you go to developers.google.com and into the search documentation, they are very clear in the Q&A page documentation on, this is where you should use it and this is where you should not use it, they have like content guidelines with valid cases and invalid cases, so, check that out.
The other ones I think that are more interesting. Again, I am a strategist. I am going to just going to tell you like the once they’ve introduced that I think like show change, so if that’s of interest.
Gyi Tsakalaski: That’s great, do it.
Kelly Street: That works.
Martha van Berkel: So dataset is one that they’ve articulated, so how do you like publish data and then they’ve also talked about like newsfeed, so there is a thing called the data comments which is like where you can actually like publish your data directly to this kind of think of it is like central location. So again, to my like your website is going away comment, like this to me is like further evidence that like you’ll be publishing your data feed in a way that’s consumed for these different other consumers to present it in a way that, that like searchers are looking for, and so we see that both for news articles like we are seeing it for the news media agencies; again, it’s like very restricted today.
Oh yeah, a new one on here that’s like I just noticed is Employer Aggregate Rating. Ooh, that one is like brand-new, let’s have a look. So this one saying does your site provide salary estimates and does your site provide job postings? So it’s saying go to occupation structure data, if it’s salary estimates then go to job posting for this, but this one is specifically user-generated ratings about hiring organizations. So, what do we interpret from this, it’s a glass door, right? Like, are they going to start building that kind of entity map or topic map about companies that sort of includes aggregate rating.
So anything that like to me is a marketplace or where content today is in aggregate form so things like Expedia, Travel et cetera. Like I see very clearly like Google going after owning that traffic. This would be another example.
Gyi Tsakalaski: It’s a great point. Another tactical thing and I know, you probably don’t think it is controversial but in some of the areas where I’ve seen online people talking about this, you recently suggested that it’s okay to use Tag Manager to manage structured data.
Martha van Berkel: Oh, yeah, let’s get into it.
Martha van Berkel: So it goes back to me sitting down for lunch. We have R.V. Guha who is the creator of schema.org, so he invited myself and my co-founder 44:40 Lunch last year in May and his line was like “Some structured data is better than none” because they can often figure out the rest.
Gyi Tsakalaski: Right.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right.
Now, that said, if you can get the Schema markup to be what we call server-side, so we have a WordPress plug-in. One of its primary functions is it stores a Schema markup within WordPress same for Shopify, BigCommerce, Drupal, awesome, right? Like everybody veins like it’s going to have less of complication around page speed. The data is all sitting on the same side of the web service, in fact, like it’s our primary like recommendation if you can get it on the server-side, amazing.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Good practical advice.
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely, like, so our response was like stop boiling the ocean and saying like no one should use Tag Manager for structured data because like it’s actually — it’s not a yes or no. It’s actually like, yeah, primarily stored server side if that’s possible but if that doesn’t help you drive adoption like there is companies we work with, they would be like a year-and-a-half away from doing structured data if they didn’t use Tag Manager, so let’s use Tag Manager. If we have an option to convert to server-side overtime, amazing, let’s do that.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Right, and then JSON-LD versus Microdata or —
Martha van Berkel: JSON-LD all the way. Google clearly articulates safer for it and it also makes sense like JSON-LD like the way I explain this to people is like Microdata is sort of like pursed within the page code so you have to kind of like pick out pieces, it’s like tagged amongst the HTML whereas JSON-LD isn’t a block. So if you are a robot and you are trying to process information, a block of code is much easier than trying to filter through an entire page, and again, Google documents that they prefer JSON-LD, so that would absolutely be what I would do.
Kelly Street: Alright, now as maybe a treat for our listeners who hung in through a lot of deep technical stuff, before we started recording you said that you had talked to your team about some maybe tips or particular things they had in line for our audience of lawyers here, so do you have anything left to share or did we hit everything?
Martha van Berkel: I think we hit most of it like, the key one I think was that attorney versus legal service, I think that’s a really, really important one. And then, services like connecting the services are provided by the law firm or by the person, so those will be the two key things.
The other one that I do tend to like is also using Wikipedia to help define things, so maybe the last kind of hint is. I do talk about this in that local business blog is there is a thing called Additional Type, so we need to find yourself as let’s say you’re providing a service. You can actually callout an additional type. So what we are doing is actually clarifying like what kind of service it is, and so we often use this like — we even use this in local business like if they don’t have you’re like a gumball producing company, right? Like they don’t have a specific class for gumball producing company.
Kelly Street: Yeah.
Martha van Berkel: Like you could then use like a Wikipedia entry to say like we are a gumball producing company and we are a local business. So in case of like a service or a practice area that a law firm provides let’s say like there is a definition of child custody lawyer, like they work on family law and it’s a very specific type and it’s defined somewhere either like in a standard’s body, so let’s say the Bar Association maybe defines those things, you could link to that, as the additional type or we use Wikipedia a lot just because it’s like a known reference, you can add that in just sort of further clarify that type of service that you offer. So that would be my other key hint. That an area served like area served you can use for the business as well as a service.
Kelly Street: That’s a really good tip, I like that especially, I mean the linking to Wikipedia if you have a topic that needs a little bit more explanation —
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely.
Kelly Street: — to comment on the web elsewhere because I mean Wikipedia is always the number one search result when you are looking for pretty much anything. So, good to have that linked on your website.
Martha van Berkel: Yeah, and the whole purpose is to be explicit, right? Like you are trying to be absolutely clear about what you’re talking about, and so that’s just helping you to find it further.
Kelly Street: 100%. Gyi, do you have any last questions, because I have one last one?
Gyi Tsakalakis: No, this has been fantastic, make sure that we include a lot of the links that you mentioned in the show notes and elsewhere just so we can make sure listeners have that of course another shout for Schema App, go check it out tons of great information in there and thank you so much, Martha.
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely, happy to be here.
Kelly Street: Alright, my last question.
Martha van Berkel: Alright, on the hot seat.
Kelly Street: Because it is called Lunch Hour Legal Marketing, we’ve forgotten this a few times, but I remember it this time to ask. Martha, what did you have for lunch today?
Martha van Berkel: Oh, I had a beautiful Kale Salad with Smoked Salmon.
Kelly Street: Nice, you are getting a lot of Kale into your life.
Martha van Berkel: Absolutely, I am a kaleaholic and then with a little like brewed Kombucha, it’s a fermented tea. We’re located in Guelph, it is actually like an agricultural innovation center and so we get a lot of stuff farm fresh or from a lot of local producers.
Kelly Street: Nice, do you make your Kombucha?
Martha van Berkel: Not yet.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Kelly, do you?
Kelly Street: I cheat, I get mine from my mother-in-law. I used to. I did — I brewed my own for like six years and then I taught my mother-in-law how to make it and she does it way better than we do, and has amazing flavors like cranberry orange which I just had some today.
Martha van Berkel: Okay, so awesome, you get your mother from your mother-in-law.
Kelly Street: Yeah.
Martha van Berkel: Kombucha jelly.
Kelly Street: Well, actually I believe we gave her a mother because we had been brewing it. It’s pretty great.
Martha van Berkel: Point of clarification, the mother is like kind of like when you’re brewing beer like that, a sort of part that you said you started from.
Kelly Street: Yes, otherwise known as another – just like Schema is kind of weird otherwise known as a SCOBY a.k.a. Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast.
Martha van Berkel: See, this is why we need to clarify things with structured data.
Kelly Street: Yes, exactly, exactly. Awesome, yes, like Gyi said, thank you so much Martha for joining us. I am sure everybody learned so much and if you have any questions, Martha, where can people reach out to you at?
Martha van Berkel: Sure. So on social media I mostly hang out on Twitter, so @marthavanberkel or @schemaapptool, but @marthavanberkel you can reach me there either tweet at me or DM me, I’m happy to sort of join in conversations, and then you can find me on our website www.schemaapp.com, and again, we are here to sort of educate the market as well as sort of be a resource to help people understand. So, check out our content if we are missing something specific let us know and we’ll do our best to produce that for you.
And I guess, I should tell you like, I did just launch a podcast that talks about more of like how this world is changing.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Yes.
Martha van Berkel: So it just got published on Google Podcast today, but it’s called “Connecting the Digital Dots” and I talked to other people like Bill Slawski and Nick Wilsdon is the SEO for Vodafone. About sort of things we’re seeing changing in the market we talk about like the future of search. The other one that’s really relevant to our conversation we had today is Rob Bucci, so he is the founder of getSTAT, that was just bought by Moz and we have a whole podcast talking about that transition from keywords to topics.
Kelly Street: Fabulous. Thank you so much and thank you to our listeners. If you have yet to subscribe, please go ahead and hit that Subscribe button. Find us on Apple Podcasts, give us a rating and review on there, at Google Podcasts or any of your other favorite podcast apps. Thanks so much.
Gyi Tsakalakis: And if you happened to have a review podcast site, please make sure to add structured data to your review.
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The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own, and do not represent the views of nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, or subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
Kelly Street: And we are going to prove that you can learn even when you are inside the matrix.
Gyi Tsakalakis: And that Kelly randomly [Beep].
Kelly Street: No, they are going to edit that part out. They cannot use them.
Gyi Tsakalakis: Alright, sure. They have an amazing track record of editing out the things that we don’t want.
Kelly Street: Yeah, I think they are one. Over five now.
Gyi Tsakalakis: I have been good with it really, I mean, I get all sorts of feedback. Listen to your episode, you are really weird but great information. That’s my review by the way for Lunch Hour Legal Marketing. Awkward, Weird, Great Info.
Kelly Street: I mean it is all those things.