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A Complete Guide To Local Markup & Rich Results

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A Complete Guide To Local Markup & Rich Results

How important is schema markup for local search engine optimization (SEO)?

Most local SEO experts and webmasters are familiar with the impact of having well-optimized SEO elements on their landing pages, such as optimized title tags, well-written content, and more.

However, what exactly can you accomplish by applying schema markup to your local business website?

Quite a bit, actually.

When it comes to organic search, there are several reasons why having a proper and thorough schema applied to your website is a substantial competitive advantage.

In fact, it’s been reiterated by Google time and time again that schema helps search crawlers do their job more effectively by helping them comprehend a landing page and delivering relevant information in the SERPs.

In this post, we will share a few recommendations to help your local business get the most out of using schema to boost your local SEO.

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First, let’s start with defining what exactly schema markup is.

The Difference Between Schema, Structured Data & Rich Results

The terms “structured data” and “schema” are often used interchangeably in webmaster and SEO verticals.

However, before we dive into the recommendations it’s helpful to know the semantic differences between these terms.

Structured Data

Google defines structured data as “a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content.”

To put it simply, this format was developed to help search engines accurately understand a webpage to properly display snippets of information in the search results pages.

Schema

Schema is a form of structured data that was officially launched via schema.org.

Schema was created via a collaborative project by all the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex) in 2011.

Utilizing the markup available on schema.org enables a landing page to be eligible for rich results.

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Rich Results

Rich results (formerly called rich snippets) are any extra information you see in the search engine results pages (SERPs) that are beyond the atypical blue title tag and meta description (breadcrumbs, review stars, sitelinks, etc.).

Google provides two tools to audit structured data on your website: the Schema Markup Validator and the Rich Results Test.

Below are a few examples of local businesses that are benefitting from rich results:

Review Rich Results Example

Image from Google, May 2022Review Rich Results

Breadcrumb Rich Results Example

Breadcrumb rich resultsImage from Google, May 2022Breadcrumb rich results

Sitelink Rich Results Example

Sitelink Rich Results exampleImage from Google, May 2022Sitelink Rich Results example

FAQ Rich Results Example

FAQ Rich Results exampleImage from Google, May 2022FAQ Rich Results example

Is Structured Data A Local Ranking Signal?

There has been much debate over the years about whether or not structured data in itself is a search engine ranking signal.

Prominent Google engineer John Mueller has specified more than once that structured data by itself is not a direct search engine ranking signal.

However, structured data indirectly improves search engine visibility through the following means.

Structured Data Helps Search Engine Crawlers Better Comprehend Landing Pages

Properly and thoroughly implemented structured data makes the search crawler’s job easier.

A good analogy would be comparing website properties (content, images, media files, etc.) to a garage full of various boxes and items (snow shovel for the winter, inflatable pool for the summer, etc.).

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Let’s say you are having a garage sale and you want visitors (i.e. more website visitors).

It’s Google’s job to advertise your garage sale on the search results pages.

For most websites, Google provides the bare minimum blue title tag and meta descriptions.

However, if your website is properly marked up with structured data then Google may very well reward your websites with a bigger advertisement (i.e. rich results) about your garage sale.

Structured data essentially puts labels on the different objects in your garage making the Google search crawler’s job easier.

Structured Data Improves The Possibility Of Obtaining Rich Results Which Improves Click-through Rates

A rich result is much more eye-catching in the search results and will most likely improve CTR (click-through rates).

The CTR boost can vary depending on what kind of rich result is obtained, for example, FAQ results do very well.

This means your landing page is receiving more traffic because users are seeing relevant snippets about what it contains.

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There is also some debate that increased CTR might be a positive SEO signal in itself (signals more engagement & relevancy).

Either way, having an improved CTR means more traffic wherever your website ranks.

What Structured Data Is Recommended For Local Business Websites?

Most local websites have at least some basic structured data enabled.

However, the more thorough and detailed structured data is properly applied the better.

Next, we’ll offer some step-by-step recommendations for how to properly apply structured data:

Select The Best Schema.org Category

Schema.org provides several different schema property options that are uniquely relevant for local businesses.

In order to have necessary local business schema properties (which will be discussed further in detail below), it is imperative to select the most relevant schema category for your local business.

For example, if you are promoting an ice cream chain, the most relevant category is schema.org/IceCreamShop.

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If you are trying to promote a local hardware chain then you’d select schema.org/HardwareStore.

Relevant schema categories will help Google better topically understand your website.

What If There Are No Relevant Schema Categories For My Local Business?

If you can’t find a schema.org category that is relevant for your business then the default category should be schema.org/LocalBusiness.

If you’re technically inclined, it is possible to post new schema category recommendations on the schema.org Github forum.

The schema.org developers respond to detailed recommendations on this forum and occasionally create new schema.org properties.

I Selected The Most Accurate Category So What Should I Implement?

After you’ve selected the appropriate category for your business you must have the below schema.org sub-properties to ensure your schema validates.

Errors could disqualify you from obtaining rich results.

The below schema properties are required for validation:

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  • Url: The URL of the associated landing page.
  • Name: Name of the business.
  • OpeningHours: Opening and closing hours of a business.
  • Telephone: Contact telephone number for the business.
  • Image: This can be any relevant image file on your landing page.  It is recommended to use a storefront image if that’s available.
  • Logo: This should be a link to your business logo image.
  • Address: The business address which should be visible on the landing page.
  • Geo: This is the geo coordinates of your business location.
  • AreaServed: It is recommended to use a zipcode for this schema property.
  • MainContentOfPage: Main body content of your landing page.

Common schema properties that are highly recommended:

  • Review: A review of your local business.
  • AggregrateRating: The overall rating, based on a collection of reviews or ratings, of the item.  Make sure to follow Google’s rules on Review Rich Results on this.
  • FAQPage: If you have a FAQ page it is imperative to add this specialty schema. Make sure to follow Google’s rules and guidelines.
  • AlternateName: Businesses commonly have related names e.g. Acme Stores vs. Acme Inc. The alternateName property marks up other well-known corporate name variations (including abbreviations).
  • SameAs: This is a reference to a 3rd party websites that are related to the website’s identity i.e. Facebook pages, Youtube Channel pages, Wikipedia pages, etc.
  • HasMap: A URL to the map of your local business.
  • Breadcrumb: This schema marks up the existing breadcrumb navigation structure on your website. This schema is highly recommended because it often appears in the SERPS as a rich result.
  • Department: Many chain retailers have internal departments (e.g. pharmacies inside grocery stores). This specialty schema helps markup these department stores.
  • PriceRange: The price range of the business, for example, $$$.

More advanced schema types:

  • Sitelinks Search Box: A sitelinks search box is a quick way for users to do an internal search on your website via the Google SERP vs. visiting your website directly.
  • AdditionalType: This is a specialty schema that helps Google understand what your website is topically related to. This can be accomplished by using Wikipedia categories as values for this property. For example, if a local business sells sporting gear it is recommended to have the additionalType property  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sports_equipment.

How Do You Make Sure Your Structured Data Is Validated?

It is very important to make sure your structured data is properly validated.

If it’s not then your landing page will most likely not qualify for rich results.

Google specifically says that if there are error(s): The rich result cannot appear in Google Search as a rich result.

As mentioned earlier there are two different tools to make sure your schema is properly validated: Schema Markup Validator and the Rich Results Test.

Google Search Console also provides enhancement reports on structured data which will be explained in further detail below.

Schema Markup Validator

The Schema Markup Validator enables you to get into the details of structured data itself.

It shows both errors and warnings.

It also allows you to test structured data before it’s enabled on your webpages via pasting code directly into the tool.

Example Of Schema Markup Validator Result

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Example of Schema Markup Validator ResultImage from Schema Markup Validator, May 2022Example of Schema Markup Validator Result

Also just to note that while it’s imperative to correct structured data errors you will also often see structured “warnings.”

These warnings are of much lesser concern and Google’s John Muller even mentioned you don’t have to fix all warnings.

A lot of sites have earnings with structured data and that’s perfectly fine.

Rich Results Test

The Rich Results Test is Google’s official tool to see which rich results can be generated by structured data.

This tool also lets you preview how rich results will look in Google SERPs.

Example Of Rich Results Test Preview

Rich Results Test PreviewImage from Rich Result test tool, May 2022Rich Results Test Preview

The Rich Result test tool will report structured data errors and warnings as well.

As mentioned earlier, warnings are common and won’t prevent rich results from appearing.

However, structured data errors must be resolved to qualify for rich results.

Structured Data Monitoring Via Google Search Console

Google also offers sitewide structured data monitoring via Google Search Console.

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It is highly recommended to have a verified Google Search Console account for your local business website to enable monitoring.

Google Search Console will provide sitewide enhancement reports on how many webpages have validated structured data, warnings, and errors.

Google also sends notification emails if there are issues with structured data on your local business website.

It is recommended to pay attention to these notifications.

Example Of Sitewide Structured Data Report

Example of Sitewide Structured Data ReportImage from Google Search Console, May 2022Example of Sitewide Structured Data Report

How Can I Tell How Many Rich Results My Website Is Getting In The SERPs?

Besides spot-checking rich results, it would be ideal to see how well a local business website is performing across all the Google SERPs.

There are few third-party SEO tools that scrape Google SERPs and provide reports.

One notable tool, Semrush, has a “SERP Feature” report that shows how many aggregate rich results your website is getting.

Example Of Semrush SERP Feature Report

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SERP featuresImage from Semrush, May 2022SERP features

Is There Anything I Should Avoid When Using Structured Data?

Structured data is meant to be code to label or markup existing properties on your local business website.

Google explicitly requires that your structured data matches what is on the associated landing page.

However, structured data spam does exist and Google can apply manual penalties if they believe a webmaster is egregiously breaking the rules.

Make sure to follow Google’s structured data guidelines carefully.

Conclusion

There is no drawback in applying properly formatted and relevant structured data to your local business’ website.

Also, schema.org is continually coming out with new schema properties along with more integration via Google Search Console.

Most common SEO strategies (meta tag optimization, custom copywriting, design changes, etc.) usually require significant effort and visible on-page website updates.

In comparison, structured data updates are invisible to users visiting your website.

They also don’t require any direct changes to anything on your website besides including a new source code script.

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They also have great potential to substantially improve visibility in the Google SERPs via rich results.

If you’re a local business looking to further optimize your website make sure to visit schema.org along with a webmaster to start applying structured data.

More resources:


Featured Image: Hangouts Vector Pro/Shutterstock

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Top 6 Free Survey Maker Tools For Marketers

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Top 6 Free Survey Maker Tools For Marketers

The number of online surveys has risen dramatically in the past decade, according to the Pew Research Center.

From short social media polls to lengthy feedback forms, it’s never been easier to survey your target audience and find out what exactly they’re thinking.

When it comes to free survey makers, you have plenty of options to choose from.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is you have to wade through your options to figure out the best survey tool for you.

In this article, I’ve done that dirty work for you.

Below I outline the top six free survey makers, with a simple bulleted list of their pros and cons, so you can quickly select the best one for your needs.

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But first up, the caveats.

What You’re Missing With Free Survey Makers

When something’s free, there’s usually a catch. The same goes for free survey makers.

Free survey tools, or the free plan offered by a paid survey tool, often come with the following limitations:

  • Limited export options. You may not be able to export your survey data for review in Excel or Google Sheets. There may be a PDF-only export option or no export ability at all.
  • Limited analytics. Free survey tools often skimp on the analytics. You may be left to your own pivot tables and Excel expertise if you want to create anything fancy from your survey data.
  • Limited survey functionality. This runs the gamut, from a limit on how many respondents or questions you can have per survey, to only allowing so many question types (e.g., multiple-choice, long-form, etc.).
  • Limited extra perks. By perks, I mean those other features that make software from good to great. With survey makers, that might mean easy-to-access support, the ability to embed surveys in email or webpages, multiple user accounts, or integration with other email marketing or CRM software.
  • No branding. Free survey makers give you their tools for free. In return, you provide them with free brand awareness. Don’t expect to be able to swap out their logo for your own. You’ll probably be stuck with their branding, along with a prominent link to their site throughout the survey or on the thank you page (or both).

If any of the above is a dealbreaker for you, you should plan to drop a little dough on a paid survey tool. That’s why I’ve also included the starting price for all six of the tools featured below.

In case you end up having to upgrade later, it’s easier to do so from a tool you’re already familiar with.

Top 6 Free Survey Tools

Without further ado, I present the best free survey makers you’ll find today. These are listed in no particular order.

1. Google Forms

Screenshot by author, June 2022

Do you live and die by your Google Drive?

Great news: Google also offers free survey software via Google Forms.

Alright, I know I just said these were presented in no particular order, but I’ll openly admit Google Forms is my personal favorite. Just look at all of the features they include in their free plan!

All you need is a free Google account to get started.

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Here’s what’s included in the free plan:

  • Unlimited surveys.
  • Unlimited questions.
  • Unlimited responses.
  • Export to Google Sheets.
  • Survey logic (ability to skip or trigger questions).
  • Ability to embed images and YouTube videos.
  • Ability to embed the survey on your website and share to social media.
  • Survey analytics, updated in real-time.
  • Integration with Google Docs, Sheets, Slides.
  • Unlimited collaborators.
  • Customizable survey templates.
  • Free branding.

What’s missing from the free plan:

  • Enhanced security and collaboration options.
  • Integration with your existing Google Workplace account.

Price: Completely free. Google Workplace pricing starts at $6 per user per month.

Best for: Anyone and everyone, for business or casual use.

2. SurveyMonkey

surveymonkeyScreenshot by author, June 2022

SurveyMonkey is the online survey tool. Established in 1999, it’s still the most well-known online survey software.

Despite the limitations of its free plans, SurveyMonkey continues to be popular thanks to its intuitive interface and brand recognition. Notable clients include Allbirds, Tweezerman, and Adobe.

One nice perk is that you can test out any of the paid features with your free plan. (You just won’t be able to actually use it in your live survey until you pay up.)

Here’s what’s included in the free plan:

  • Unlimited surveys.
  • 10 questions.
  • 15 question types.
  • 100 responses per survey.
  • Over 250 customizable survey templates.
  • Ability to embed the survey on your website.
  • Mobile app.
  • One user.

What’s missing from the free plan:

  • Unlimited questions, question types, and responses.
  • Data exports – this is a biggie!
  • Custom branding.
  • Survey logic (ability to skip or trigger questions).
  • Team collaboration.
  • Advanced security (single sign-on, HIPAA compliance).
  • A/B testing.

Price: Freemium. Paid plans start at $16 per month for individuals, $25 for teams.

Best for: Those who want a tried-and-true survey maker with all the features you could ask for.

3. Typeform

typeformScreenshot by author, June 2022

Many online survey tools are designed for the general public.

Readers of Search Engine Journal will be happy to hear that there’s a survey tool created just for us. Typeform was built specifically with marketers, UX researchers, and business owners like us in mind.

Here’s what’s included in the free plan:

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  • Unlimited surveys.
  • 10 questions per survey.
  • 10 responses per month.
  • Basic question types.
  • Basic reporting and analytics
  • Ability to embed the survey on your website.
  • Integrations with MailChimp, HubSpot, Trello, Google Sheets, Zapier, and more.

What’s missing from the free plan:

  • Unlimited questions and responses.
  • Custom thank you screen.
  • Custom branding.
  • Survey logic (ability to skip or trigger questions).
  • Team collaboration.
  • Ability to accept payment.
  • Ability for survey respondents to upload files.
  • Integration with Facebook pixel and Google Tag Manager.

Price: Freemium. Paid plans start at $29 per month.

Best for: Enterprise users, UX researchers, and marketers hoping to track customer behavior.

4. Zoho Survey

zoho surveyScreenshot by author, June 2022

Zoho Survey is part of the same Zoho suite of apps that caters to sales, HR, IT, finance, and virtually any kind of business user you can think of.

Given their tenure creating SaaS software for business, their survey tool is just as robust as you might expect. Customers include big names like Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, and Change.org.

Here’s what’s included in the free plan:

  • Unlimited surveys.
  • 10 questions per survey.
  • 100 responses per survey.
  • Ability to embed surveys in email or website, or share to social media.
  • Export to PDF.
  • 250 survey templates.
  • Password protection and HTTPS encryption.
  • One user.

What’s missing from the free plan:

  • Unlimited questions and responses.
  • Ability to export to XLS or CSV.
  • Survey logic (ability to skip or trigger questions).
  • Custom branding.
  • Team collaboration.
  • Real-time responses.
  • Multilingual surveys.
  • Integration with Google Sheets, Tableau, Shopify, Zendesk, Eventbrite, and others.

Price: Freemium. Paid plans start at $25 per month.

Best for: Zoho users, or anyone who needs an extra level of security for their surveys.

5. Alchemer

alchemer survey makerScreenshot by author, June 2022

Alchemer is an advanced survey maker developed for the enterprise client.

Paid features include custom coding so you can customize every single element of your survey, from the survey URL to the form logic.

They stand out among free survey makers for being one of the few (besides Google Forms) to offer unlimited questions and Excel exports in their free plan. Clients include Disney, Salesforce, Verizon, and The Home Depot.

Here’s what’s included in the free plan:

  • Three surveys at a time.
  • Unlimited questions.
  • 100 responses.
  • 10 question types.
  • Export to Excel.
  • Customizable templates.

What’s missing from the free plan:

  • Unlimited surveys.
  • Unlimited responses.
  • Unlimited question types.
  • Survey logic (ability to skip or trigger questions).
  • Custom branding.
  • Ability to embed surveys in websites.
  • Export to PDF, PowerPoint, or Word.
  • Ability for survey respondents to upload files.
  • Survey analytics and reporting.
  • Ability to accept payment.

Price: Freemium. Paid plans start at $49 per month.

Best for: Enterprise users needing to create long surveys with advanced logic and question types.

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6. Jotform

jotform survey makerScreenshot by author, June 2022

With over 10,000 templates, Jotform takes the cake as the survey maker with the most form templates on our list.

Jotform also stands out for letting you accept payments with the free plan (although you’re limited to 10).

This popular survey maker includes clients as wide-ranging as AMC and Nickelodeon to Redfin and the American Medical Association.

Here’s what’s included in the free plan:

  • Five surveys.
  • 100 questions per survey.
  • 100 responses per survey.
  • Ability to embed surveys in email or website.
  • Export to PDF or Excel.
  • 10,000 survey templates.

What’s missing from the free plan:

  • Unlimited surveys.
  • Unlimited questions and responses.
  • Survey logic (ability to skip or trigger questions).
  • Custom branding.
  • HIPAA compliance.

Price: Freemium. Paid plans start at $29 per month.

Best for: Users who want a template for every kind of survey possible.

Which Survey Tool Will You Use?

There truly is a survey maker for everybody.

The above options are all solid choices. Which one works for you may depend on your organization’s needs and your personal preferences.

Take advantage of the free trials and see which one you like best.

More Resources:

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Featured Image: Prostock-studio/Shutterstock



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