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Using Schema to prepare your site during a crisis.

by: Michele Lash Digital Marketing

Get critical messages out there.

Marketing departments everywhere have been working overtime to communicate updates and critical messages to the public during this national crisis. The situation changes daily, and sometimes by the hour. It’s important to be sure that the most current updates are available for people who need them.

As a response, the folks at Schema.org have released new datatypes to help organizations and governments get their message out and help search engines find the most updated information to serve to the public.

What is Schema?

A quick primer for those not familiar with Schema markup. Schema is markup you apply to web pages which helps Google and other search engines better understand your business and the content on your site. It allows websites to provide search engines context about content type and purpose, including things such as images, blogs, events, products and more.  Search engines use this information to index your content in a consumable way by the end user.  Schema is also utilized heavily for voice search and for voice-activated requests by smart devices such as Alexa, Google Home, and others.

For example, you can use Schema to tell Google what type of business you run, your hours, your location, and the geography you cover. You can detail information for each service or product you provide.  There is markup for just about every industry and every content type out there.

The latest release of Schema.org 7.1 contains new content types and attributes for time-sensitive COVID-19 updates and information.

Special Announcements

Using the new SpecialAnnouncement datatype, organizations can now highlight critical changes such as closures or change in hours, quarantine guidelines, or changes in business function.  Use cases may include:

  • County-wide quarantine guidelines (Shelter-in-Place, Lockdown, etc..)
  • Bank branches that have closed or reduced hours. Or if visiting a branch is by appointment only.
  • A grocery store that has special hours for high-risk individuals.
  • Visitation limitations at a hospital.
  • New entry procedures at your facility.
  • Closures of any kind including schools, daycare, public offices, libraries, or public spaces.

    Any type of change in how customers, members, or patients interact with you can be identified as a special announcement. This datatype allows for a timestamp so search engines can see what is most current and understand when policies have been altered. You can also provide a link to more information about a particular update.

Most importantly, they’ve added geographic region to this markup so organizations can be clear about which policies apply where.  For example, Allegheny County in Pennsylvania is under stricter travel limitations than the surrounding counties. This markup will specify which guidelines are applicable to each county.


COVID Testing Facilities

With testing facilities popping up quickly to accommodate the demand, this new datatype has been added to help search engines to index this quickly changing information.

Whether the test facilities are at established or temporary locations, this markup can be applied to show address, phone number, hours, whether it is a drive-through facility, maximum attendees permitted, and languages spoken among many other attributes.

Online Events

Many in-person events and conferences have been canceled or have moved online. Two new markup options are now available to show these changes.

For events which were in-person but have been moved to online-only, the new EventMovedOnline datatype can be applied. 

For all events, a new eventAttendenceMode attribute has been added to detail if its in-person, online, or mixed.  This new property can simply be added to any exiting Event datatypes already marked-up on your site.

These datatypes are sure to be refined and updated as new content needs arise during this national emergency.

Do you need Schema for your site?

Most likely, the answer is yes, your site would likely benefit from Schema. If you aren’t sure where to start or if you aren’t sure if your site has schema at all, give us a call.  We can help you assess the Schema that you have and talk about whether there is additional markup you may want to add or help you start from scratch.  It’s often a small thing that can go a long way with search engines and ultimately your end users.