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How to use Schema to create a Google Action

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Google recently announced that publishers can now create Google Actions from web content using schema markup.

For brands, Google Actions can be a great way to get more mileage out of your SEO strategy and offer another opportunity to reach searchers organically. Optimizing for newer SEO features like Google Actions and rich results are becoming increasingly critical when it comes to pleasing the algorithm.

While the option isn’t available for every content type, this new capability is a big deal for less technical users looking to, ahem, get in on the Actions.

What Are Google Actions?

Actions are apps designed for the Google Assistant. They range from apps like the Dominos delivery action to health and fitness apps to personality tests and ride-hailing services.

Actions work when the user prompts the Assistant with a phrase like, “OK, Google, talk to [Action].”

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According to Google, here’s a representation of what happens “behind the scenes” during an interaction:

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It’s important to understand that all Actions take place inside the cloud, though users can access them on any device with the Google Assistant enabled. Each action is also tied to a specific intent and is programmed with a corresponding fulfillment process to complete a given request.

Speaking of intent, let’s move on to the next section, where I’ll go over the link between schema markup and Google Actions.

Google Actions + Schema

Schema markup is a type of microdata that gives Google more context about the intent of any given piece of content.

When you add schema markup to a webpage, it creates an enhanced description – aka a rich result – which appears on the front page of Google. These rich results include everything from “book now buttons” for local businesses to recipe instructions, contact information and events.

Search engines need to match content to search queries, and part of assessing the quality of a search result depends on intent.

Schema is a way for websites to let search engines know more about the intent behind the content. It’s also a requirement for websites that want to be eligible for Google’s rich results – which increasingly account for the lion’s share of the first page in the search results.

Of course, adding the markup alone won’t guarantee position zero. You’ll need to make sure you follow Google’s recommendations perfectly, that you choose the right schema for the page you’re targeting, and that your content is useful, credible and engaging.

It’s a tall order, but Google’s latest announcement brings schema to Google Actions, offering an additional channel for earning some of your SEO share back.

For content creators is, this means that they now have the ability to create Google Actions, regardless of whether or not they know their way around Dialogflow or the Google Actions Console.

Instead, Google automatically generates an Action when users add specific markup to eligible content types.

Google Actions schema: Content types

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The main benefit of using schema for content actions is that it provides an opportunity to increase brand awareness in a format with limited advertising opportunities.

Using schema markup, Google can create a variety of Actions based on six types of content that you might publish on the web. Here’s a look at the supported content.

Podcasts

Last May, Google announced they would be adding podcasts to the search results screen through a new structured markup option.

For podcasters long reliant on clunky search features on platforms like Apple Podcasts or Stitcher, the option to improve discoverability in the Google Search results is huge.

The markup allows podcasters to improve their showing in the Google Search results and on Google Podcasts, with individual episode descriptions and an embedded player for each right there on the first page. Another new feature, Deeper Podcast search, lets users search for the actual audio directly inside the podcast using Google transcriptions.

Connecting podcasts to a Google Action takes things to the next level, making it easy for users to find your podcast in the Assistant directory and play episodes directly from their phone, smart speaker, or Google Home display.

Here’s how to turn podcasts into a Google Action:

FAQs

Per Google guidelines, you can apply FAQ schema to any site that features a list of questions and answers on just about any subject. Meaning, the option isn’t limited to the official FAQ pages included on a company’s website; instead, you can create FAQ pages for any resource or topic relevant to your business.

What’s nice about FAQ schema – whether it’s linked to an Action or not – is those brands that earn position zero can take up a ton of real estate on the SERPs.

As with all other types of schema, FAQ content needs to match what’s on your website 100%. Otherwise, Google may hit you with a manual action. It’s also important to note that FAQ content is purely informational in intent – and as such, you can’t use markup as a free advertising channel.

By turning your FAQ pages into Google Actions, the Google Assistant can read your answers out loud when searchers enter a related voice query.

Here’s what you’ll need to know.

Valid vs. invalid use-cases

FAQ pages must be written from the perspective of the website, with no option for users to submit alternative answers.

This can take the form of either a product support page where, again, users don’t have the option to offer additional answers. This means that forum pages or pages where users can submit questions and provide answers don’t count.

In those instances, you’ll need to add the QAPage markup instead (keep in mind, this will not automatically create an action).

Markup the entire thing

When you add FAQ schema to your page, make sure that you include all text associated with both the question and the answer. Notice how this Booking.com example includes the question as a complete sentence and a conversational answer–they don’t just say, “it’s $167.”

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Additionally, all FAQ content must be accessible to the visitor on the source page. So, if you click through to Booking.com based on that answer, you’ll see that exact same text on the official website.

Here’s an example of FAQ markup in JSON-LD format:

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Recipes

Recipe markup allows users to promote their content through rich cards presented in the Google Assistant and learn about your content in the Assistant directory. Use it to highlight nutritional information, prep time, and ingredient lists, along with images that get searchers interested in your food.

What’s more, you can use the recipe schema together with the guidance markup, which gives consumers a way to follow along with audio instructions for your recipes.

As it stands, you’ll need to fill out a Google Form to get started with the feature. It’s pretty short, requiring only your name, email, domain, and company name.

It’s also worth pointing out that you’ll need to make sure your page features both the recipe and guidance markup to be eligible for rich search results and as a Google Action.

Additionally, you’ll need to make sure that you set up your structured data correctly.

A few things to consider:

  • Use recipe structured data if your content focuses on showing users how to prepare a specific dish. Google also mentions that things like “facial scrub” don’t qualify as recipes, as they’re not something you would present as an edible dish. In those cases, your content is probably a better fit with the HowTo schema. 
  • If you want your recipes to show up in a host-specific list (a summarized recipe collection) you’ll need to include the following:
    • Use the ItemList structured data to summarize the recipes you’d like to feature. You can opt to provide ItemList schema together with recipe structured data or on its own. 
    • Your site must also have a summary page that lists out all recipes in a collection, like a round-up of summer cocktail recipes or a collection of Thanksgiving recipes. The idea is, when a user clicks a summary link from the SERPs, they’ll then be directed to a website that shows each of these recipes in their entirety.

Here’s an example of recipe schema in JSON-LD format:

Source

How-to guides

How-to schema can be used to markup articles that contain instructional information that show users how to do something new.

As is the case with the other content types I’ve mentioned, there are some guidelines you should know about before applying the HowTo markup to your site.

According to Google Developers, HowTo markup applies to content where the main focus of that page is the how-to. In other words, it doesn’t count if you write a long-form article that includes a short how-to section along with several different elements. The content must also be read sequentially as a series of steps.

How-to content must also abide by these guidelines:

  • You cannot markup offensive, explicit, or violent content. 
  • Each step must be marked up in its entirety.
  • You cannot use HowTo markup for advertising purposes
  • HowTo does not apply to recipes—as they have their own schema.
  • If applicable, include images, along with a list of materials and tools needed to complete the task.

Here’s an example of HowTo markup in JSON-LD format:

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Right now, HowTo Actions are only available for Google Assistant, not for Smart Displays.

However, Google is working to sign up more publishers interested in creating how-to content for smart displays. Sign up here to let Google Developers know you’re interested in this option – and perhaps we’ll see this feature roll out sometime in 2020.

News

Adding markup to your news content helps you increase visibility in the SERPs and gives users the option to consume your content via Google Assistant.

Users can apply this schema to blog content, articles, and news articles, though they’ll need to be a registered publisher on Google News to take advantage of this tool.

The News markup makes stories visually stand out in the SERPs. Features like the host carousel, top stories carousel, visual stories, and large thumbnails and headlines allow users an opportunity to attract more organic traffic to their sites by giving them more real estate to share content.

To add voice compatibility to the list of features, you’ll need to choose between AMP and non-AMP formatting, which I’ve laid out for you here.

AMP with structured data

Google recommends that users opt for AMP, as its fast load times mean there’s less of a chance that the Assistant will experience a delay when “reading” an article aloud. It’s also worth pointing out, AMP articles come with a few more requirements than non-AMP content. 

To set it up:

Recommended properties:

  • Author
  • Author Name
  • Date Published
  • Headline
  • Image
  • Publisher
  • Publisher Logo
  • Publisher Logo URL
  • Publisher Logo Height
  • Publisher Logo Width
  • Publisher Name
  • Date Modified
  • Description
  • Main Entity of Page

Non-AMP with structured data

While Google encourages users to embrace AMP, you can add structured data to Non-AMP articles, as well. And like their AMP counterparts, those news stories that include markup have a higher likelihood of appearing in the search results with rich results features.

To set it up:

  • Add structured markup to the page
  • Make sure you follow the guidelines to ensure Google can crawl your page.
  • Test the page using the Structured Data Testing Tool

Recommended properties:

  • Headline
  • Image
  • Date Published
  • Data Modified

Keep in mind, you will need to mark up your content as structured articles for it to show in the news result.

Here’s an example of article markup in JSON-LD form:

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Before you apply markup

To turn News content into a Google Action, you’ll need to meet the following requirements.

Have a dedicated news site:

  • Use static, unique URLs
  • Content must be original
  • Ads, affiliate links, and sponsored content should be kept to a minimum
  • Consider using a news-specific XML site map for easy crawling

Here’s an example of News markup in JSON-LD:

Markup vs. templates

In addition to markups, Google introduced another simplified way to create Actions for the Google Assistant: templates. While this option isn’t automated like the Google Action schema approach, there’s no code involved in the template process, either.

Users can quickly create an action by filling out a Google Sheet, although this option only extends to four content types: personality quizzes, flashcards, trivia and how-to videos. How-to videos must be uploaded to YouTube to be eligible.

According to the developers’ page, getting started is relatively simple. All you need to do is complete the following steps:

  • First, select the type of Action you’d like to create (in this case, let’s assume it’s a how-to video).
  • Indicate what kind of personality you’d like to have
  • Add steps via Google sheets. These are written instructions that correspond with the steps followed in the video. It should look like this:
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Claim your new action

If you’ve already published your content with relevant structured data, Google may automatically create a page in the Assistant directory.

If this happens, the site owner will receive an email prompting them to claim the page. You can also do this by visiting the directory itself and clicking the link to claim the page.

Remove your action

Because Google auto-generates content Actions, you may end up with some unwanted Actions in the directory. To remove them, all you need to do is follow these three quick steps:

  1. Log in to the Actions console and select the unwanted project from the displayed tiles.
  2. Head over to the Versions section, found on the Overview page. Find the published version of your project and click on the Overflow menu.
  3. Select “Unpublish” and that’s it.

Wrapping up

Smart devices and voice search are becoming increasingly valuable pieces of the SEO landscape, and Google Actions offer a new point of entry for brands looking to increase visibility in the organic search results.

This latest update makes Google Actions accessible to a broader range of marketers who may not have the time or the know-how to build an Action from scratch.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, a digital marketing teacher at the University of California San Diego and author of the book Digital Influencer, A Guide to Achieving Influencer Status Online. Throughout his career, Lincoln has worked with hundreds of websites, ranging from start-ups to household names, and has won awards in SEO, CRO, analytics and Social Media. In the media, Lincoln has been featured on sites such as Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc. Magazine, CIO magazine and more.



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Interview with Lior Davidovitch, the founder of PUBLC

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30-second summary:

  • The worldwide web is a clear reflection of all the shifts 2020 has brought and as businesses and marketers crunch majority of their budgets and pivot strategies.
  • In light of the current scenario businesses, digital marketers, and content creators continue to face some key problems around digital ad revenue, ad blocking, and more.
  • We caught up with Lior Davidovitch, the founder of PUBLC, an innovative search engine that reinvents user experience and technology.
  • PUBLC is a new search engine built by everyone, for everyone, that aspires to create an equally distributed web economy using blockchain token economics.
  • Read on to discover insights on how PUBLC serves a more equally distributed web economy using blockchain and token economics, generating a new and native revenue stream for online publishers.

The worldwide web is a clear reflection of all the shifts 2020 has brought and as businesses and marketers crunch majority of their budgets and pivot strategies, these remain some key problems of today’s digital space:

  • Digital ad revenue has taken a hit due to ad blockers.
  • Online publishers struggle to find a native revenue model as an alternative to ad-based models, which only grows bigger now with the COVID-19 impact on the advertising industry. Digital ad revenue is declining, as use of adblockers is increasing
  • Google and Facebook duopoly dominate over 60% of global ad revenue.

We caught up with Lior Davidovitch, the founder of PUBLC, a search engine that aims to reward the entire web ecosystem by creating an innovative, more equally distributed web economy using blockchain and token economics, generating a new and native revenue stream for online publishers.

Q1. Can you tell us about your background and journey towards becoming the founder of PUBLC?

I was always one of those kids that constantly thought of different business ideas and tried to invent things. The original idea for PUBLC started over 15 years ago when I was frustrated with the existing search engines. I always thought that people know best and there should be a way to add the human element to search for a better-organized web. Back then I had mocked up a few presentations and a family friend even connected me to a VC, but I was so young and had no idea what I was doing. Later in university, I wasn’t keen on academia and dropped out to start my journey as a start-up entrepreneur. In the beginning, I was just playing around with different ideas, and eventually, I saw that I’m always going back to the same original idea of creating a new search engine. I started completely from scratch, learning everything in the process, making mistakes, learning again, and building PUBLC layer by layer.

Q2. What was the biggest challenge you faced while setting up PUBLC? How did you solve it?

Just saying that you want to create a new search engine is a huge challenge by itself, doing it the way PUBLC does, creating a new search engine that completely reinvents the user experience and technology with a token-based business model is an even bigger challenge! If you add new and complicated technologies like blockchain and AI to the mix, the challenge becomes even bigger. Plus, the fact that you’re doing it as a small self-funded startup makes it almost impossible! But eventually, we did it step by step, layer by layer and built this platform that’s backed with AI and a blockchain financial infrastructure.

Q3. Can you give us a brief insight into PUBLC and your token economy?

PUBLC is a new type of search engine built by everyone, for everyone, that aspires to create an equally distributed web economy using blockchain token economics. You can think of PUBLC as a mix between Google and Wikipedia, where we combine human intelligence with artificial intelligence (AI) enabling users to categorize the content and “teach” PUBLC how to better organize the web, creating a new search experience, while also rewarding the users for participating in the process.

With regards to the token economics, on the one hand, our token, PUBLX, is granted by PUBLC as a reward to its community that contributes to PUBLC. On the other hand, the tokens are used as the only form of payment for PUBLC’s business services used by advertisers on the platform. This balance between supply and demand is what establishes the token value.

Token earners, be it publishers, brands, influencers, or content categorizers, can either use their token rewards to pay for any of our business services or exchange them on cryptocurrency exchanges, where the tokens can be bought by advertisers. So, we encourage everyone to checkout PUBLC and discover how they could earn PUBLX tokens.

Q5. How can businesses use PUBLC? Any tips on how they can get started with PUBLC?

PUBLC was built with all the different actors of the web ecosystem in mind, as we believe PUBLC is a platform that is meant to serve everyone and reward them for the value they create. Businesses as online publishers, brands, and celebrities benefit from PUBLC as it gives them exposure to new audiences, drives traffic to their websites, and earns them revenue for every time a user clicks on their content and views it. Businesses can get started on PUBLC by submitting their website, categorizing their content, and curating their pages. Our job is to support all those people and help them better achieve their goals, so feel free to reach out to us, we would love to hear from you!

Q6. Would video content be sourced from platforms like YouTube?

Yes! PUBLC curates and displays video content that users upload on YouTube and other such sites. You’ll be surprised to know that we even reward sites like YouTube as they also provide value to the ecosystem for hosting all that content.

Q7. What are your future plans for PUBLC? Will you venture into the digital advertising aspect as well? If yes, we’re assuming it will be in-ecosystem currency of PUBLX tokens?

Besides inventing a new user experience and technology we also had to invent a new revenue model connected to our token economy – and that’s crucial to the success of the platform – having those PUBLX tokens that are given to everyone for their contribution have real-life value. In order to do that we built a new set of business services such as, promoted content, brand awareness, ecommerce, and more, which offer advertisers a new way to enhance their brand awareness or conversions in a native and organic way within the platform without compromising PUBLC’s user experience for the users. 

Our business services work differently than the way it’s done on traditional search engines, and it rethinks this traditional advertising model of just promoting ads over search queries. The usual method is good but it could be different. We put more focus on content and the user experience because when you get ads, whether it’s on Google, Facebook, or any other platform – as a user that harms your experience. We aim to deliver our business services in a very native and organic way that doesn’t harm the user experience. For example, PUBLC offers promoted content that is real, in the form of videos, articles, and other multimedia. These could be campaigns that not only provide advertisers with the worth of their money but also engage and add value for the users. Furthermore, we incorporate PUBLC’s community in the approval of ads, having them take part in flagging spam and fraud, and helping shape PUBLC revenue model.

Q8. Do you use citations? How does the web validate your resources?

We’re focused more on the human element of search. People add domains and content URLs which are then approved by our community, and only then are indexed and crawled, making our sources more credible. There are many parameters that our algorithm evaluates in order to rank content, to give you a better idea I’ll share the three main key elements:

  1. Relevancy: How the content is relevant to the search query or the topic that is searched
  2. Popularity: How many PUBLC users saw and clicked on the content
  3. Content age: How old is it, when was it published

Users are the first gatekeepers of which content gets indexed on the PUBLC search engine. 

Q9. How does PUBLC’s search engine combine human intelligence and AI? Is it curated by people? How do you counter aspects of “subjectivity” and “bias”?

As I’ve mentioned before, I strongly believe that people know best. They would know best about what topic(s) the is content related to or which search queries best describe the content. This is unlike how typical search engines work by mainly analyzing the text of the content. Having users add and categorize content on PUBLC works on a micro-scale for that specific content. However, when you add machine learning and AI to that you can adapt on a much larger scale, learn better about content categorization and indexing in a more precise, user-friendly, and genuine manner. Our search engine intends to broaden users’ horizons by reaching new content that they didn’t even know existed.

Yes, giving too much power to people could bring bias. But I’d like to refer to PUBLC on the lines of Wikipedia where you have a large group of people editing a specific piece of content that could be very controversial, and they still find a way to do it. On PUBLC we have an entire system of a reputation for users and publishers so they’re always building their own reputation simultaneously. 

For example, a user could build their reputation on the PUBLC platform for any niche, let’s assume, blockchain. Now if this user claims something about blockchain, the system considers their subject matter expertise and deems their claim right for crawling, categorizing, and indexing. 

We have everything validated by the users of the community. I think users very quickly know spam when they see it, so they wouldn’t approve spam-like content with the risk of lowering their reputation. We built this set of rules to incentivize people to do good and if they don’t play by the rules, they’re just going to lose.

Q10. Could you give us a small brief on how you’re dealing with privacy? Is there anything else that you’d like people to know about in terms of data privacy?

Privacy is one of PUBLC’s core, crucial elements. In fact, that’s the big problem with the web that we also saw fit to address. Platforms like Facebook and the others make their business out of the users’ data, and in a way compromises their privacy. That’s why there’s a huge loss of trust for users. One of our ambitions and aims is to use blockchain to enable users to have the best, most personal user experience while having 100% privacy. We are now building this element, and plan to have all of our users’ personal data stored on the blockchain and accessed only by them ensuring them with complete control over their data that’s also kept anonymous.

Users would have their own PUBLC IDs but there would be no way that I, the platform, or any of us could access that information. If a user personally chooses to share their information with advertisers and publishers to help them understand the user profile or engagement with their content – that too would be completely anonymized. 

Since it’s still the users’ data giving value to a business they would also be rewarded for it. This way we help users earn some of the revenue made through that data. But again, it would be completely anonymized data ensuring that businesses can’t trace a user to their real-life entity. That’s one of the great potentials that blockchain gives is the bandwidth to build platforms that are more focused on the privacy elements.

Q11. What are your predictions for search and SEO in 2020?

As I’m sure you can already guess, I believe search and SEO will be more focused on the human element, and that we will continue to see improvements in understanding the user’s intent. I think we will also see SEO become more accessible to the creators, and more straightforward, without harming the creativity and user experience of the content. Doing so by making tools to create the best optimization and content categorization. One of the biggest problems I see today is that creative content creators are forced to focus their efforts on SEO rather than on creating better content. I hope that with PUBLC, creators could focus on creating creative content while having the tools to actively influence their content’s SEO, without having the two contradict one another. For me, the prediction would be – better user experience, better content, and hopefully a better web.



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Quora keyword targets, Angular SEO & old stock SEO

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