How to Add a COVID-19 Announcement to Your Website with Schema
Soooo COVID-19 is a pretty big deal. Its impact on local businesses really can’t be overstated.
Arguably, one of the most important things a business can do right now is effectively communicate with their clients.
Are your doors open? Are you focusing on digital/remote/delivery options? Are you taking specific safety/distancing precautions? Answers to these questions could be critical for customers trying to determine which products and services they can still access, or whether they’ll choose you or one of your competitors to patronize.
Our amazing GMB team has put together a whole whack of helpful suggestions around using your Google My Business listing for optimal customer messaging in these uncertain times. It’s constantly being updated as things develop, and it’s well worth a read/bookmark!
Your website is also a critical part of your messaging strategy, and today Google has provided an additional tool you can use alongside it to get the message out: Structured data for COVID-19 announcements.
This is brand new, so I thought I’d take a swing at implementing it on a client’s site to see what happens! Then I thought others might be interested to see how it goes, too 😀
Keep in mind that this feature isn’t active yet. We’ve just been given documentation. Here’s what Google said on Twitter:
We’ve released new docs on how to add structured data for COVID-19 announcements to your web pages. This isn’t yet visible in Search results. That will happen in the near future, but you can add data now to prepare: https://t.co/Y6MSdylf4b
— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) April 1, 2020
Now onto the doing.
What are we going to mark up?
For most of my clients, I’ve added a banner to their header and a page (or a pop-up) to their site explaining the changes they’ve made that impact clients.
I’m going to use Broadmead Physiotherapy (out of Victoria) as a guinea pig. Here’s how it looks for them:
Based on this, here is the information we want to convey in the search results for this business, if possible:
- We’re still serving clients
- Our doors are closed
- We’re offering ehealth/telehealth services instead of in person visits
- Learn more on our website
Your points might be a bit different, but probably along similar lines.
How do we mark this up?
We’ll be using the SpecialAnnouncement schema type. This requires at least 3 properties:
- datePosted (The date that the COVID-19 announcement was published in)
- name (the short title of the COVID-19 announcement)
- text OR one of the following properties that point to more info about the announcement
I don’t think any of those alternative (to text) properties will apply for most local businesses (except for maybe newsUpdatesAndGuidelines, whose purpose is a little unclear to me). For now we’ll use the text property, and treat it like a description.
There are also a bunch of recommended properties to consider including. I think the most applicable ones to our use case are:
Here’s my JSON-LD snippet that includes the required and select recommended properties:
I think most local businesses will be able to use this exact snippet (with the property values replaced, of course).
I’ve placed this code in the <head> section of every page on Broadmead’s site. I think it makes sense for this markup to go on all pages, and I didn’t see anything that indicates it should be only tied to a particular page, so we’ll go with that for now.
Test your markup
You can test your snippet by pasting it into Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. Once you’ve confirmed you have no errors, add it to your site.
Note: you might notice that announcementLocation returns an error in Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
Currently, the Structured Data Testing Tool shows an error for the announcementLocation property. This is because the property is new to Schema.org. You can disregard the error, and refer to the documentation for the most up to date set of requirements until we update the tool.
Once your snippet is added to your site, you might also want to run one of your URLs through the testing tool, just to be sure Google can see it (may need to flush your cache on some hosts).
Finally, it wouldn’t hurt to request a recrawl in Search Console, just to make sure Google’s on the up and up.
Now, we wait…
I’m not exactly sure what this markup will yield. I’m guessing there will be some sort of rich snippet accompanying the marked up pages? Time will tell, and I’ll update this post when it does.
Apparently Bing is also supporting this markup (and showing marked up results in search already), but I haven’t seen any local business results including it so far.
Anything I missed? Anyone seeing these notices in the wild (particularly for local businesses)? Let us know in the comments!