Microdata & Schema & Snippets… Oh My!
The Wonderful Wizard of Web
“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”
Just like that guy from Oz, there’s nothing magical about microdata, schema, and snippets. Where the magic really happens is in the reciprocal benefits that follow proper usage of these functions.
HTML tags provide instructions to internet browsers on how to display information inside the tagged section of code. For instance, the ‘h1 tag’ is often used to indicate a heading on or the title of a page of content and the visual style displayed is usually a larger, bolder font. Search engines do not care about the style. They only see <h1> this is the topic of the page so pay attention </h1>. Semantic tagging is an SEO best practice that all websites should follow.
A Snippet on Snippets
Rich snippets are now taking the SEO world by storm, making it even easier for users to understand what your page is really about in the search results. This brings the tagging notion to a whole new level! Rich snippets allow developers to tag everything from events, to products, to contact information, to reviews. These tags help Google better understand the elements on your site so they can present the searcher with the desired information. Instead of search bots having to guess that your phone number listing is indeed a phone number, a simple tag can be inserted into the code that tells them it is.
There are several formats of rich snippets including: resource description framework in attributes (RDFa), microformats, and microdata. Google recommends using microdata—more specifically—the Schema.org tagging matrix. Yahoo! and Bing have not publicly stated which version they prefer, but it is always a safe bet to go with Google’s recommendation as they still control the majority of search.
More Benefits Than Ruby Slippers
Now that you’ve tagged your site to make Google’s job easier, what benefit do you get?
First and foremost, you’re likely to get more space in the search engine results page (SERP); however, it is no longer enough to be number one in the results page. Modern websites must have a high ranking result AND value added links into the site itself to do well. Some value add elements might be popular page links, reviews, and perhaps a breadcrumb trail. Taking up more real estate in the SERPs is a great way to get noticed, increase click-through rates, and give your customers a direct path to the information that they crave.
Here TicketMaster tagged some very relevant information. As you can see, the breadcrumb trail has been marked up so the search trail is shown below the main URL. If (for some reason) you don’t feel like watching JT bring sexy back, you can click up one level in the site and view all of the Rock & Pop shows available at the time.
Perhaps the most powerful part of this example is that the dates and locations of several shows are marked up as events with direct links to their respective pages. All told, this result doesn’t have just one link into the site, it has eight!
Here’s another great example and use of microdata markup from Allrecipies.com. Several useful pieces of information have been highlighted including: the overall rating, links to reviews, how long it takes to prepare, and the calorie count. Another interesting item here is the alternative cookie recipe links at the bottom of this listing. All of this extra information gives users a better all around experience (both with the search and with your brand) resulting in more qualified visitors to your site.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
The markup path is neither long nor arduous, and it will make for a much easier customer journey. So go ahead, claim your real estate on the search results pages with microdata; there’s no place like homepage!