Google has been displaying more than blue links in search results for a while now. And soon, users will be able to find more facts and direct answers to their queries on top of search results. This comes from the Wall Street Journal, which reported on an interview with Amit Singhal, a top Google search executive. Evidently, Google plans to provide more relevant results by “incorporating semantic search technology, the process of understanding the actual meaning of words.”
Search Engine Land author and Ontologica semantic services provider Barbara Starr said, “It’s inevitable that lots of verified structured data will give rise to the ability of search engines to become answer engines.” And that’s happening now. Google wants to better match search queries with a database containing hundreds of millions of entities on people, places and things that the company has been collecting over the last two years, while focusing more on structured data.
With this algorithm enhancement, Google hopes to provide answers to certain queries by using structured data and leveraging semantic technology such as structured markup from the ecommerce ontology it supports (GoodRelations and Schema.org).
This is great news for online retailers, because now your products and services can display more completely and prominently with rich snippets in search results when you use structured markup.
As part of its algorithm change, Google will add semantic technology to its keyword search system. Right now, keywords play a dominant role in the algorithm for ranking websites, along with authoritative links and the person searching (personalization). Adding semantic search technology allows the understanding of actual word meanings.
With semantic meaning in the algorithm, users can differentiate between words with more than one meaning, such as a mustang car vs. a mustang horse.
Google wants search to include semantic meaning because that’s the way humans process and understand information. Therefore, when providing answers on entities not currently in its database, Google will blend new semantic search technology with its current system.
This will increase its ability to recognize the value of information on websites for ranking purposes. In the future, the Googlebot will be looking for more than keywords and authoritative links; it will be able to identify more meaningful information e.g., structured data or semantic markup. That means better search results for users, and better exposure for retail sites.
RDFa Structured Markup
The foundation of structured data is the Resource Definition Framework (RDF), “a standard model for data interchange on the web” that permits data to be shared across different applications, and supports the evolution of different schemas over time. RDFa provides a set of attributes that allow the embedding of rich metadata within Web documents, e.g., the addition of machine-readable attributes to standard XHTML.
GoodRelations RDFa is a semantic markup technology designed specifically for ecommerce. It allows retailers to send precise data on their products, items or services when communicating it to search engines.
Without RDFa, retailers send only unstructured text, even though they may use precise data when creating item pages, making it hard for search engine’s to extract, interpret, and properly rank their individual pages.
With RDFa, retailers can add a small, yet rich piece of structured data (e.g., small product datasheet), which search engines, browser extensions and mobile applications can use to precisely inform potential customers about your products.
GoodRelations markup can be used for displaying price, product, store, payment, and delivery information on search engine listings. This ontology language can be used by retailers to precisely describe what their business offers. Retailers can use GoodRelations to create a small data package that describes their products, features and prices, in addition to their stores and opening hours, payment options and so forth.
When adding GoodRelations to your webpages, you increase the visibility of your offers in search engines and recommender systems. While traditional SEO attempts to put you on top of search results, the reality is not everyone can be on top. GoodRelations gives top visibility to buyers looking for your retail products and services. That means your offer becomes visible to those with a matching need.
GoodRelations is supported by Google Bing and Yahoo!, which render your product pages better with GoodRelations data on your site. It is being used by companies like BestBuy, CSNStores, and thousands of retail shops with great success.
Why Use Structured Markup?
As reported on SemanticWeb.com, Webnodes AS content management system version 3.7 with schema.org support resulted in tests showing a 30 percent increase in organic search-engine traffic to websites using Microdata or similar technologies.
From a GoodRelations case study: “There is preliminary evidence that search results with respective extensions get a 30% higher click-through rate (CTR).”
How To Apply GoodRelations RDFa
You can learn more about RDFa in this 15 minute presentation titled, Extending Schema.org with Good Relations and Productontology.org, which includes Martin Hepp’s Presentation of September 21, 2011 at the schema.org workshop, indicating how schema.org and GoodRelations can be used in combination for sending richer data on retail sites to search engines and browser extensions, helping retailers articulate their value proposition as data.
For more information on semantic SEO for Google with GoodRelations and RDFa, you can use this modification, which shows you how to add additional mark-up to your pages so Google can use the information to substantially enhance the rendering of your pages in search results.
Below are some additional useful links with information about using GoodRelations.
- GoodRelations extension for VirtueMart, the OS ecommerce solution of Joomla CMS.
- Quora (Q&A) on web ontology for ecommerce
- Strategies for Building Semantic Web Applications
- SemTech 2011 Presentation by Barbara Starr
Additionally, SMWCon Spring 2012 will be held in Carlsbad, CA, April 25-27, with presentations and discussions about state-of-the art applications and future development of Semantic MediaWiki and its extensions. The conference brings together developers, users, and organizations from the Semantic MediaWiki community around the world.
With Google changing its algorithm to ameliorate the shortcomings of its current technology by incorporating semantic search technology, retailers have an excellent opportunity to fully exploit this change by incorporating structured data on their websites and product pages. It is rumored these changes will be among the biggest in Google’s history. Don’t miss this opportunity to get ahead of your competitors.
Disclosure: I am not affiliated with GoodRelations in any way.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.