Google Introduces Data Highlighter Tool For Structured Data Markup

Google announced on the Google Webmaster Central blog a new tool that makes it incredibly easy for site owners to markup their pages with structure data. The Data Highlighter tool.

The Data Highlighter is a browser based point-and-click tool that lets authorized site owners add rich snippet / structured data markup to their web pages. Prior, the only way to add structured data markup to your web pages was to go into the HTML code and add it there. No longer do you need to know HTML to add this markup data – you can now use the Data Highlighter tool.

The Data Highlighter tool is currently only available in English and for event calendar markup data but Google plans on adding more to it in the future.

To use it, go to Google Webmaster Tools, choose your site, then select the “Optimization” link on the left, then select the “Data Highlighter” option.

Here is a picture of how the tool works:

After you finish “tagging” up the content with the tool, you can hit publish to submit that structure data to Google. Google can then use it to richen up the search results by adding event data and other rich snippet markup to the search results, which can lead to a higher click through rate on your snippets.

As you tag or markup content with the tool, the tool learns from it. After about 5 to 10 manually tages pages, Google says they are smart enough to figure out the rest of the pages automatically. Google said:

If your page lists multiple events in a consistent format, Data Highlighter will “learn” that format as you apply tags, and help speed your work by automatically suggesting additional tags. Likewise, if you have many pages of events in a consistent format, Data Highlighter will walk you through a process of tagging a few example pages so it can learn about their format variations. Usually, 5 or 10 manually tagged pages are enough for our sophisticated machine-learning algorithms to understand the other, similar pages on your site.

Here is a video demo on how it all works and for more details, see the help article over here.

Related Articles:

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: Rich Snippets | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | Google: Webmaster Central | Top News


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • daveintheuk

    How long before all this marked up data appears as “knowledge” with a very faint grey link to the original site that created/researched/curated the information? Not long I suspect.

    Don’t feed the hand that bites.

  • Alex Fusman

    Dave may have a valid point in his comment, but the fact is that while Google is on top, we need to be doing everything we can to optimize our sites and our clients’ sites. In this case, I’m glad they made this tool available, as many of my clients had expressed confusion about rich snippets and microformats in the past. This should make things a little easier.

  • AzzamS

    This is super useful. Credit to the developers for this idea, one of Google finest that makes it ever so easy for the layman

  • Jamie Bates

    I am pretty excited about this tool. It has become a pain in a lot of cases to try and get the markup taken care of. I’m glad to see that they’re (Google) looking for way to connect with the end user more effectively. Perhaps this is not the case for everyone, but I would have preferred address and phone number mark up before event mark up. But i’m sure the other mark ups will come along soon enough.

  • James Brown

    It won’t work on our www site – it needs to be non-www evidently. Lame.

  • Carrie Hill

    This is a decent first step, but there’s a long way to go with regards to review, product, location, etc structured data. I’ll be keeping an eye out for those improvements.

  • Durant Imboden

    Dave, not all Web sites are in the business of creating, researching, and curating information. Some are trying to promote or sell things, such as the event used in the example.

    If you run the Widgetville Tourist Office and you’re organizing the annual Widgetville New Year’s Eve Bonfire, your goal isn’t to rack up Website visitors and pageviews: It’s to publicize your event. If the Data Highlighter Tool can make your event more visible to Google’s users, that’s a good thing. Google’s hand isn’t biting you, it’s feeding you.

  • daveintheuk

    To a degree, but by doing it in the SERPs and not on your own site you loose the ability to show visitors your other content and communicate your message as you would like to do. It destroys the opportunities for discovery – sure the user may find out about the event but they loose out on finding out more about Widgetville and realising that the Widgetvillie site is a useful resource. Perhaps also on the Widgetville site there would be the opportunity to sign up to mailing list or to donate (think “knowledge” graph scraped Wikipedia content here – how many lost edits & donations, how much other potentially enriching information on the page will go unread?)

    With things like this and Google+ pages, Google is trying to twist business owners/webmasters arms into putting their content onto properties Goolge control – not properties the business control. Long term, this means more user behavior for them to mine and more pages for them to monetise.

    The benefits to Google here are far greater than the benefits to website owners, or indeed users in the long run.

    Google did once represent opportunity for businesses (ie: the hand that feeds); but that has vanished since they got shareholders to please. Now they are just another greedy corporation.

  • Durant Imboden

    The thing is, it’s optional. The Widgetville Tourist Office gets to decide whether to use structured data markup, based on its perception of structured data markup’s value. What Google is doing is simple: It’s making structured data markup available to people or organizations that don’t have the technical skills or staff resources to do it by conventional means.

    Also, one shouldn’t assume that having information displayed directly on Google’s SERPs means giving up Web traffic. For example, if I look up an airline flight number in either Google or Bing, I can see the flight status (i.e., arrival and departure time) in bold type. But I also get a list of search results for sites that provide more information. In practice, when I’m picking someone up at the airport, I’ll nearly always click on Google’s Flightstats link (or possibly a link to another site like FlightAware) to get more detailed information.

    Similarly, if the Widgetville Tourist Office wants its bonfire time and date to show up on a Google SERP in a search on “Widgetberg bonfire,” it can count on clickthroughs to its own Web site by users who are interested enough to want more information. But again, the Widgetville Tourist Office gets to decide whether to provide structured data for Google. The important thing is that, if it DOES want to provide such data, it can do so easily with the Data Highlighter Tool.

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