Schema.org: Google, Bing & Yahoo Unite To Make Search Listings Richer Through Structured Data

schema-logoToday, “in the spirit of sitemaps.org“, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have announced the joint alliance of schema.org. This alliance provides a common foundation of support for a set of microdata types — some that previously existed and some that have been created as part of this initiative.

Microdata is a type of structured mark up that can be used to provide semantic meaning to content on web pages. The microdata types currently supported are documented at schema.og. You can also take a look at the announcements from each search engine on their blogs:

It appears as though the three search engines will be using this meta data solely to enhance the search results display for now, much like is already done with Google’s rich snippets and was done with Yahoo’s SearchMonkey.

This makes sense for Yahoo, as they control only the user experience of their search results now that the indexing and ranking of their search results now come from Bing. But Google and Microsoft could use the data in many other ways –such as metadata about what queries a page is relevant for and to obtain more accurate and detailed information about business listings for Google Places.

Google is, in fact, using the structured markup from microdata in certain instances, such as with its recently released recipe search. Google uses metadata about recipes (cook time, number of ingredients…) to provide a faceted navigational search.

google-recipe-search

You can see a complete list of currently supported microdata types and the syntax for them on the Schema.org website.

Once you’ve marked up your pages, you can use Google’s rich snippet testing tool to make sure that the markup is correct and can be read by the engines.

What About Microformats & RDFa?

While Google and Yahoo both have supported their use with their rich snippets and SearchMonkey programs, respectively, neither format is supported as part of schema.org. However, the engines say that the existing support for these formats will continue (even though they imply they’d like you to switch. From the FAQ:

“If you have already done markup and it is already being used by Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo!, the markup format will continue to be supported. Changing to the new markup format could be helpful over time because you will be switching to a standard that is accepted across all three companies, but you don’t have to do it.”

Should you go through the trouble of marking up your pages?

The answer is entirely dependent on your situation. If you’re building out a new site structure and want to have support built in, especially as the engines use microdata in other ways, then it makes sense to include it. However, if you are prioritizing work on your site and have other items to tackle, such as canonical URL issues or a need to invest in creating quality content, those items should probably come first.

As with sitemaps.org, actual implementation may take sometime. The engines will likely want to see how the markup is being used on sites and will test the data internally.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: General | Google: Rich Snippets | Google: SEO | Google: Web Search | Microsoft: Bing | Schema.org | Search Features: Enhanced Listings | Top News | Yahoo: Search

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About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. She built Google Webmaster Central and went on to found software and consulting company Nine By Blue and create Blueprint Search Analytics< which she later sold. Her book, Marketing in the Age of Google, (updated edition, May 2012) provides a foundation for incorporating search strategy into organizations of all levels. Follow her on Twitter at @vanessafox.

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  • http://www.seoskeptic.com/ Aaron Bradley

    This is a huge announcement that potentially signals a big change not only for SEO, but for the semantic web community that has labored so long to develop structured data and support its adoption.

    From an SEO perspective, this is something of a radical departure from the previous (and very uneven support) for a variety of structured data formats, including RDFa, select microformats, and essentially one off schemas like Google Product and GoodRelations. SEOs previously considering the implementation of structured data had a number of hard questions facing them. Which of many competing formats do I use? Which of the search engines will understand the markup, and for how long will they support its use? Is there an obvious benefit for search visibility, or do I risk putting all this time and effort into a data scheme that may be ignored by the search engines? Schema.org essentially removes all the uncertainly surrounding the employment of structured data for search marketing.

    From a semantic web perspective, I’m sure advocates see this as a mixed blessing. On one hand, it is liable to see a seismic rise in the adoption of structured data in the form of huge amounts of schema.org microdata being offered on web pages (such as the proliferation of Open Graph data – another form of structured markup – in support of Facebook “like,” but without the walled garden limitations inherent in Facebook). On the other hand, semantic web researchers have labored long and hard on standards like RDFa, and schema.org represents something of an end run around the efforts of the semantic web community by behemoths. In short, schema.org microdata is likely, in very short order, to become the most prevalent structured data on the web, but without the benefit of existing robust tools (like SPARQL) to take advantage of this structured data explosion – unless, of course, you’re a search engine.

  • http://alanbleiweiss.com alanbleiweiss

    I agree with Aaron, and already see why SEOs are going to need to embrace this new structure or suffer the consequences. Not only will there be new ways to get more visibility in the SERPs, I also predict that the new WebPage, CollectionPage, ContactPage, ItemPage, ProfilePage, WebPageElement, SiteNavigationElement, WPAdBlock, WPFooter, and WPSideBar are all going to eventually be critical to getting the maximum SEO value possible at the page level.

    I can already see scenarios where the engines look at content within these and say “does this belong here, or is this a spammy use of this area of the page?” I know they already evaluate such things to a certain degree, but with the new uniform elements, breaking down pages into consistent uniform blocks will make it much easier for them to do that evaluation within an individual page, across a site, and across competitive sites.

  • http://www.gamerstube.com Joe Youngblood

    I am hearing grumblings that using Schemas would require updating to HTML5. It seems that one sentence on schema.org is causing this: \http://schema.org/docs/gs.html: Microdata is a set of tags, introduced with HTML5, that allows you to do this\

    does a website need to us doctype html5 for the schemas to work?

  • http://www.planetc1.com/ Michael Dorausch

    Certainly seeing lot’s of chatter about this in the SEO community, most of it positive. Going through the trouble of markup on existing pages is part of the dilemma for me, especially when there’s other work to be addressed first (like that +1 button).

  • http://blog.nexcerpt.com/ Nexcerpt

    Alas… if only there had been some sort of schema FOR the schema! How do “standards” groups get away with this sort of nonsense, year after year? http://blog.nexcerpt.com/2011/06/03/schema-schmema/

  • Ian Howells

    This will also help aid Google in digesting your content, taking the answers you provide on your page, and then embedding those answers directly in the SERP.

  • http://Facebook.com/socialjulio Julio Fernandez

    Hi Vanessa, Schema.org has a few examples, but not for all of the different microdata types. I did a few tests, then went back to the Rich Snippets Testing Tool and found the errors below… microformat errors.

    Have you seen a site with additional schema.org / microdata examples… that work with the validation tool?

    Thanks,

    Errors with the schema.org examples and the validation tool:

    hfeed
    hentry
    Warning: At least one field must be set for HatomEntry.
    Warning: Missing required field “entry-title”.
    Warning: Missing required field “updated”.
    Warning: Missing required hCard “author”.

  • SledDawg

    Used the Rich Snippets Testing Tool to test this with a number of structured events records. However, I get this error because the URLs of the events are not in the same domain as the SERP.
    “Warning: This information will not appear as a rich snippet in search results, because it contains links that do not point at the same domain as the page.”

    This seems like a big drawback!

    I don’t think RDFa has this limitation?

  • http://twitter.com/Googleice Googleice/Pottsrecom

    I don’t see what the big deal is, I mean because http://www.Googleice.do.am has already done something like this. Its not entirely the same but its enough.

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