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Schema.org: Google, Bing & Yahoo Unite To Make Search Listings Richer Through Structured Data
Today, “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:
- Google: Introducing schema.org: Search engines come together for a richer web
- Microsoft Bing: Introducing Schema.org: Bing, Google and Yahoo Unite to Build the Web of Objects
- Yahoo: Introducing schema.org: A Collaboration on Structured Data
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.
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.
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