Sometimes, it is the small things that change the way search engines see and understand our websites. Microdata, which is a WHATWG (Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group) HTML specification, is starting to be used more by search engines to help better categorize and sort websites. Previously, this specification was only used to nest metadata, another important SEO factor. You may also hear microdata referred to as structured data or schema markup – note that when developers and SEO companies are using any of these terms, they more than likely using them interchangeably, even though that may not be the “most” accurate. The important element is not which terminology is most appropriate, but what overall impact utilizing this unique tool can have on your web presence. For the sake of this article, we will refer to all three terminologies as simply “microdata.”
It is hard to immediately grasp how microdata works, especially if you are new to web development. You most likely have heard the term HTML, which is what is responsible for showing the content (text and images) on your website. Think of microdata as extra “behind-the-scenes” code that is not visible, but provides the context of your content. For example, if you have a phone number listed on your website inside of the content, Google probably understands that the group of 10 characters is a phone number, but it doesn’t know if it’s your company’s phone number, or the customer support line of one of your vendors you are referencing in the article. Microdata allows you to draw connections between the content and how it relates to your visitor’s overall need for access to pertinent information.
The most significant benefit of using microdata is that it helps provide search engines with more context that helps search engines better understand, index, and, in turn, rank your website. This type of schema markup is also responsible for the "rich snippets" that display in search results, which allows search engines to better display results, rather than relying solely on a meta description. For example, take a look at the image capture to the right that shows a rich snippet for the search phrase “nas vs server.” This result appears above the rest of the search results with a preview of the text and attribution to the publishing author.
There are numerous different types of microdata that can be included on your website. Keep in mind that arbitrarily stuffing irrelevant schema markup into your page will not improve your Google rankings. These tags should and must relate to the main topic of your page. While search engines look at many different factors when it comes to ranking a website, adding the correct tags can help. Google, Yahoo and Bing all use microdata tags to varying degrees.
Some commonly used microdata tags include the following:
You can view a full list of microdata types or "schemas" via schema.org, which is a website sponsored by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Yandex to encourage the adoption of utilizing structured data in hopes of improving search and overall user experience. We encourage you to explore different microdata tags and see how they can relate to the content of your website. If you need assistance utilizing microdata or schema, please contact us today for a consultation with our qualified SEO experts.