Internet searching: Microdata powering the semantic Web
When does the next screening for Tarantino’s movie start? Where can I find a good Chinese restaurant in my area? When does the next airport shuttle leave? In the near future, those questions will be easily answered by search engines. The key to this feat: The semantic Web.
The semantic Web is an ideal. An ultimate goal targeted by number of technologies made to make internet content accessible not only to humans, but also to the machines. In short, with the semantic Web content makes sense for the machines, and in particular for search engines.
From HTML to microdata
Until recently, classic HTML tags were the only available basis structuring internet information. Search engines understood that a title was a title, and a paragraph, a paragraph. Back then, only human judgment could determine the nature of the information constituting indexed pages. The microdata goes way further in structuring information. They rely on the actual standards of HTML, while enriching the tags with features to describe the information. For example, a product’s price, its description and characteristics are marked and therefore understood as such by search engines.
They are already among us!
Of course, Internet search giants are aware of the importance of the semantic web and of its impact on the quality of their services. In June 2011, Google, Bing and Yahoo agreed on a common standard named “schema”. Hundreds of microdata are identified today enabling to describe a growing range of information, from a product to a local business, an event or a recipe. Microdata are already operated by search engines. For instance, once doing a search for film screenings at a local movie theater, they will appear as advanced data (rich snippet).
Same is made of users’ reviews, which can move up the search results as an average represented by stars.
SEO and microdata
So, what’s the point in “microdating” your content? The answer is quite simple, SEO. Indeed, microdating enables visibility improvement and therefore, traffic enhancement. Making content understandable by search engines favors positioning in the search results, while it also enables to display the pages with “rich snippet”. Thanks to this, the browsing experience of Internet users is facilitated as the number of necessary clicks is reduced and the conversion rate optimized. Furthermore, as “rich snippets” attract eyeballs more easily, the number of clicks will increase, improving the click-through rate (CTR), the traffic, and the position in the search results. In the end, a virtuous circle is created.
How to set up microdata?
Microdata should be set up in a targeted manner. Instead of microdating every possible thing and create a situation which requires heavy technical interventions, you should better focus on microdata directly related to your business. For instance, if you sell products over the web, start focusing on the microdata “Product” or “GoodRelations”. They are both perfect for e-commerce. If you have a local business, than “localbusiness” is made for you! In any case, it will require a technical intervention on your website, which degree of complexity varies depending on the scope of your optimizations, and on your CMS’ flexibility. In order to democratize the use of microdata, Google recently created a Webmaster tool enabling microdating without technical intervention. The “Data Highlighter” tool of the Google Webmaster Tools makes it possible to mark products, events, local businesses, users’ reviews, and all the microdata available on Google today without writing one line of code. Nothing really surprising as web semantization is a key issue for the Internet giant. Indeed, how could it optimize the speech recognition of the operating system Android and of Google Glass without making web information intelligible? So, did you start microdating your web site? Maybe you should.