Summary: Microdata and schema.org on #SEOchat with @RavenJon

Guest: @RavenJon. @ravenjon is one of the co-founders of @raventools and is currently the Director of Product Innovation. He is a veteran internet marketer & has worked with many startups and corporations, including Visa throughout his career.

@shuey03: Tell us something about you that not even your team at @raventools knows.

@RavenJon:: that’s a hard one. They most everything. I was hit by a car when I was in fourth grade. Bet they didn’t know that! There are a couple other things, but there’s no way I’m tweeting it :P

What is structured data and how does it relate to HTML?

Structured data are attributes added to HTML that make your content easier to understand for bots and search engines. Structured data can be used for defining relationships, like the infamous rel=”nofollow”. It can also be used for sets of data, like contact information, products or recipes. The key thing with structured data is that it doesn’t interfere with how the content is rendered in a browser.

The most common types of structured data for HTML are RDFa and Microformats…and now Microdata. More info on RDFa http://t.co/ou9PrCW and Microformats http://t.co/9q6pa2r . More info on microdata http://t.co/6ImTmSJ .

@JTDabbagian: Essentially organizing data into something the search engines can read easier. They like formulaic sites.

@aknecht: I think microdata will pick-up speed once web development tools & CMS’s integrate the feature to make life easy to the masses.

Is structured data an SEO game changer? Why or why not?

While I make fun of the term “game changer” all of the time (http://t.co/vFw4jZw) this actually is one. Without structured data, search engines have to parse and attempt to comprehend data without any structure. While search engines are smart enough to understand most of the data they encounter, it’s still not great. Using structured data *ensures* that search engines comprehend the data on your pages.

If you create a product review using structured data, they absolutely know it’s a product and that it’s a review of the product. They can then take that data, and with certainty, enhance their search results. This can be easily seen with recipes that use structured data. Search for “beet salad” http://t.co/tuk9bka . You’ll get something that look similar to this http://t.co/kg0vwGB (screenshot).

The review stars, ingredient sorting, etc… are all because the sites use structured data. That means that sites that don’t provide structured data for their “beet salad” recipes are at a disadvantage in the SERPs! If that’s not a game changer for SEO, then I don’t know what is!

@lyena: How can search engines trust the web developers not to try to black hat them?
@kmullett: That has been my fear since announced. It will happen. Gaming the schema.
@RavenJon: Search engines can use the same algo they use for all content. Structured data isn’t anything like META keywords. META keywords were worthless from day one. Google now has the power to analyze a site like never before.
@kmullett: I don’t believe it will be as easy as META keywords, but no doubt they will have to balance signal weight.

@jackson_lo: @RavenJon other than recipes/reviews, is there another good example of Good Data Structure being used?
@RavenJon: Yes! http://t.co/SDYzh2V has been using microformats for a long time. this page uses it for events http://t.co/FqXDQJy . Now do a search for U2 Concerts http://t.co/IlY2519 . This is coming from a microformat http://t.co/p0UZG4n .
@kmullett: Name it. Events, venues, addresses, phone, lat/long, authors, titles, types of products, colors…etc

What’s the difference between microformats, RDFa, and microdata? Is one better than the other?

They are all very similar, but they use a different vocabulary for their attributes and values. RDFa is very similar to microdata, which is one of the reasons RDFa peeps are pissed about it http://t.co/FqOqVp6 . Microformats isn’t sufficient for all of the structured data needs, but it’s been the preferred schema for many designers.

RDFa, like microdata is a lot more robust and expandable. What’s unique about microdata is that it’s part of the living standard HTML (HTML5) and Google says they prefer it :) So for me, that makes microdata better!

All structured data uses HTML and the scripting language doesn’t matter. It’s the attributes and values that are different.

@dennyray: RDFa most comprehensive but difficult. Microdata = best because of schema.org support

@kmullett: Maybe it is easier for some to think of it like Facebooks OG (open graph) tags. They set titles, author, books, thumbnails, etc
@RavenJon: It is, but it’s still a bit different. It’s META vs. HTML attributes.

@saffyre9: Micro formats is good for getting your feet wet b/c of it’s CSS-like syntax

@AnnieCushing: And all of the major search engines support schema.org? This isn’t going to be the canonical tag revisited, is it?
@RavenJon: I don’t think so. I see microdata as the evolution of RDFa and microformats, at least to search engines. They say they all support it, but as we’ll learn later, using it is a different story.
@kmullett: According to the site Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo are on board. Much like the sitemaps.org deal.

How can someone non-technical get up and running quickly with schema.org microdata?

So the standard for microdata values…as far as search engines are concerned…is published at http://t.co/ye0Nc6X . For a typical SEO or Web Designer, initially trying to implement them can be confusing. It can be a lot to take in. Just check out this page: http://t.co/VsYTBLK . That’s why we launched http://t.co/uLZtvVQ last week. I found it confusing and wanted to make it easier to get started. People can use it to help them better understand and get started with microdata.

Another very important resource is Google’s Rich Snippet Testing Tool http://t.co/IEyNNZr . You can use Schema Creator and the Rich Snippet Testing Tool to make sure you’re coding everyting correctly.

Can you intermingle standards? They are on record stating that you shouldn’t use both on a page, because it might confuse their parser.

@lyena: Schema Creator http://t.co/uLZtvVQ is great when you are starting up a page. For existing pages – hand coding.

Are there any examples you know of where sites are implementing microdata and seeing success?

While I haven’t done an exhaustive search, I have yet to see a ranking result in the wild using it. The real opportunity here is for new sites and sites that aren’t already using structured data.

I’ve talked to several agencies and professionals that are implementing microdata now. Especially for ecommerce sites. If a site is already using RDFa or microformats, and it’s positively affecting their SERPs, they should probably wait. But if you aren’t using them at all right now, I strongly suggest adding them to your site(s).

I believe the search engines are committed to schema.org’s microdata and that it’s only a matter of time. If you’re a naysayer, and think it’s not a good idea to implement anything until there’s proof, then don’t. I don’t have any problem having a competitive advantage over old skool naysayers ;)

@lyena: I have an implementation question. Does it matter if you nest schema tags or not? Ex. Person has address. What’s better “City, ST” or embedded? Why?
@RavenJon: As long as it validates using http://t.co/IEyNNZr you can do whatever you want. Nesting and how much, I’m not sure. That’s why we built this http://t.co/vmaR5v8 to get started and then test from there. You’re helping Google comprehend the data. Seems fair that it would also give you an advantage. That data enables them to have richer results. I think the beet salad example speaks volumes to that.

@lookadoo: ROI? Is it worth effort to structure as much as possible? Too much of a good thing bad? Look like too much SEO?
@RavenJon: It’s not traditional SEO where you’re gaming. They simply want you to write better code. It’s win-win! I of course use “gaming” in the most upright and respectful way possible ;)

Structured Data/Modern HTML with Jon Henshaw (@ravenjon) on #SEOchat

On Thursday, July 21, 2011 Search Marketing Weekly will be hosting an #seochat on Twitter. Jon Henshaw (@ravenjon) will be our guest answering questions about Structured Data/Modern HTML and its importance to SEO now and in the future .

Details:

Starts at 7:00 pm Mountain Time
About 1 hour long
Use hashtag #seochat
Host: Greg Shuey

About Jon Henshaw

Jon Henshaw is a veteran of the Internet Marketing and Web Design industry. He started his first company in 1996, and has had experience working with numerous startup companies and corporations, including Visa.

In 2007, Mr. Henshaw co-founded Raven Internet Marketing Tools. Raven provides a suite of tools that allows Internet marketers to research, manage, monitor, and report on all aspects of their campaigns. Raven has become an industry standard for agencies, in-house marketing departments, and Internet marketing professionals around the world.