March 29th, 2012
Web Design & Development
When it comes to changes Google has been making, all I keep hearing in my head is the soap opera tagline, “Like Sands Through the Hourglass, So Are Days of Our Lives.” With the Panda update, Search Plus your World, and all the little tweaks in between, it seems that change has become synonymous with Google. So I wasn’t too surprised a couple of weeks ago when I came across an article from the Wall Street Journal detailing sweeping changes to Google’s search capabilities over the coming months.
Google is hedging its bets with the next big thing: semantic search. Up to this point Google has been pretty dumb. It could only spit out results based on keyword/content correlation but it didn’t know what it was telling you. Semantic search will remedy this by now imparting meaning on to words using a large database of attributes Google has amassed over the years. However, there’s still plenty of information out there that Google doesn’t know.
This is where schema comes into play. Schema is a markup language that is supported and promoted by all the major search engines that allows webmasters to assign attributes to words on their pages. For instance, say you have a BBQ brisket recipe page on your site. You are now able to mark up the content with attributes such as cooking time, ingredients, nutrition facts, ratings, etc.
Before schema, if you were to search for a BBQ brisket recipe it would only show you pages based on the old standard keyword parameters. It couldn’t tell you the quality of a recipe, how long it takes to cook, what ingredients the recipe uses–all stuff the user would find useful and relevant. As we all know, that’s what Google wants–to show useful and relevant results. Now with schema you can tell Google recipe’s reviews and cooking time, and it will most likely appear in the SERPs.
That’s the exact reason you should be employing schema in your webpages. This markup can help draw attention to your listing in the results which will most likely end up with a higher clickthrough rate. The highlighted search results above utilize schema. Despite that the recipes are in positions two and three, my eye was immediately drawn to them (I can see their cooking time and, most importantly, their rating). The top result might be good but I already know from the SERP that the Busy Day BBQ Brisket has an average of 4.5 stars from over 200 people. I’m definitely clicking on that first.
What if your listing doesn’t show up in the first page of the SERPs? Fret not! You’ll also notice on the left-hand side menu Google is now including the ability to filter results. Before it couldn’t make the distinction that BBQ sauce was an ingredient of a brisket recipe. Schema is now making the search engines smarter so you can specifically tell them what ingredients are in your recipe. This offers more of a chance for your listing to get higher in the rankings.
In the above image I want my recipe to include the ingredients of beef, BBQ sauce, and beer, but I don’t want liquid smoke. By filtering, my results went from over 500,000 to just 4 that Google knows has those specific ingredients. Those results would have previously been buried in the SERPs but now at least one is getting a click because they used schema. I know that there are a lot more than 4 recipes out there that use those ingredients, but Google doesn’t know that–so the competition just went from hundreds of thousands to just 4.
There have been plenty of objections to all the changes Google has been making but the data still shows that despite these objections users are still liking their results a lot more. As the saying goes, “It’s easier to catch flies with honey, than with vinegar.” Employ schema for your SEO strategy and increase your website’s sweetness.
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