Saturday, August 17, 2013

Google Finally Demystifies Structured Data Markup

In true Google fashion something new and awesome came online & it barely created a ripple in the chatter of the SEO community.

For more than a few years now the concept of semantic search has monopolized conversations about SEO. Awesomely smart technical SEOs like Richard Baxter, Dr. Pete Meyers & Ian Lurie have written posts, tutorials and made videos trying to guide the technically-challenged towards micro format Nirvana.

Complicating matters is Google, of course, who on the one hand espouses the importance of using markup from to help search engines know more about a Web page's content and on the other hand, chooses not to display any of that markup much of the time. Because of this, many an astute and forward-thinking SEO has spent the time marking up pages only to go back and strip out all of the code because they assumed they must not have done it correctly because Google wasn't displaying a single bit of it.

Start Adding Structured Data Markup to Your Site Right Now!

In fact, in a Mozinar on the topic, Richard Baxter said that perhaps the most common mistake he saw people make was adding structured data and then impatiently removing it because they couldn't see it reflected in their SERP results.

Sometime last year, Google rolled out something new & nifty in Google Webmaster Tools called the Data Highlighter. It claimed that you could add Structured Data to any Web page without knowing or writing a lick of code. "Hallelujah!" - I thought. Well, it turned out to only be for Web pages that were about events, like concerts, book-signings, etc. While worthy I'm sure, this was completely irrelevant to my sites, which are mostly, I went back to the drawing board, attempting to markup the pages myself.

One of my very small eCommerce sites runs on the 3DCart platform. It's a platform I strongly caution everyone against if you want to run a real business...but that's fuel for a separate blog post. Recently, 3DCart upgraded their software, claiming that they had implemented structured data as a built-in element to all 3DCart stores running on v6.0. Since my small site was running on the upgraded version, I went to view how many products were showing evidence of the new markup. Well, there were 2 out of 72 and they were the pages I had attempted to mark up myself.

Rather than call 3DCart technical support (whose nickname here in the building is "2DCart" - for many reasons), I decided to click on the "Data Highlighter" tool in GWT to find out if anything had changed there.

...and Voila!

What do you know? There it was, a tool that beautifully allowed me to highlight certain parts of the page, most importantly, reviews, and give them appropriate structured data markup with having to do anything by highlight and name it.

Check out this video to see how awesome and amazingly simple it is:

 (I am currently transcribing this video. The full transcript will be available within 24 hours and posted on this page)

Notice how the tool is smart and understands that you probably have many of pages that are similar when marking up product pages on an eCommerce site. No need to do each one, the tool transfers similar elements to all of your other pages that are structured in similar way. Very nifty. Thank you Google!

So to all you SEOs out there who are either technically challenged or don't have access to your source code...this one's for you. You no longer have any excuse for not implementing Structured Data!