One of the challenges that search engines face is determining the relevancy of the content of a page in relation with search terms entered by users. This is made extra challenging by the fact that a lot of words and phrases have double, even multiple, meanings. Even worse (from the search engine point of view), it is not just the different dictionary meanings that complicate their job of determining the real content of a page. There’s also proper names of businesses and places, titles of books and movies, and all the weird lingo that crops up everyday, making ambiguity the norm.
Because of the need for search engines to be able to return relevant results, the big 3 (Google, Yahoo! Search, and Bing) have come together to support a standard way for data markup on pages. The collaboration of the 3 major search engines resulted in Schema.org, which is a website that “provides a collection of schemas, i.e., html tags, that webmasters can use to markup their pages in ways recognised by major search providers.”
If you are wondering why Schema.org and a standardised schema is such a big deal, what you need to realise is that having a shared markup schema between the 3 search engines means that you no longer have to worry about marking up each page three different ways, just to be sure Bing, Yahoo!, and Google are all able to extract the information you want them to have in order to determine what each of your page contains. Now, you can be sure that every single content that you mark up will be understandable to all three search engines.
So now, I guess what you’re wondering about is the more basic question of why you should mark up your content anyway. How does marking up your content benefit you?
As mentioned at the start of this post, search engines find determining the relevancy of content really problematic. Unlike us people, even when search engines index a page, they cannot automatically deduce what the contents of each page specifically refers to, something that we do without even really thinking about it. For example, a quick glance at a page that contains the keyword “Doctor Who” is enough for anyone to determine if it is about the popular TV show, or if it’s a personal blog of some doctor with the same name. To be able to easily determine which “Doctor Who” a page is referring to, search engines have to rely on information they can garner from the page. You can make it easy for them by adding mark up on pages, which will actually serve as a guide for them to automatically be able to classify the kind of content each page has. Note that the more content you mark up, the more the search engines will be able to give relevant results to users. This is a win-win situation because it will make users happy, make search engines look good, and most importantly, increase your click-through rates as well as conversion rates since you will be receiving less visits from “lost” searchers.
Just to give you an idea of the kind of content you can mark up, here’s short list of some of the most common item types supported by Schema.org (as listed on the site):
- Creative works: CreativeWork, Book, Movie, MusicRecording, Recipe, TVSeries …
- Embedded non-text objects: AudioObject, ImageObject, VideoObject
- Place, LocalBusiness, Restaurant …
- Product, Offer, AggregateOffer
- Review, AggregateRating
If you wish to learn more about marking up your content, you can visit Schema.org’s Getting Started page.