As a one-man or one-woman shop, there’s a lot to keep track of with your online marketing. And just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on it, the technology changes, or your needs change, and you’re researching how to use your online marketing channels all over again.
Google search is no exception to this rule. Google is constantly changing, updating, and improving the way in which it displays information on the search results page. Mostly, these updates don’t affect how you’ve structured your basic search engine optimization for your websites, and so you ignore them.
Here’s the bad news: Google’s new microdata trend is not something you can ignore. As more and more businesses adopt this new technology, it will be harder for businesses without it to show up well in Google’s search results.
Now, before I dive into what microdata is, and why it matters to your business, let me make one thing clear. I’m a big believer in giving you the pieces that you need right now to grow your business. So, if showing up on a Google search isn’t part of your online marketing plan right now, just bookmark this post and come back to it when you’re ready.
If you’re ready to dive into the next big thing to get your website found on Google search, read on.
What is microdata?
Simply put, microdata is a new language that allows you to tag your webpage with specific information in a way that Google, Bing, and Yahoo! will understand. Previously, you could use keywords to describe your web page or blog. Now, using schema.org as the standard vocabulary, you can tell the search engines whether a particular section of your website is talking about a person, a business, an event, a blog post, and much more.
The most amazing part is that Google, Bing, and Yahoo! worked together to create one language that would be used the same way by all three search engines. They made the official announcement in June 2011, but it’s taken nearly two years for people to figure out what microdata is, and how to use it.
How does microdata work?
Let’s say that you have this text on the about page of your website:
My name is Bob Smith but people call me Smithy. Here is my home page:
I live in Albuquerque, NM and work as an engineer at ACME Corp.
Before microdata, Google indexed this piece of text in order to match it with a search query later on. Now, with the advent of microdata, you can tell Google what’s important to know about this section of text.
Here’s the same piece of text marked with microdata:
<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Person”>
My name is <span itemprop=”name”>Bob Smith</span>
but people call me <span itemprop=”nickname”>Smithy</span>.
Here is my home page:
<a href=”http://www.example.com” itemprop=”url”>www.example.com</a>
I live in Albuquerque, NM and work as an <span itemprop=”title”>engineer</span>
at <span itemprop=”affiliation”>ACME Corp</span>.
In both examples, the text that appears on your website is the same. But in this second example, you’ve given Google a lot more information about what’s relevant. For starters, you have told Google that this piece of text is related to a person, not a business, charity, event, or something else.
More than that, you have told Google that the person’s name is Bob Smith, that his nickname is Smithy, that www.example.com is his website, that his title is engineer, and that he works for ACME Corp.
With microdata, Google has given you a new set of tools to better describe the information on your website. From a techie standpoint, I think this whole idea is pretty phenomenal. But what do these new tools mean for your business?
Why microdata matters to you
Intimidating coding language aside, the real benefit to using microdata on your site is that Google will have a lot more information about you and your business when it comes to matching your website to a search result.
For example, Google will use your microdata to include things like pictures, reviews, asterisks, pricing, and other information in addition to the standard text-only description. More information (especially if it’s relevant to the search query) and more attractive presentations increase the odds that a potential client will click on your link in their search results.
In addition to better search results, there are three huge benefits to those of us in the online marketing world. First, by adding the “NewsArticle” microdata to your blog posts, you are signaling Google that you have fresh, new content available. Google currently places a high emphasis on new content when it ranks your website, so the more opportunities to tell it you’re producing new content, the better!
Second, as a one-person business, people are often searching for you, rather than your business name. Within the Person category of microdata, there are dozens of ways to tell Google how you are related to your business. These include your name, nickname, brand, website, email, jobtitle, worksFor, and others.
The more links you can build between who you are as a person and who your company is, the better the odds that someone searching for your name on Google will find your business website.
Finally, there’s a whole category of microdata surrounding events. Whether you’re hosting an in-person event or an online event, there are now dozens of ways to tag that event so that Google knows exactly how to describe your event in its search results.
What’s the Next Step?
OK. So far, I’ve covered what microdata is, how to use it, and why it matters to your business. By now, your brain is probably completely overwhelmed with microdata, so I will leave the “how to implement microdata on your WordPress site” blog post for next time.
But before I sign off, I want to check in and ask: does this make sense? Is it clear to you why it’s worth figuring out how to use this for your business?
Leave me a comment below and let me know! And, if you have a question that I didn’t answer, please ask.
P.S. Special thank you to Daryl Welch at Affordable Web Technology, Inc. for sharing his research notes and presentation on microdata.
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