The expansion of the Data Highlighter in Google Webmaster Tools suggests exactly what my PFX colleague mentioned in passing the other day: “obviously, webmasters are not adopting Schema.org rapidly enough”. Exactly. Google must think that its adoption is important enough to help speed up the implementation via the Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) interface.
A quick elevator pitch of what Schema.org is for those not at familiar with it can be summed up like this: “Schema.org is the standardization of HTML tags agreed upon by major search engines to define content blocks for retrieval as rich search listings data in the SERP.” I guess you’d better be riding in that elevator with someone whose career is in SEM for that to make any impact whatsoever. If not, expect some blank stares and tepid half-hearted nodding. Or just show them this SERP result for “Chicago concerts”:
Google is temporarily taking the burden off your client’s IT team and providing an offsite method where you can help them identify templates of like data types and defining them straight in the GWT interface. Enterprise SEO’s can demonstrate the opportunity to differentiate (and breathe a sigh of relief) as so often onsite implementation of Schema.org can often seem far down the list of priorities to many clients. This is where you, the champion of clients, finally can come in and do something about it where they cannot.
The Data Highlighter in GWT allows SEO’s to define eight different Schema types. In the original release, the Events type was the only type that was available. As of this May 30th, the list of available data types have grown to products, software applications, local businesses, articles, movies, restaurants, and TV episodes. There are of course more available than that and I’d anticipate that Google will take a “wait and see” approach with this role out before going any further and introducing more. The available types should have something for everyone anyway in order for webmasters/SEO’s to try it.
Like any tool, the actual implementation is only as good as the results and it remains to be seen if it can handle anything resembling a large eCommerce website with many multiples of category and product page templates. So all you can really do is take a few stabs at it. The tool is very simple to use and requires a minimal time investment that could in the end be a massive boost to your clients. Whether your effort translate into actual rich snippets appearing in the SERP remains to be seen.
After a few goes at the Data Highlighter a couple weeks hence, we have not witnessed any examples yet to show up in the SERP. In the end, the best course of action still is onsite implementation – because remember, you’re only helping Google and ignoring everyone else that might use the on page markup.
Theoretically, content from its direct source is the most trust-worthy and should be the most accurate. This step by Google emphasizes what appears to be a more serious attempt at precisely aggregating data across the web. The structuring of on-page data makes aggregators very excited. Crawlers with access to all of your client’s content (think beyond search engines) could have a massive impact on how data is distributed. Some of the best early examples found for some time have been the recipe / foodie vertical. The authorship tag (rel=“author”) has brought the same concept to the fore for bloggers as well as one of our noteworthy blogger demonstrates below:
For the time being, Schema.org is just yet another tactic to deploy for your website’s content in order to differentiate your client among its competitors in the hopes of increased CTRs. Any excuse for failing to implement Schema.org – at least in Google Webmaster Tools – has disappeared.