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Search giants Google, Bing and Yahoo got together to support the use of microdata tagging for websites so they can generate more relevant and more detailed search results. This offers business owners such as yourselves another opportunity to improve their search engine optimization (SEO) by simply adding a few special tags to their websites.

While microdata may sound complicated, it’s pretty straight forward. To help you get started I created this primer on what microdata is and how search engines use it to your benefit.

What is microdata?

Essentially, microdata is a series of tags adding conceptual meaning to your website to help search-engines understand the page. To understand how this works in practice, consider the following example provided by microdata listing website Schema.org:

“Usually, HTML tags tell the browser how to display the information included in the tag. For example, <h1>Avatar</h1> tells the browser to display the text string ‘Avatar’ in a ‘heading 1’ format. However, the HTML tag doesn’t give any information about what that text string means — and this can make it more difficult for search engines to intelligently display relevant content to a user.”

In this case, microdata elements — also called “schema tags” — could be added to clarify that the word “Avatar” is a movie title.

Why use microdata to mark up your pages?

Adding microdata to your website’s code offers a number of benefits. Microdata tags give the search-engines more context for the type of information on a website so they can more accurately answer search queries. In the example, adding microdata to mark up HTML code on a web page related to the movie “Avatar” would tell the search engines to rank the page in relation to movie searches, not graphic design sites (avatar is the term used for an image representing someone in a chat ‘room’).

Another benefit of microdata is the creation of “rich snippets,” which display more information on the search result pages than traditional listings.

For example, a Google search for “bbq recipe” turns up the following results, including images, reviews and cooking times.

microdata search example - bbq recipe

If you were searching for a new BBQ recipe, chances are you’d be more inclined to click on one of these than on a traditional listing that displays only the site’s title, exerpt and URL.

Who should use microdata tags?

The Google, Bing and Yahoo partnership has considerably expanded the range of options in the library of microdata tags. Some of the most popular types of microdata include:

Creative works: CreativeWork, Book, Movie, MusicRecording, Recipe, TVSeries
Embedded non-text objects: AudioObject, ImageObject, VideoObject
Place, LocalBusiness, Restaurant
Product, Offer, AggregateOffer
Review, AggregateRating
Small local businesses who have a web page stand to benefit the most from microdata. Microdata is great for any business having trouble generating traffic through search results. Google loves microdata tags and they can help your site get indexed and ranked more accurately. The rich snippets let your site stand out from others and help drive more traffic to you.

How can you get started with microdata tags?

To get a feel for what your finished marked-up code will look like, consider the following fictional HTML page for the “Avatar” example:

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Movie”>
<span>Director: James Cameron (born August 16, 1954)</span>
<span>Science fiction</span>
<a href=”../movies/avatar-trailer.html”>Trailer</a>

In this example, the “movie” microdata tag has been added to the “div” section, specifying that information in this text area of the site refers to a film. The “itemscope” tag tells the search engines that all content in this particular “div” section relates to the “itemtype” defined (in this case, “movie”).

For more informationon how to integrate microdata into your site’s HTML code, try reading the “Getting Started Guide” on Schema.org. After your coding is complete, consider running your website through Google’s “Rich Snippets Testing Tool” to be sure your microdata is read correctly and providing the maximum benefit to your pages.

Coming soon: A microdata generator for you to enter some basic information and simply copy and paste the results into your website. Visit http://MarketingThatWorks.com.au and watch for the announcement!