30th November 2012

The importance of Microdata and how it can be manipulated

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Rich snippets, microdata, microformats, RDFa’s, schema… these are just some of the ways to add more context to a web page. These extra bits of code are used to give greater meaning to your content in the eyes of a search engine, it also helps them understand what they should be displaying within their results page. They are pulled out as snippets, which add a few extra lines that appear within the search results on Google, Bing, Yahoo! and other search engines. The information which you can use this extra markup on is the price, rating, number of reviews, track listings, authors name, business/organisation names, recipe ingredients and more. As Google is the dominant player in the search engine market, especially in the UK, it is worth following their guidelines; however you can also use schema.org, where you can mark up much more and all major search engines support it. I am not going to go into how to use them, as you can work that out for yourself. The biggest benefit from using microdata is that it will help your listing stand out from the crowd within the search results. Microdata example As you can see JD Sports has a few stars within their listing, which in my opinion makes it stand out against the rest of the results.  In fact, personally, I would be more inclined to click on that listing over the others, even though ASOS and Very have arguably a better-known online presence. And it’s because of this advantage of standing out that this markup has been abused. It is pretty easy to manipulate the way this markup works to give the appearance that you have 5 stars given from thousands of reviewers. After all, to get these stars to show, you are simply required to place some code around a few words or numbers on a web page, these do not have to be legitimate at all, just words and numbers. So placing the code around a “5/5” and “2000 reviews” would give the impression in the search results that you have been awarded an average of 5 stars from 2000 people, now that’s good press. Be warned though, if Google catches you, you can be thrown out of the index, which means you won’t show up in the results ever again! Also, it’s because of this abuse that the good guys have to suffer. It seems Google now picks and chooses whose ratings and microdata they show and whose they ignore. I think they might be tightening up the criteria in order to get these displayed in the search results, because for this article it took me a few searches to find some examples. You might be thinking that it is not worth this extra work, if there is no guarantee that your hard work will be displayed, but I would invest a little bit of time into this, mainly because Google recommends it. This not only means that it will help in the search results, but often also means that it could help the ranking of your site and the way Google indexes it. So if it doesn’t show in the results, it could still be having some affect on the way your site is ranked for certain search criteria.