Although my redesigned webpages only looks and functions a bit differently, under the hood I’ve added more structured metadata for Googlebot and his friends to find. Metadata isn’t new it has been around a long time on MacOS and online but spammers seriously abused both keywords and description, to the point where Google now ignores both. Structured metadata is new formats, championed by industry heavyweights, to help make it easier to index and share content online.
You want your carefully created content fully indexed by search engines?
You want your content shared on all the big social networks?
If you want your content to look the best, you need structured metadata.
Structured Metadata’s Big 5
There are five ‘kinds’ of structured metadata I’m either using or have strongly considered using. You can see what structured metadata Google is able to find for any webpage using this tool. Google uses structured metadata to build rich snippets. Some studies have shown that rich snippets get clicked
30%, 70%, 150% more than regular boring Google search results. Regardless of the study or the number, many people, companies, and organizations have had success increasing their organic search traffic using structured metadata.
These are the 5 most common formats:
- Schema.org – this is what Google wants you to use, it is complicated and aimed at e-commerce.
- Open Graph – this is what Facebook wants you to use, Facebook has a lot of daily active users.
- Twitter Cards – this is what Twitter wants you to use, Twitter is great at breaking news.
- Microformats – this is what Tantek Çelik wants you to use, supported by Apple, Google, LinkedIn etc.
- HTML5 – this is what the W3C wants you to use, some corporations seem to set their own standards.
Five competing formats, which one do I use?
The answer is it depends on who (or what) is most important to you. If you work on a large e-commerce website and you want to sell more stuff to people who use search engines, you should strongly consider the specification detailed on schema.org and how it could be applied to your business / website.
Google, Yahoo, and Bing all agreed to support schema.org, that is the majority of search traffic in English.
So which formats are you actually using on your website?
Muschamp.ca is definitely not an e-commerce website so I’ve used every other format on my domain but schema.org.
If you have Facebook fans or you want Facebook fans or you just want your content to look better when you share it on Facebook, you’ll want to add Open Graph meta tags to your webpages. If you use WordPress or some other content management system, this isn’t hard. I think the first thing I built which fully supported Open Graph was my quotation mashup. Google and Facebook aren’t buds, but Google understands the Open Graph meta tags and will pull data from them in search results, even on Google+.
For most individuals, Open Graph is the most important meta data after the title tag on their webpages.
What if I don’t like Facebook, what if I like Twitter better?
Not wanting to miss out on the structured metadata standard creating party, Twitter created it’s own format. This format is newer and not as widely supported as Open Graph. I want to add it to my WordPress blog and I’m hoping one plugin author just does it for me, but if not I’ll have to built my own solution or find another plugin. If you have already added support for Open Graph it isn’t much more work to add support for Twitter Cards too, I quickly added support to my quotation mashup the other day, it took about 30 minutes to code and test. I only had to add 3 meta tags to my header.php file to add basic Twitter Card support to my blog.
I personally prefer Twitter to Facebook, so if you want your Tweets to look fancy, use Twitter Cards.
There are so many microformats, which one is the best?
Each microformat encodes specific data. If you currently use a calendar app, you’ve been using the hCalendar microformat and didn’t even know it. If you use an address book on your computer or phone, it probably supports hCard. If you have a LinkedIn profile, then you have an hResume. For the longest time the only structured metadata Google could find on my entire domain was my resume, which I redid in hResume format after seeing Tantek Çelik speak at Web Directions North. Hopefully your content management system supports microformats, Google definitely understands microformats.
Is HTML5 finished, should I be using it?
I’m not sure it is completely finalized, but all the major browsers seem to support parts of it and if you’re interested in structured metadata and improving your Google search results, man do I have some low hanging fruit.
rel=”me” is structured metadata you can use to tell search engines and social networks which online profiles are also ‘you’. Google supports it, but prefers you use rel=”author” if you’re an individual or rel=”publisher” if you’re an organization/corporation. If you do what Google wants they’ll reward you with the easiest to get and by far the most common rich snippet.
Update: Google has announced they are no longer providing a rich snippet to publishers and authors who used rel=”author”.
So there you have it, structured metadata can be used to make your content sexier in Google’s search results, on Facebook, even on Twitter or Pinterest. If you have any other suggestions on using structured meta data be sure and leave a comment.
Three more quick tips that may help your content look sexier in search engines and on social media:
Update: Bing and Klout have partnered to implement “Klout-orship“, think Google Authorship but in Bing using data from Klout. I’ll have to try this, it seems easy to enable, but 65% of my traffic comes from Google, considerably less comes from Bing. Here is another bonus link, 7 Ways to Make Your Google Search Results Stand Out from Search Engine Watch.
Update: Moz.com has some example HTML you can use.
Update: I’ve got Rich Pins working for this domain including some of the subdomains. You can see this by pinning one of my quotations. You can also see how important it is to have larger, high quality images to accompany your writing/posts. I want to switch to the Twitter Card with the larger image too, but finding images wider than 200px, especially after I standardized on Pinterest’s obscure 192 pixels wide thumbnail is not something I have time and energy to accomplish.