In a move sure to attract the interest of the local SEO community, Google's Pierre Far took to Google+ today to announce "support for schema.org structured data markup to help us surface the correct business info in Google search."
As outlined in an accompanying Webmaster Central blog post, Google is using what it has christened "location pages" – "a general term covering any page that has information about a business" – in order to collect specific information about local businesses and organizations, so it may return this information directly in search results.
Information Google is urging webmasters to include and mark up on their contact pages includes an organization's address, opening hours, phone number and departments within a store, organization or business.
On its main reference page for location pages, Google notes that "[our] algorithms accept schema.org/Organization and all its sub-types and you should use the most relevant one for your business." While Google is chiefly interested in business contact information, it also shows an example where a location page is for a "standalone Restaurant with a menu" is marked up, employing the schema.org Restaurant type to declare the URL of a menu. Given previous speculation about the source of menu results in Google, search marketers will be keeping a close eye on the SERPs to see if using this markup can propel menu items directly from a restaurant's website into the SERPs.
The examples on the Google Developers site are also notable because they represent a de facto expansion of types for which Google honors JSON-LD, following its initial support of JSON-LD for music tour date information and company phone numbers. While Google makes no mention of JSON-LD in its announcement or main help page, the fact that JSON-LD is included alongside microdata and RDFa in each code example strongly suggests an implicit endorsement for its use – at the very least – for business contact information.
Google also seems particularly interested in leveraging markup to better understand the organizational structure of a business, and the examples lean heavily on the schema.org/Oganization department and branchOf properties to express things like the opening of hours of a specific department within a store, or the presence of an chain within a larger store (for example, a McDonalds within a Walmart).
The most complex example provided by Google shows markup for a pharmacy department and the kiosk of a dry cleaning chain both located within a larger store. Here's a visualization of this structure generated by running the example RDFa code through RDFa Play.
Google's thirst for structured information provided via webpages marked up with schema.org clearly has not been slaked, and – given what's at stake for local businesses – this latest initiative is sure to increase schema.org adoption even further.