What Schema.org Means for SEO and Beyond

by Aaron Bradley on June 3, 2011

in Semantic Web, SEO

What Schema.org Means for Search Engine Optimization and Beyond

I'm hesitant to either use superlatives or make predictions concerning search engine innovations (I'm the first to deride commentators that use the phrase "game changer" in almost any context), but the joint announcement by Google, Yahoo and Bing introducing schema.org is, in my opinion, pretty big news.  Schema.org at once provides a mechanism by which semantic web technologies can become a lot more mainstream, and at the same time offers the possibility of superior search visibility for search marketers that embrace this standardized, structured on-page markup.

Both searchers and publishers of quality content (by which, in this context, I really mean "quality data") stand to gain by the introduction of schema.org.  If schema.org is adopted widely, search engine users will potentially have much better answers to more complex queries, and publishers will have a mechanism to provide the search engines with much more detailed information then the engines are currently able (or, in some cases, willing) to digest.  This promise rests on the power of structured data.

An Extraordinarily Brief Introduction to Structured Data

Structured data is a mechanism by which relationships between things can be expressed in a machine-readable format.  "This computer mouse has the price $29.99," "the father of Jane Doe is John Doe," "a mouse is a mammal," and so on.  Structured data separates the presentation layer (what a web user sees) from the data layer (what a computer robot sees):  machines consuming structured data don't have to "guess" what a web resource is about, but are provided with very exact information that can be parsed and queried.

The bedrock of structured data is the resource definition framework (RDF), a "a standard model for data interchange on the Web" that permits data to be shared across different applications, and supports the evolution of different schemas over time.  RDFa provides a set of attributes that allow the embedding of rich metadata within web documents:  that is, the addition of machine-readable attributes to standard XHTML.  Microformats allow publishers to add specific attributes to existing HTML/XHTML for a topical realm defined by the microformat, providing machine-readable information for things such as recipes, events and products.  Microdata is a (proposed) HTML5 specification that allows for the nesting of semantic information within the code of existing web pages.  Like microformats, microdata relies on a supporting vocabulary to describe an item; unlike microformats, microdata allows for (relatively) extensible vocabularies, and presents no risk of conflicting with CSS attributes.

Schema.org is microdata.  More specifically, it is a structured data markup schema with a shared vocabulary that easily allows webmasters to embed machine-readable information in their HTML5 code.

Structured data falls under the broad topical umbrella of the semantic web, for which I've previously compiled a list of resources for the beginner.   Those interested in learning more about the semantic web as it pertains specifically to search engine optimization might want to check out a presentation I gave on the subject.

Major Implications of Schema.org

The introduction of schema.org, with its support from the major search engines, accomplishes two important things.  It normalizes the structured markup supported by the search engines, and it extends the topical domains of presently supported micoformats and structured vocabularies.

From a search engine optimization perspective, the normalization of markup vocabulary now makes it easy for webmasters and SEOs to decide upon which vocabulary to implement if they're starting from scratch.  It seems unlikely that the search engines are ever going to abandon structured data, and the flavor of the month is now unequivocally clear.  And there is greater incentive to invest the time and effort into producing structured markup, because Bing (which previously, unlike Google, had no acknowledged support for either microformats or RDFa) is on board with the initiative.

Perhaps even more importantly, the adoption of a standard vocabulary by the biggest conduits of web-based information queries – the major search engines – will almost certainly accelerate the adoption of structured data across the web.  This is analagous in some ways to the introduction of Facebook's Open Graph protocol.  While Open Graph wasn't particularly warmly received by the semantic web community, the benefits of sharing structured data with Facebook resulted in rapid and widespread adoption of Open Graph in the form of the now-ubiquitous Facebook "like" button.

One-time Yahoo product manager Tyler Bell, now with Factual, made a prescient observation at the time Open Graph was introduced:

Most importantly, OpenGraph is one component in a wider ecosystem. Its deployment benefits are apparent to the consumer and the developer: add the metatags, get the "likes," know your customers.

Such consumer causality is critical to the adoption of any semantic mark-up. We've seen it before with microformats, whose eventual popularity was driven by their ability to improve how a page is represented in search engine listings, and not by an abstract desire to structure the unstructured. Successful adoption will often entail sacrificing standardization and semantic purity for pragmatic ease-of-use; this is where the semantic web appears to have stumbled, and where linked data will most likely succeed.

Despite the relatively limited topical domains of microformats supported by Google, adoption has been widespread where there's been a demonstrable benefit for search engine visibility (notably with hRecipe).  Now that there's a standardized vocubulary respected by all the major search engines, and covering a much broader topical range than those supported by microformats.

While it's anything but an ontology of everything, schema.org does vastly extend the vocabulary available with Google-supported microformats.  RDFa, as the schema.org FAQ acknowledges, is much more extensible than either microdata or microformats, "but the substantial complexity of the language has contributed to slower adoption."  Certainly the relatively few search marketers I've known with an interest in structured data have almost all focused on microformats, and marking up pages in schema.org microdata is far easier for non-specialists than RDFa.

To the extent that marketers are willing to deploy relatively simple structured data, the schema.org types now supported potentially extends the use of structured data into much more diverse topical realms than microformats.  There was, for example, no microformat available by which one could specify the URL of a movie theatre.  And schema.org often provides a richer vocabulary than that available with microformats:  the schema.org organization type will be welcomed by anyone who has tried to markup complex information about a company using hCard.

Current Search Engine Support for Structured Data and the Road Ahead

The search engines have long been consumers of structured and semi-structured data.  In 2008 Google started to display reviews from such sites as Yelp and Citysearch directly in search results as a result of parsing review data, in what was probably the first broad-based appearance of rich snippets in the SERPs.  Since then Google, especially, has supported more and more structured data types, including various microformats, RDFa, and the product vocabulary GoodRelations.  This is in addition to other types of structured and semi-structured data submitted directly from publishers to the search engines, such as product feeds (such as feeds for Google Products), RSS and XML sitemaps.

As noted, the most obvious manifestation of the search engines' consumption of structured data has been the appearance of rich snippets in the search results:  a search engine snippet that provides more information directly in the SERPs than the traditional linked title, description and URL of a web resource.  An example is a product snippet in the Web SERPs that includes price, availability and review information.

Despite the broad range of microformats and structured vocabularies for which Google has professed support, what's most typified Google's use of structured data to date is the extremely uneven appearance of rich snippets.  Google will sometimes display a rich snippet in web results for a page and sometimes not, despite the availability of specifically Google-supported structured data for that resource.

Rich Snippet for Google Shopping Results, None for Web Results

In the example above, the URL referenced in the shopping results and the URL referenced in the web results contain identical GoodRelations markup, but only the shopping result appears as a rich snippet.  While this might be ascribed to the degree of trust Google accords to a given source, just because a rich snippet appears for one result doesn't mean it will appear for a similar result from that same domain.

Amazon Product Results With and Without Rich Snippets in In Google Web ResultsIn short, given the amount of structured data being offered to Google, one would expect to see a far greater number of rich snippets appearing in Google than has actually been the case.

This situation changed somewhat with Google's announced support for improved recipe rich snippets based on RDFa or hRecipe in April 2010, and the introduction of "Recipe View" in February 2011.  While Recipe View provided ways with users to refine their searches based on attributes made available with structured data, Google's consumption of structured recipe data has resulted in the generation of far more rich snippets for recipes than in any other topical realm.

Google Recipe Search ResultsGoogle's embrace of structured data for recipes can be seen as something of a precursor to schema.org, especially as it pertains to Google's confidence in the veracity of structured data.  I don't know how successful Recipe View itself has been, but I'm willing to bet that the creation and consumption of structured recipe data has resulted in "better" recipe search results in Google, whether that success is based on the metric of higher CTRs on top results or some of other measure of search satisfaction.

What's really interesting about recipe search results is that, unlike things like consumer products, rich snippets are being fairly consistently displayed in the SERPs.  Google seems to have a high degree of trust for recipes coded with hRecipe/RDFa, and there's reasons to think that this trust in data may extend to documents marked up with schema.org types and properties.  Schema.org microdata may offer the search engines a superior methodology for evaluating the veracity of structured data.  A comment from Alan Bleiweiss on the first Search Engine Land report about schema.org summarizes this admirably:

I can already see scenarios where the engines look at content within these and say “does this belong here, or is this a spammy use of this area of the page?” I know they already evaluate such things to a certain degree, but with the new uniform elements, breaking down pages into consistent uniform blocks will make it much easier for them to do that evaluation within an individual page, across a site, and across competitive sites.

This is, in my opinion, an extremely important point.  Providing structured data to search engines is of little use if there's a low probability that the search engines will use it.  It is likely that Google's evaluation of recipe structured data concluded that those data were trustworthy, for the simple reason that there's not a lot of incentive for publishers to go to the trouble of producing hRecipe markup unless the resource is actually a recipe.  It will be very interesting to see if Google, Yahoo and Bing express the same confidence in schema.org markup:  if more varied rich snippets start to appear quickly in the SERPs, this will be an indication that Google et al. have been able to successfully roll in trust measures with their roll-out of schema.org.

The Impact of Schema.org on Search Results and SEO

As suggested above, the likeliest impact of schema.org data on search results will be the appearance of rich snippets for a much broader range of topics.  For example, a result for a book search might include the display of the number of pages and ISBN directly in the search results.  Related to this is a possible increase in the number of custom search refinements facilitated by microdata, such as those currently offered in Recipe View.  One way or another, wide scale adoption of schema.org markup certainly opens up the potential for the search engines to be able to provide more exact answers to a broader range of very specific queries.

Albert Einstein Date of Birth - GoogleBecause schema.org microdata allows web publishers to provide attributes for sections of a web page, this will make it easier for the search engines to extract specific information from the content of web pages with less guessing.  This is likely to result in the inclusion of more information directly in the search results, as opposed to forcing the user to visit the linked resource.  This is not, as per the Einstein query above, uncommon at present, but answers delivered directly in the SERPs could become much more prevalent with schema.org.  Certainly the existence of schema.org markup on a page will make it much, much easier for search engines to parse the information that appears on a web page.  This, of course, offers something of a challenge for web publishers that want to encourage click-throughs from the SERPs to their web page:  there's less reason for a searcher to leave Google if the information they're seeking is displayed directly in the search results.

From this perspective, it seems likely that a web page containing schema.org-compliant markup will have greater visibility in the search results than a page containing similar information, but lacking structured data.  So all things being equal, web publishers that include schema.org markup in their code should have a competitive SEO advantage over those that don't.  "All things being equal" is a pretty big caveat, and the degree to which this is an actual competitive advantage revolves around the degree of trust that the search engines put in schema.org data.  However, it seems unlikely that the search engines have collaborated on a structured data schema without a fair degree of confidence that this schema will pay off in the form of better search results for users.

A bigger conundrum faces publishers that have already been employing microformats or RDFa in their code.  While Google says "it’s OK to use the new schema.org markup or continue to use existing microformats or RDFa markup, you should avoid mixing the formats together on the same web page, as this can confuse our parsers."  This puts publishers between a rock and hard place:  it may not be advisable simply to add schema.org markup to existing code because of this confusion, but leaving things as is fails to realize the benefits of Bing's adoption of schema.org.  As one of the stated goals of schema.org is to offer a common vocabulary that the search engines agree upon, the prospects for continued non-schema.org structured data support (let alone search engine support for new microformats or structured data schemas) seems slim.

One may also expect to see an increase in the amount of semantic spam being fed to the search engines.  I explored this to some degree in a previous post on the subject of trust in the semantic web, but schema.org potentially makes it much more attractive for nefarious publishers to misrepresent their data in the interests of increased traffic from search engines.  The degree to which the search engines are able to readily evaluate the veracity of schema.org data will be a determining factor is whether it's actually worthwhile to try to spam the search engines in this manner, which in turn may have bearing on how much the search engines trust (and so draw upon) microdata attributes in general.

Initial Reactions from the Semantic Web Community

Even early on, it's clear that schema.org has evoked two very different reactions from those in the semantic web community, many of whom have been working on structured data for a long time.  On one hand, schema.org may the equivalent of a "killer app" for the semantic web that finally results in the wide scale adoption of structured data that most semantic web researchers think is long overdue.  This is best summarized by the opening paragraph of a blog post from Structured Dynamics CEO Michael K. Bergman about schema.org (the post title, Structured Web Gets Massive Boost, is a pretty good summary in itself):

In my opinion, perhaps the most important event for the structured Web since RDF was released a dozen years ago was today’s joint announcement by the search engine triumvirate of Google, Bing and Yahoo! releasing Schema.org. Schema.org is a vendor specification for nearly 300 mini-schema (or structured record definitions) that can be used to tag information in Web pages. These schema are organized into a clean little hierarchy and cover many of the leading things — from organizations to people to products and creative works — that can be written about and characterized on the Web.

On the other hand, as Bergman acknowledges in his post, those that spent years on RDF and RDFa see this as the rejection of a superior set of structured data standards in favor of an inferior schema, and bemoan how these efforts are now potentially undervalued (Jay Myers, the trail-blazing web developer that brought GoodRelations to Best Buy, tweeted that "there's just nothing quite like throwing away years of vocabulary/ontology work").

Following up on a tweet by Italian semantic web researcher Irene Celino where she said she was "astonished & disappointed" by schema.org, I asked her about the reason for these feelings, to which she was kind enough to reply:

Bear in mind this is only *my* very personal point of view, and other Semantic Web-ers could partially or totally disagree.

I was already quite disappointed by the W3C to standardize microdata instead of RDFa within HTML5, since the latter is (1) much more expressive and (2) strictly connected to the Linked Data efforts of the Semantic Web community.

The fact that Schema.org FAQ explicitly suggest to drop RDFa is even worse, especially after Yahoo and Google supported the adoption of GoodRelations for product description. Of course they are free to choose the format they like, but somehow they are saying "if you want to appear in search results follow our rules". Instead, as Web site owner I'd say "dear major search engines, do your best to keep up with what the Web is offering you to index and do not restrict the natural evolution of the Web and the _data_ Web sites offer, whatever their format".

This has so far been a common reaction from semantic web researchers, and the two viewpoints taken together are bittersweet in aggregate:  isn't it great that the search engines have made this massive stride toward embracing the semantic web, but isn't it lousy that the specific standard they've adopted is microdata.  The debate within the semantic web community will be interesting to watch as schema.org markup starts to appear.  It will be also interesting to see what this means for the future of microformats, given that there's basically no longer any reason to employ them for SEO purposes (as of time of writing, there's been no reaction yet on the microformats blog or from their Twitter account).

[Update, 6 June:  I'd be remiss not to mention here Manu Sporny's eloquent polemic The False Choice of Schema.org, which I discovered after publishing this post.]

Search engine marketers are a lot more accustomed to prescriptive directives from the search engines, so the reaction from the SEO community so far has generally been favorable.  As a long time advocate of leveraging structured data for search engine visibility, I'm personally pleased that there's now a common structured data vocabulary for SEOs to stand behind (as little as a month ago, I was asking about whether to employ hCard or RDFa for the best representation of company information in search, now a moot question).  And while, like Celino, I'm disappointed by the limitations of schema.org compared to RDFa, I certainly do anticipate an easier time of it when I try to sell the semantic web to web publishers concerned with their search engine visibility.

Should coding pages using schema.org markup now become the priority task for on-page optimization?  Perhaps not, but schema.org certainly can't long be ignored in for SEOs seeking a competitive advantage and superior search engine visibility.

1 AJ Kohn June 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Thank you for an informative, balanced, yet detailed, review of past, present and future of structured data and how it impacts search and SEO.

I’m still interested in the implications for Facebook and the Open Graph. In many ways I feel like the Open Graph finally pushed search engines to come to terms with a unified vocabulary. They certainly don’t want Facebook to dictate the vocabulary for semantic markup.

So, how exactly will Facebook respond? I find it hard to believe they’ll adopt the new standard completely. But I think they’ll become very adept at using the new microdata for their own purposes.

Finally, I think the playing field has been tilted … again. Those with technical capabilities are going to benefit where those that don’t may fall behind.

In the past that seemed to bother Google (who were late to the Microformat party), but today I sense that it may simply be evidence of a ‘quality’ site.

2 Joel Glenn Wright December 17, 2013 at 3:22 pm

First of all, Aaron – Fantastic job on this article! We’ve know each other for a couple of years now and we’ve talked to each other, back and forth, about all this. But I am always amazed that the clarity and depth that you always seem to be able to pour into your articles.

I also want to give a shout-out to AJ Kohn. AJ I am in total agreement with you are the tilting of the tables in the micro-data world. Also, just on a personal note – I’ve gone and looked there all the micro-data and micro-formatting sites, schema.org in particular, and I find it kinda fun in an ironic way but also very frustrated that these sites are about trying to help the search engines see and understand what information actually is, and yet they are just total opposite when it comes to human beings because the information is scattered and difficult to find.

I was fortunate enough stiff through all on the crap and disjunct files and pages and data servers and was able to glean an incredible amount of valuable, pragmatic tactics – but that’s only because I am a little ‘OCD’ in the head some times and just refuse to stop until I get/comprehend/understand it. Other wise it just, pisses my off.

But that’s get me, I really wish that would just make all of the technology. Knowledge on one place and make it easier for people to understand and implement it.

Anyways, I am sorry to have gotten a little ‘preachy’. I’m getting off my soapbox now……hehehe.

But again, Aaron – you did some fantastic/killer work in this article, in my opinion. Keep Rockin’!!!

3 Aaron Bradley January 16, 2014 at 8:38 am

Thanks so much for your kind words Joel – much appreciated.

I enthusiastically second your shout-out for AK Kohn.

Rant away here anytime! 🙂

I sympathize with your frustration with the how knowledge sources about these technologies are scattered about in different places, and ensuing the difficulty in finding needed information. I can only say that the digital world being described by these technologies is itself a disjointed and messy place, and I don’t know that we can expect substantially better from any given layer of this world.

4 Alan Bleiweiss June 3, 2011 at 5:01 pm

within minutes of first visiting schema.org, as I was just beginning to look at the types of data this early version focuses on, I knew the future. As sure as I did the first time I was introduced to the web back in January of 95. And that day, I knew the web was the future and my new career.

Is it possible that there won’t be wide adoption? Yeah. Is it likely there won’t be? Not in my opinion. As more and more 20th century marketers stream to embrace the web (finally, 16 years into it), the competition for eyeballs will only grow even beyond what it is today. By leaps and bounds.

And for all the “Faceook marks doom of Google” blabbering out there, anyone with half a brain for marketing mind models knows that at least for the next several years, Google/Bing/Yahoo (or at least Google/Bing) is going to continue to be the primary channel for ecommerce based search, and almost as likely , for information based search.

That means only one outcome – those who adapt and evolve will survive. Those who don’t will die. May Day, then Panda, now Schema – Google’s making major strides lately. The fact that Bing chose to participate out the gate is also as you point out, a major ingredient to this. Yahoo joined in out of shear survival instinct.

But look at that – how could anyone believe microdata (like it or not) is not going to be a major component to search? The writing on the wall really couldn’t be any more vivid.

Shortly after I tweeted “game changer” yesterday, I put out an email to my biggest clients development and project management team – go to schema.org and start learning. Have a clear plan to transition to it within the next six month. Because most people will not even think about getting on board in a significant way til next year and beyond, when this stuff really takes hold. Competitive advantage time.

What’s great too is when I finished up my slide deck for SMX Advanced and my presentation on the Google Survival panel, I made sure to cover Schema and what it means to SEO. It’s great to read your take on it and see how much it resonates with my thoughts.

And Aaron, thanks for taking the time to write such a well thought-out, rational post on this topic. I realized yesterday this type of article was needed, yet I’m all twisted up with tasking in prep for Advanced and was concerned I wouldn’t have the time. Well you took care of it for me!

5 Aaron Bradley June 3, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Thanks for your comment and kind words, Alan.

I agree with you that adoption is far more likely to be wide spread than not. Even with the so far limited demonstrable value of GoodRelations (not because GoodRelations isn’t fabulous, but because Google still seems to be pulling its trusted structured product data from Google Products), we’ve seen many big retailers jump on board already, including Best Buy and Overstock.

And no marketer wants to risk being outdone by a competitor by getting behind. I can’t imagine there are many enterprise-level producers of web-based recipes left right now that aren’t delivering hRecipe or RDFa to Google right now. You simply don’t want to field an executive phone call asking why the other guy’s recipe is appearing at the top of the SERPs with rich data, and your recipe isn’t.

6 Alan Bleiweiss June 3, 2011 at 5:46 pm

And someone recently asked me to do an audit on several sites in a particular niche with locations nationwide. The ones that showed up consistently in the SERP AND in SERP Place Page map had all their locations in microdata of one type or another. The ones that didn’t either showed up only in organics (lower down) or only in Place pages (after clicking into Google Maps).

All of these concepts are pretty clear to me as to how important they’re going to become.

7 Lin Clark June 5, 2011 at 6:32 pm

“This puts publishers between a rock and hard place: it may not be advisable simply to add schema.org markup to existing code because of this confusion, but leaving things as is fails to realize the benefits of Bing’s adoption of schema.org.”

You can actually use the schema.org vocabulary with RDFa, there is an example at http://schema.org/docs/datamodel.html … so people using RDFa can continue to use it and just add the schema.org vocabularies to their RDFa output.

8 Aaron Bradley June 6, 2011 at 7:31 am

Yes, Lin, there’s no compelling technical reason you can’t use schema.org microdata and RDFa together. I was referring to Google’s (now notorious) advice that “while it’s OK to use the new schema.org markup or continue to use existing microformats or RDFa markup, you should avoid mixing the formats together on the same web page, as this can confuse our parsers.”

So according to Google, just adding the schema.org markup to existing RDFa or microformats isn’t a good idea. There’s certainly been debate over whether this might actually be confusing, but for whatever it’s worth this is Google’s stance.

9 Lin Clark June 6, 2011 at 7:54 am

I think that you are misreading the sentence. I agree that mixing the two formats is bad… I’ve tested things against their parser before and it does get confused on things other parsers can handle. However, you don’t need to mix the two formats in order to use the schema.org vocabulary.

schema.org specifies a vocabulary. They happen to demonstrate how to place that vocabulary using microdata. However, the schema.org vocabulary is independent of the format used to place it in HTML. In this way, schema.org is analogous to Google’s other vocabulary, http://www.data-vocabulary.org/. Both can be expressed in either microdata or RDFa.

I can’t say for sure what Google’s RDFa parser will do, but it would be silly for them to only parse one of their own vocabularies. It would also be silly for them to document how to use the vocabulary in RDFa, as they do at http://schema.org/docs/datamodel.html, if they didn’t intend to parse it.

There could be a section on schema.org that actually does specify that Google won’t parse RDFa that uses the schema.org vocabulary, but no one has been able to point me to it yet.

10 Lin Clark June 6, 2011 at 8:07 am

Actually, reading Peter Mika’s post again, I found the part where they do say that they won’t parse non-microdata…

“We will also be monitoring the web for RDFa and microformats adoption and if they pick up, we will look into supporting these syntaxes. “

11 Aaron Bradley June 6, 2011 at 9:17 am

Thanks for your efforts at clarification here, Lin. Sorry if I wasn’t clear: Google has stated they’ll continue to support (meaning continue to parse) RDFa – and as you point out, they even give instructions about how to use the schema.org vocabulary in RDFa. My only point is that they explicitly caution against mixing schema.org microdata and RDFa. The only conclusion I draw from that is that for publishers making their first foray into structured data this could be interpreted as “pick one only one format,” and that schema.org is liable to win out because Bing will support schema.org, but not RDFa or microformats.

12 Martin Hepp June 6, 2011 at 10:50 am

Hi Aaron:
1. Google and Yahoo have stated that they will continue to support GoodRelations in RDFa. In my opinon, schema.org is a new attempt to boost rich data usage by site-owners, but I am pretty skeptical that it will have the intended effect, because the microdata markup proposed now is almost identical to that proposed back in November 2011, and that has received less adoption than e.g. GoodRelations in RDFa.

2. Bing has also now officially stated that they will add support for GoodRelations in RDFa.

So you can safely use GoodRelations in RDFa to please Google, Yahoo, Bing, and all novel mobile applications and browser extensions that are RDFa-aware.

Best wishes

Martin Hepp

Disclosure: I am the lead developer of GoodRelations.

13 Aaron Bradley June 6, 2011 at 11:58 am

Thanks for your comment and for supplying the URL about Bing support, namely at this Bing help page.

As noted, Bing’s support for GoodRelations is in the future tense. As a big fan of the vocabulary, I hope they follow through on support, even in light of the schema.org announcement.

The Bing crawlers currently do not support the GoodRelations vocabulary. However, we will add support and documentation for this type of annotation in the future.

14 Martin Hepp June 6, 2011 at 12:38 pm

Note that the Bing support for schema.org is also just “announced” – afaik, there are no microdata-based rich snippets in Bing as of now.

15 Aaron Bradley June 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm

Fair enough. 🙂

16 Brian Greenberg June 6, 2011 at 6:22 pm

I think this is huge news. It is great that the major search players have agreed on a format! Now that the verdict is out… I will definitely move on this.

17 Joydeep June 6, 2011 at 9:05 pm

I tried to use the new http://schema.org/ for my webpage.

URL – http://www.joydeepdeb.com/blog/html-5-overview.html

But when I test it in ‘Google Rich Snippets Testing Tool’ – I am getting the following error

The following errors were found during preview generation: Insufficient data to generate the preview.

18 Aaron Bradley June 10, 2011 at 4:19 pm

That, unfortunately, is a pretty common Rich Snippets Testing Tool error. It doesn’t look like you’re a victim either rich snippet “insufficient data” errors (though I don’t know about the tag use). It would be really nice if Google provided more instructive rich snippet errors.

Please let us all know if you get it to work, and what – if any – influence this has on the page display in the SERPs.

19 Will.Spencer June 9, 2011 at 6:51 am

Awesome, now we can all invest in pushing more of our data into the search results pages — meaning fewer visitors will click through to our web sites.

20 Emarketing Guide June 15, 2011 at 3:13 am

Now I can expect rich and different type of snippets not from Google only, from Yahoo & Bing as well.

Will interested to see the results that could be different on query to query basis, thanks the detailed info!

21 Yomar Lopez July 31, 2011 at 4:54 am

Schema.org was years in the making and I’m surprised this did not happen sooner. If you think about it, web search has mostly relied on fuzzy logic until now. Things were loosely linked and grouped together according to search habits, mis-spellings, and meta data. Now, there will be a more close correlation between words to bolster relevant searches.

Your Schema.org discussion here is the most detailed I’ve seen yet. Great work!

22 Ram September 8, 2011 at 4:52 am

The most informative discussion I ever have seen. Thanks indeed for the author and other contributors.

23 Robert Kost September 14, 2011 at 4:40 pm

Well done article, Aaron.

Next, we need to talk about the “how” and the tools, which really don’t exist.


24 Aaron Bradley September 14, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Indeed. On the “how” (or “how to”) front the documentation on schema.org itself is pretty laconic: there’s better implementation advice available on the schema.org discussion group.

As for the tools, a big I-hear-you there. There’s still no decent Wordpress plugin to mark up posts with microdata (one has been produced, but at time of writing it simply isn’t ready for prime time).

If Google et al. expect widespread adoption of microdata, they need to do a much better job of explaining it to everyday webmasters.

25 Yomar Lopez September 15, 2011 at 7:26 am

Well, you definitely know your stuff Aaron. The implications here are huge.. It makes you think more about how your structure your content from a content and web development perspective alike.

Definitely looking forward to your follow-up here. Certainly, this is one of those things that will have more and more value once it is widely adopted and supported by key players. Of course, having a leg-up now makes life much easier for when we “cross that bridge”. 8)

26 Zack September 16, 2011 at 9:59 am

I definitely agree that this a big deal, Google, Yahoo/Bing rarely agree on something, so when they do, we should at least pay attention. To “hopefully” make things easier, I’ve created a microdata generator that uses schema.org vocab. I would love to hear any and all feedback on it ,or if there’s a “type” that you would like for me to create I can do that as well.



27 Aaron Bradley September 16, 2011 at 10:19 am

Thanks for your comment Zack – not least of all because it alerted me to your microdata generator, of which I wasn’t previously aware. I look forward to taking it for a test drive.

And you may regret your offer of creating a new “type” – that’s definitely something I’ll be taking you up on. 🙂

28 Claire Vannette November 10, 2011 at 11:00 am

“Should coding pages using schema.org markup now become the priority task for on-page optimization?”

And that’s exactly the question I’m trying to answer. Since there are only so many hours in a day, how does the value of schema.org markup compare to the value of link-building, content creation, and all the other delightful stuff we do for rankings? I don’t expect an easy answer, mind you, but I haven’t even seen much anecdata on the subject.

29 Manu Sporny December 11, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Just as an update – schema.org will support RDFa:


… and RDFa is already being standardized at W3C for HTML5:


30 webstatsart January 14, 2012 at 5:36 am

OK fellas.. so now we build a new web development program that forces us to seamlessly comply to the schema? In the schema of things I am curious to know if this is being implemented to save spidering costs of huge sites. It has no benefit to the common man whatsoever.

31 Martin Hepp January 18, 2012 at 7:02 am

I think you are wrong in your assessment, for the following reasons: Structured data in Web content makes it easier for search engines to extract detailed information about the focus and content of your page; it is mainly not about reducing “costs”, but about increasing the level of detail of extracted information and increasing the confidence that the information was extracted correctly.

Search engines use this e.g. to predict the likelihood that they should show your site in the list of possibly matching sites for a given query.

You, as a site-owner or “common man”, as you term it, get back more and more qualified traffic from the search engines.

If you do not want search engines to touch your site because you think they are evil, simply tell them they are unwanted via robots.txt.


Martin Hepp

32 Aaron Bradley January 18, 2012 at 8:18 am

Thanks for you comment, Martin, with which I agree. Costs are always relative to benefit, and as you point out there are considerable benefits to publishers by marking up resources in a way that search engines (and other parsers) can understand.

No “spidering costs” are saved when search engine robots visit sites with structured markup, as they’re there to index the content one way or the other. Whether it’s schema.org microdata, microformats or RDFa, structured markup is a way of provisioning the search engines with more exact information about a site than can be delivered at the presentation layer alone.

33 Martin Hepp January 18, 2012 at 9:02 am
34 Jerry Katzenbaum July 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm

What’s interesting in this context is that the German government is preparing a legislative initiative that would oblige search engine operators to share their ad revenues with the copyright owners when they use their unique content in snippets. If Google News for example uses several sentences from your article in Google News as a teaser, they would have to pay you for it. The proposal is very controversial in Germany and caused a lot of discussion, but it may not be as absurd as it first seems given the developments of the semantic web and the increasing tendency to keep the users on the search engine’s site despite using other people’s content.

35 casper June 12, 2013 at 12:46 pm

Do anyone see a big benefit of applying structured data like schema to their websites ?
I do see the point about reviews and author getting presented in the listings, but other than that, has anyone seen a rise or decline after spending hours to implement it ?

36 Yogendra September 23, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Schema.org markups really a great mean in terms of seo. I used them for almost every blog including movie review blog, hosting review blog etc. Thanks for this nice article to explain the term.

37 Vivek Moyal October 19, 2015 at 9:41 pm

Thank you for this detailed informative article about schemas. I am using the structured data but i dont find anything helpful for me. It is really working for good indexing

Previous post:

Next post: