Google’s latest search algorithm update, known as Hummingbird, is one of the most important updates in more than a decade. The update devalues websites with poor content and makes sure that people are able to find relevant information through long-tail search queries, which Google calls ‘conversational search’. Hence, the update makes it easy to find information with search queries formatted like questions.
Google’s searching database, more popularly known as ‘Knowledge Graph’, has billions of pieces of information that you can search from. In order to organize the data on a website, Google and other search engines recommend using Schema.org rich snippets. Schema.org, also known as ‘microdata’, came into existence in June 2011. In this article, you will get a few tips to mark up your content to conform to the Hummingbird update.
1. Microdata is More Important than Ever
What do people who visit your website find? The information on your website may be properly structured and presented for people to easily understand. However, with search bots, this is not the case. They do not understand the design of your website or the elements on it unless you specify them properly. For instance, if you have the name of a person on a web page and other relevant details, such as his/her address, phone number, spouse’s name, etc., a search bot has no way of knowing how these pieces of information relate to each other. On the other hand, if you specify how this bits of data relate to each other as shown below, the search engine will be able to better understand your page. Here is an example of marking up a person’s details using microdata.
<span itemprop=”name”>Sam Worthington</span>
The address of the person is here.
<span itemprop=”telephone”>(111) 222-3333</span>
This markup essentially tells a number of things about the person in the context. When Google gets a semantic search query like “what is the address of Sam Worthington”, it will be able to display the web page containing the structured data above. Since microdata makes it easy for search engines to understand content, all the major search engines recommend using it.
2. Rich Snippets & Special SERP Listing
These days, when you search for specific items within Google, you are presented with information inferred with the help of rich snippets. For instance, when you search for the movies a particular actor has appeared in, Google shows a top bar with posters of that actor’s movies. It’s the same way, Google highlights recipes, events, product reviews, ratings, restaurants, videos, business organizations, etc.
Since Hummingbird enables the search algorithm understand natural language better and brings more relevance to search results, websites have to incorporate rich snippets within the content. This makes sure that your pages are highlighted for relevant searches.
3. Microdata is Available in All Languages
Although currently microdata and its documentation are provided in English, the schema can be used in any language as long as you follow the rules. This benefits your site when people use Google search in their local languages. Since microdata markup is not visible to the visitors, it does not affect the general presentation of the website.
4. Increase the Visibility of Your Business
With microdata markup, you can easily provide more information about your company. With appropriate markup, such information as your company’s name, description, logo, location, web address, telephone numbers, names of founders, names of employees, tax IDs, etc., can be incorporated. This will make all this information easily searchable. In essence, your marketing will be better with microdata markup. Schema.org website provides different markup schemes for companies, brands, corporations, educational institutions, sports teams, government organizations, NGOs, etc.
5. Niche Websites Will Have More Advantages
Since Google Hummingbird targets long-tail search queries, niche websites with good content will have a boost in search ranking. By incorporating specific markup schemes for niche products and services, you can make your website better. The algorithm update and microdata work together in improving relevance. E-commerce sites, job search sites, recipe sites, restaurant sites, etc., will find several benefits by incorporating microdata markup.
6. Microdata Helps Incorporate Your Information into Google’s Knowledge Graph
Whenever you search for something on Google, such as a famous person or a movie, you will find that the right-hand side of the search result page contains useful data about the entity with basic information and links to resources such as Wikipedia. This information is fetched from Google’s database of over half a billion different concepts and interrelationships among them. Proper microdata markup ensures that your website data is added to this knowledge graph and available to searchers faster.
Hummingbird is an algorithm that finds relevant information faster for long search queries. Such search queries will be used more often in the coming days when smartphones, tablets, and devices like Google Glass will be popular. People tend to ask a question rather than speak the keywords in order to find information on handheld devices. Voice search will be more efficient and straightforward.
7. Updating Your Existing Content
Many creators of good content continue to receive targeted traffic from search engines even without doing any active SEO work. Post-Hummingbird, you can boost your SEO by incorporating rich snippets in your old content. Within blogging platforms, this task should be fairly easy. WordPress, the most popular blogging platform in the world, provides you with a number of plugins to add microdata into your site.
8. Testing Your Markup to Conform to the Standards
After adding the markup to your web pages, you should test the pages to know whether the markup is properly incorporated or not. Particularly for a large website, some mistakes in markup are ineveitable. To know if your site has any errors, go to the Structured Data Testing Tool provided by Google; it is a part of Google Webmaster Tools. Within the Structured Data Testing Tool, you can see all the microdata objects in your web page. It tells you if anything has to be added or removed.
SEO has become a little more complex with the advent of microdata and Google’s algorithm updates. However, content creators who create regular, useful content have nothing to worry about. Properly incorporating Schema.org markup on your web pages may help boost its search rankings.
Image Credit: Kevin Lawver via photopin cc