This guest post is by Aleh Barysevich of Link-Assistant.Com
Microformats, Microdata, RDFs and so-called Schemas are sets of standards used to mark up particular data in a body of HTML code. For example, one can highlight their company’s name, address, phone number, etc. on their web site using special tags. Such data is often referred to as structured, and has become widely used by webmasters with the development of the semantic Web.
‘What does it have to do with SEO?’ one may ask. Thing is, structuring information on your site makes it easier for the search engines to recognize it. As the result, your site may rank higher in Google and other search engines. At the same time, semantically marked-up data looks more appealing in the SERPs (think of rich snippets), which leads to higher click-through rates and better conversions.
Nowadays, one sees structured data all over the search results. Pretty much everything that’s not a title or a description is semantically marked-up information: a business’s address, phone number and hours of operation, product ratings and reviews, etc.
The difference between Microformats/Microdata/RDFa and Schema.org
There are several sets of standards one can use to mark up information semantically. Semantic structuring is built up on top of existing HTML standards. Among the formats available today are Microformats/Microdata/RDFa, Schema.org, and others.
They differ in syntax and a number of other characteristics, but their purpose is essentially the same.
Microformats are widely accepted patterns of semantic structuring in HTML, used to highlight the properties of people, events, blog posts, reviews and tags in web pages. For instance, here is an example of an hCard (a chunk of HTML code talking about a person) microformat:
Microdata is another set of standards used in HTML5. For example, here is a piece of structured data pertaining to a person:
RDFa is a W3C-recommended set of data organization formats, which allows for subject-predicate-object semantics expression in XHTML documents. Here is an example:
Schemas are Microdata-based models supported by Google, Bing, Yahoo! and Yandex. The intent of the Schema initiative was to create a unified, common standard for structured data the search engines could use.
Schemas offer extended vocabulary, which lets one create a wider array of tags. For example, when describing a local business, one can specify its name, address and phone number as well as its founder, employees, locality, region, hours of operation, and other information.
To see an example, jump here.
So, to sum it up, Microformats, Microdata and RDFa are sets of semantic structuring formats, introduced by different developers at different periods of time.
As for Schemas, these are data structuring standards built on top of Microdata (recommended by major search engines) and having extended vocabulary.
Using structured data to improve site rankings and CTR
As was said earlier, search engines favor structured data, as it helps them easier retrieve information from a site and better understand what the site is about. Hence, using semantically marked-up data provides more exposure for one’s brand.
Let’s talk about different types of search, in which structured data can help you rank higher and increase click-through rates:
Web search (mixed search results)
The indisputable advantage of getting structured data to resurface in the search results is that it inspires clicks, which gives you an advantage over competitors.
And, as was said earlier, search engines give preference to information structured with the help of Schemas (as opposed to data marked-up vie Microformats or RDFs), standards for which can be found at schema.org. So, using Schemas to semantically mark up the necessary data on your site is the best practice.
A few words about Google’s Knowledge Graph
It’s highly likely that the support for structured data and rich snippets will only increase on the Web in the future. Clear signs of that are the recently introduced Google’s Knowledge Graph as well as an update to it (the so-called “carousel” of knowledge graph results that appears at the top of one’s search).
The mere introduction of the Knowledge Graph means that Google is moving in the direction of multi-media search results, which is impossible to achieve without relying on structured data.
So, if you have yet thought seriously about using structured data on your web site, it’s high time you do. Perform the semantic marking of as much information on your site as you can – and see your site move up in the search results.
To test structured data formats for accuracy, one can use Google’s Rich Snippets Testing Tool.