So by now you’ve all seen the news of the new Webmaster Tool, Google Data Highlighter. But what does it do exactly? The answer? Structured data on easy mode.
We’ve all seen structured data prevalent in modern day SERPs. Google Authorship images and links, Site links, Event Dates and Addresses. However, structured data goes way beyond what you may already know or see, and it is only getting more prevalent. Just take a gander at what’s being hatched over at schema.org and you’ll get a taste of the true potential of structured data, and the implications it is and could have on search in the near future.
The importance of structured data to the modern search strategist
As many of you already know by now, long gone are the days of bare bone content optimization. And while things like keyword usage, headings and such are still important, things like structured data markup have made their way to the forefront of our minds. Structured data not only plays a part in the way our pages are crawled by search engines, making it easier for them to identify and categorize data sets, but also plays a big part in actually enticing searchers to click through to our sites.
For one, more clicks equal more traffic right? Secondly, looking back as far as 2010, Bing has gone on record saying that clicks are a factor in the ranking of web pages in the SERPs. Win win right?
Why up until now it has been hard to implement
The main reason structured data isn’t more prevalent in both the search community, and the webmaster community as a whole is the difficulty it takes to implement. Up until recently marking up data has taken quite a bit of time and some serious skill to apply. Something most web marketers simply don’t have the time or patience for. Recently there have been strides to bring this technique to the masses, with things such as Google Authorship and the RavenTools Schema Creator plugin. But now Google has brought a game changer to light in the new Google Data Highlighter tool.
How Data Highlighter is changing the game
Enter Data Highlighter. And here comes the easy mode. Google Data Highlighter (though it only allows for marking up events at this time) allows Webmaster Tools user to simply load a webpage within the Webmaster Tools interface, select or “highlight” event names, event dates, addresses, etc. and attribute them with an assortment of according tags. While Google Data Highlighter will only validate markups for use on Google, it is by far the most painless and quickest way to markup data I’ve ever seen.
Where it can go from here
Obviously microdata and markups are the future of organizing and optimizing content on the web. Search Engines love how it makes it easier for spiders to crawl and organize data. Webmasters and search marketers love their data appearing in search results. It’s a win win. So more efforts need to be made to make this readily available to the masses. Not everyone can code. And even those that can, it may take some time to learn the particular markups they are looking for.
However, with new rumblings like Google Data Highlighter, the sky is the limit. I’m assuming Google will continue to refine this tool, adding a full library of their own markups similar to those of Schema.org. We’ll just have to wait patiently and see.