04 / Markup

Marking up your data gives the search engines additional information to help them understand the meaning of your content. Using markup can enable you to achieve rich snippets in the SERPs, which in turn often lead to increased CTR. Once you’ve added markup to your page, you can test how Google would interpret it using their structured data testing tool.

1 – Authorship Markup

Authorship MarkupAuthorship markup can be implemented on your site or blog by implementing the rel=author tag, and linking this to your Google+ profile.

Authorship markup is one of the most interesting developments in the last couple of years. Firstly, Authorship markup enables you to achieve an author rich snippet in the SERPs (a picture of the author’s face), which are demonstrably effective in increasing CTR. Secondly, they allow you to associate the author to the content, which could prove to be extremely significant further down the line if AuthorRank kicks in.

The purpose of Google+, in addition to being a social layer to their services, is to be Google’s identity program. Their verification system allows them to confidently assign certain content to certain authors, so that they can use external signals such as links, shares and +1s to build up a profile for each author. Ultimately, this would allow them to assign each user an authority level (or rank) for a given topic. Authoritative users could then potentially impact organic search results through their content, links and shares.

Recommended Further Reading

2 – Schema.org

Schema.orgSchema.org is an initiative jointly launched by the search engines to support a common set of schemas, providing a framework for structured markup on the web. These schemas can be used in conjunction with Microdata to describe data points on your website, giving the search engines a better understanding of what your content is and how it fits together.

Using such markup can have significant benefits both now and in the future (ultimately, structured data helps inform the development of the semantic web). For example, it allows you to identify a product, and then a set of reviews associated with that product, with a rating for each review and an average rating of all the reviews. This information can then be displayed in the SERPs as a product review rich snippet:

Google Rich SnippetSimilarly, your video content can be marked up to produce video rich snippets:

Google Video Rich SnippetFor most content pages, there is something you can mark up that could give you a rich snippet. You can mark up movies to include director and actor details, recipes to include nutritional information, authors to include job titles and events to include location details. Utilising Schema.org markup can transform your SERPs listing and offer you a significant competitive advantage.

Recommended Further Reading

3 – Breadcrumbs (markup)

Breadcrumb MarkupThe search engines recognise that breadcrumb navigation is beneficial to the user, and support it with breadcrumb snippets in the SERPs. Not only does this look cleaner, but it enables you to present additional (clickable) links to other pages on your website.

Google Rich Snippet with BreadcrumbsFor this example, in addition to the actual search result, Tripadvisor have got two additional clickable links that a user could select. To implement breadcrumb markup you can use the Schema.org vocabulary, or simply try Patrick Sexton’s easy-to-use generator below.

Recommended Further Reading

4 – Rel=canonical

rel=canonicalAccepted SEO best practice is to simply avoid duplicate content, however in some circumstances duplications do come about, such as content that can be categorised in several different ways. In such instances, rel=canonical is used to differentiate between the duplicates, by assigning one version of the page as the authority version.

From a set of duplicate pages, you must determine which one you prefer to be considered the canonical version of the page, and by using the rel=canonical tag you make this preference known to Google, so that they may only index and serve the canonical version of the page.

The markup is very straightforward, you simply add a <link> element in the <head> section of all non-canonical pages. So on a non-canonical page such as http://www.example.com/electronics/samsung-tv, you would reference the canonical version of the page like this:

<link rel="canonical" href="http://www.example.com/samsung/samsung-tv"/>

CMS platforms can often cause duplication issues by creating many category pages with near-identical content, however most modern systems will allow you to specify canonical URLs directly in the back-end.

Recommended Further Reading

5 – Open Graph Protocol

Open Graph ProtocolWhilst not affecting SEO as such, the Open Graph Protocol (a Facebook initiative originally) allows you to control how your content is displayed when it is shared.

Just as you can use META tags to tell the search engines which Title and Description you want them to use, you can use Open Graph tags to inform Facebook, Google+ and Twitter how you wish your content to be presented when shared. They allow you to specify things like the title, description and image (a custom thumbnail, for instance). You can also include personal information such as your locality, your contact details or the Page that corresponds to the website.

twitter-cardsTwitter Cards allow you to enhance the expanded tweets that Twitter creates for your site when someone shares a page. Twitter Cards are basically a set of meta-tags that specify your sharing data, but a lot of the tags fall back on Open Graph data anyway.

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