Microdata markup and the bottom line

In last week’s blog post, I wrote about structured data markup. That brings up the question of why you might want to consider adding some elements of this markup vocabulary to your website’s code.

I’ve read a few articles in prominent, non-technical publications that promote the use of structured data markup — using the Microdata format sponsored primarily by Google, Bing and Yahoo — as a method of improving SEO. Unfortunately, that’s not quite accurate. In fact, the major search engines have made it abundantly clear that using an extended markup like Microdata (or any of the other vocabularies) has no impact on a page’s search ranking.

Structured data markup is also referred to as “semantic” markup because it is used exclusively to describe the meaning, or semantics, of a web page’s content. The markup methods and vocabularies found in the HTML5 standards are a subset of a much broader technological movement that seeks to make the vast volumes of information we generate more understandable and more useful for humans and machines alike.

The major search engines are working to ingest all of this new-ish semantic markup to provide more information on content in their search results. As I mentioned last week, one result of this is the delivery of “rich snippet” search results that include expanded data and, often, thumbnail images.

Since rich snippet results have started appearing in search engines, several organizations have produced studies regarding how people interact with the expanded search listings. What they’ve discovered is that enhanced search results draw more “eye traffic” and higher click-through rates than standard search results, regardless of their position on the search results page. Results of one of the clearer studies are available  here at Seomoz.org .

Now, none of the search engines guarantee that using Microdata markup will result in rich snippet results displaying for any website. But it still seems pretty straightforward. Work some additional, fairly simple, markup into your web pages and there’s a good chance you’ll get some enhanced search listings that will draw more attention and possibly generate more click-throughs. Seems like a pretty good potential payoff for a relatively small amount of effort.