Richer Search Engine Results Pages: Introducing Schema.Org

Google, Yahoo and Bing have announced that they have teamed up to launch schema.org. This initiative is designed to create a common set of schema for website developersto better inform search engines of the nature of the content on their websites.

The site itself says, “This site provides a collection of schemas, i.e., html tags, that webmasters can use to markup their pages in ways recognized by major search providers. Search engines including Bing, Google and Yahoo! rely on this markup to improve the display of search results, making it easier for people to find the right web pages.”

This new search engine collective is announcing that they are creating a new set of HTML tags which will supplement those tags that currently exist but these new tags will not be used to let your web browser understand how to display the page, but will inform search engine spiders what the webpage content, the information on the website, actually means to the visitor

HTML Tags: The Building Blocks of a Webpage

The new schema.org site is a ‘nerd-only’ technical reference for professional website designers and developers. To understand what this announcement means to the non technical website owner you first need to understand what HTML is.

HTML tags are the building blocks of a web page. They tell your web browser how the developer wants the page to be displayed to you. For example, there are tags that tell the browser to use a set number of columns, the width of those columns and so on. Web developers use specific tags that specify how text should be displayed, which font,  which size, should it be bold or italic (or both).

The new Tags will not be used to define how the page is to be displayed, how it will look in the web browser, but they will be used to explain what the content on the website actually means.

An example of this on the site is the heading ‘Avatar’. This could mean the blockbuster movie or it could refer to an image or profile picture that a user has.

New Website Standards: Uncertain Steps Forward

While the new standard is welcome there is some unease within the web design and development community.

“It remains to be seen how widely adopted this new schema will be and what the cost to the website owner in search engine ranking for not adopting will be” said Philip Brassington, Director at Rake Mark Website Design in Stafford.

“It may just be an appearance issue in the immediate term, but ranking penalties could come later. I would advise all website owners to discuss this with their web developer.”

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