The recent announcement from Google underscores the growing importance of structured content on the Web. This is not a new trend, but it’s one that has definitely been gaining more and more momentum recently. I expect this to continue to increase, which is why I’m excited to talk a little about how our upcoming VitalSite 6.7 release will begin supporting schema.org microdata.
Based on the enhancement requests I’ve seen since schema.org was launched by Google, Yahoo! and Bing, I know that a fair number of clients will be excited by this support. If it’s a new concept for you, hang in there: I’m about to give a quick overview describing what it is and why you should care. At the end, I’ll also share some helpful links.
One of the biggest problems faced by search engines today is their inability to understand the content on your Web pages. If you stop and think about it for a moment, it’s easy to see why. Take this sample Provider Details page as an example:
When you or I look at this, we immediately understand the content. We recognize that the big picture of the person is an image of the doctor, and that the images used as design elements on the page are not pictures of the doctor. This ability to understand the semantic meaning of content – something we often take for granted – turns out to be incredibly difficult for machines (including Search Engines) to do.
While we understand that the text across the top of the page is the doctor’s name, Google might not. We know that the phone numbers at the bottom are associated with the doctor, but Bing has to guess that relationship.
Making search engines guess is bad for business.
Think about what happens if Google makes a bad guess about what the phone number is for your hospital, or for a clinic in it. What happens when Bing gets the location of your Emergency Room wrong?
Content structured with schema.org markup helps address this.
It also opens the door to better information returned in rich snippets, and the ability to showcase your information in new applications and services (like Knowledge Graph) that are being built into search engines and the context-aware devices of tomorrow. At the end of the day, well-structured data makes your content more useful to everyone. Today, and tomorrow. On your website, and off your pages.
Schema.org is a joint standard defined by Google, Bing and Yahoo! (and later, endorsed by others) that helps ensure search engines don’t have to guess what your content is. It uses special markup in the page’s HTML to explicitly define your content in ways that ensure search engines understand which image of the 15 used on a page is the photograph of the doctor.
VitalSite begins supporting schema.org by implementing it on two types of pages: provider details pages, and provider search results pages. We use a subset of the schema.org Person object, and do it in core so that you don’t have to muck about in HTML to get it all to work. It’s just there, on all your providers, starting with VitalSite 6.7.
Resources for Curious Webmasters
If you’re interested in learning more about schema.org microdata formats, we’ll be communicating more specifics about how we’ve implemented it as we approach release. Geontric clients, you can keep your eye on GeoCentral for details.
If the world of structured content, the semantic Web, and schema.org microformats is new to you, here are some resources to get you started: