I’ll be honest. Before I went into the Type A Conference session with Ruth Burr, I didn’t actually know what semantic markup meant. Or how I could and should be using webmaster tools. One of the reasons I love Type A, however, is that the content is incredibly rich, and yet it’s shared with us in a way that makes it easy to understand and act on.
So when I saw the description of Semantic Markup and Webmaster Tools, I was all over it. And what I know now only scratches the surface, but I found a great plugin that adds the schema markup to my site. I’m debating how I feel about it because it is very visible and interferes with the look of my posts, but I’ll keep looking and practicing. Baby steps.
Why Do You Care About Markup on Your Site?
Google is reading rich snippets in the search results page. The author of a given post will have his photo next to the post, and where there’s a video in the post there will also be a video thumbnail at the top, or it will have a star review. Having the rich snippets in your search results will help draw the user’s eye and increase your chances of a clickthrough.
If you’re a big brand, Google helps you get those rich snippets because people love brands, and Google wants people to love Google – which they do when Google helps them find what they want, like brands. If you aren’t a big brand – and most of us aren’t – the best way to get these rich snippets is to tell Google and Bing exactly what the data is on your page using semantic markup. This adds html tags to your code to tell the search engine exactly what your data is, so they don’t have to figure it out and possibly be wrong.
Your home address is a great example. When a search engine looks at an address, it sees the number, a 5 digit number that is formatted like a zip code and something other data that looks like a street address. They’ll use their algorithms to figure out that it’s an address and treat it like one.
On the other hand, you can add code to say yes, this is my street address, this is is the city, etc. That way, search engines have to spend less time crawling your site figuring out what each piece of data is, and they reward you with the rich snippets that will show up when people search for you. The same goes for when you’re writing a blog post, you can say this is a blogpost, here is who wrote it, here is a picture of who wrote it, and that’s a great way to get those rich snippets.
Search engines have all agreed to honor a set of semantics through schema.org. You can go there to see the specifics about each of them. They are a series of tag that you can use separately or together to mark up your data to clearly explain to a search engine what you are posting.
There are extra things you can markup that aren’t yet supported by search engines, as well. If you have the time or energy to mark it up, do it. Google and Bing have come out to say that this is what we want and we love it. The more you do it now, the better position you’ll be in when they start to support more markups in the future rather than everyone else who is dragging their tails.
It’s so important to have authorship – schema.org has the relauthor tag and there are a ton of resources that talk about how to optimize it. You tell the search engines here is who wrote the post and who the person is on Google+. Google+ isn’t going to succeed as a social media platform, but what that isn’t Google’s goal. What they really want is to say here is Moz.com based in Seattle with Ruth Burr who blogs here and also blogs here so that you can figure out the relationship between person place and thing online beyond websites. Google+ allows them to make those connections.
As an author you can say I write for this blog and this blog, which gives you authorship snippet with the photo, and also builds authority in your subject areas. The search engines can see from Google+ that Person X has a parent blog, she blogs at parent.com, she did a guest post for another parenting blog, and so forth. Apparently she’s not just talking into the atmosphere, but others are letting her blog on their site on the same topic and so she must have authority on that topic.
On the flip side, when you have authority in a topic and write a post on a site that doesn’t have as much authority in that area, that helps this site build authority in that domain. It takes some of your authority and adds it to that post that may be on a site with less authority and then brings that post to the fore in searching, which helps you on both sites.
Finding the right Schema for you and making sure it works
There is a big list of schemas on schema.org, and they’re overwhelming. Start working with just the blog markup and the author markup. If you scroll to the bottom of the page, you can see the examples and templates that show how you would implement this code. It’s much more useful and powerful than tags on the page.
If you know what kind of markup you want to do, you can search for guides on how to implement that markup. Schema,org doesn’t do a good job of how and where to implement the schemas, but plenty of others have.
Check in Google webmaster tools under search appearance. In there, you will find a markup tool to search what is marked up. You can also use the data highlighter tool, which will go in and mark up your data, but it only works in Google, not in Bing and outside the Google world, so think about whether you want to use it or not.
Another great tool is the Google structured data testing tool. You can put in any page in your site and see what it would look like with a rich snippet. That doesn’t mean that it will appear like that, but it shows at the very least if Google can tell if that’s what you’re trying to do, so it’s a great testing tool.
One caveat to that: Google does not update the testing tool each time they update their algorithms, so sloppy markup may look like it works, but it doesn’t really and won’t show the errors until Google updates the testing tool – just a word to the wise. Periodically check in the search results to see if it’s appearing the way you expect and if not, you may need to tweak some stuff.
Google webmaster tools
It’s actually pretty great and is free. You should be using it now that Google is taking away keyword data in Google Analytics. They will no longer pass this through, so webmaster tools is only way to see what keywords you’re appearing for and what keywords are driving traffic to your site.
Webmaster tools will also tell if you if you have errors on your site and how to fix them. Some of the errors aren’t so important but some are critical. You can set alerts using the webmaster tools like if you just had a huge drop in traffic or if there are huge number of errors suddenly appearing. Google webmaster tools will put together a list of the tags you should have on your site (at least per Google) so that you have somewhere to start. It’s a great way to discover new links, too, though not the best way. Most people who are web savvy are using this site.
Bing Webmaster tools
They are awesome. It’s free, and it’s also rolling out new tools before Google webmaster tools are. It helps you figure out how you’re showing up in Bing, which also helps you understand what you’re doing in Google. Bing doesn’t change as much as Google so you can figure things out a little more easily. It makes it easier to get ranked there, though it obviously doesn’t drive as much traffic as Google. The plus side is that it’s easier to figure out and implement.
There are paid tools. There are also some free tools. Open site explorer where you can get some free information and more information that is paid. It shows you who is linking to your website and what kind of authority they have. You can put in similar websites and see who they’re linking to and use that to judge if you want to link from them, as well as seeing who you want to potentially build relationships to get links there, too.
There is a free trial that you can look at now to test it out.
Moz also has a list of 100 free SEO tools that help make your site easily crawled by engines and make sure your links are helping drive traffic, all of which is good for you and for websites.
Duplicate content for SEO impact
There are times where you have to create content that you know will appear in multiple places. To ensure the correct page shows up in searching is to employ the cannonical tag. You can put it in the code of your page and says rel=cannonical and has a link to the original page. It says that this page a duplicate, and here is the original page so that the right page ends up appearing in search hierarchy.
Google has recently released indexed content where you are looking more for concepts rather than something specific. You may want to get in those results if you are a particular authority on a subject. These are the results that show at the bottom of the page. To show up in those results, you have to have long form content of 750 words or more and implement the article markup in your post. If you already have authority for that in your website and authorship, you’re more likely to get listed in that area.
How to fix problems
Use the redirection plugin if you have a lot of 404 errors so you can do a 301 redirect. It redirects you to a new page so you don’t have broken links.
- When you have errors on your site, copy the text of the error and search in Google. That will show you what other people have done with this error. You can also add your platform to get more specific answers. It’s much easier than searching Google help forums. When you make a fix, you should see it immediately if it’s fixed. If not, check in 24 hours, and if it isn’t fixed then, you still have a problem.
- Take classes to better understand. Code academy has a number of great classes. For cash, Distilled University has a ton of great resources. There is a whole program to help learn SEO. On the Moz site, there is the beginner’s guide to SEO. You can see a .pdf that walks through the beginning steps to SEO.
- Surround photos with relevant text and include good keywords in the alt description. That will help with photos – but make sure you have photos in your blog posts, too!
- Rich Snippets is a potentially recommended plugin for WP. Some plugins don’t work as well as others. Depending on how your templates are set up, you can set it up on every page fairly easily.
- Don’t hide your markups. Don’t mark up things that are not visible on the page to game the system. Google spends a lot of time and energy finding and punishing this. It’s just not what the web is about.
Tidbits and Tips
- The highest domain authority is 99 and that’s Wikipedia. A good number to aim for as a blogger is at or above 50.
- Pagerank does still exist, but it’s not reflective of your actual anything.
- How do you find your domain authority? There is a Moz toolbar, or you can look in the open site explorer.
- Yoast is the most robust SEO plug in. The All In One SEO plug in is another good one.
Liked my recap? I have more! At Type A this year, I also wrote about:
Pinterest and Instagram: A Tutorial
Vine and Instagram Video
How to Navigate Google+
You can find all my Type A recaps from this and previous conferences under my Type A recap link
And every conference I’ve attended that had good content has been written up under my conference recap category