SEO is a continuously evolving challenge for every business looking to attract and convert their customers online, which describes many businesses today. One of the latest updates to hit the radar is Google's support of something called microformats. In this post I want to give you the skinny on microformats and let you know how to use them to future-proof your WordPress website for the future of SEO.
In short, microformats are markup on web pages that provide a much greater amount of information about what's on that page. The best way to understand them is to look at an example. I'll use the movie schema from Schema.org.
Example 1 – Movie Page In Plain HTML
Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Jack Sparrow and Barbossa embark on a quest to find the elusive fountain of youth, only to discover that Blackbeard and his daughter are after it too. Director: Rob Marshall Writers: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, and 7 more credits Stars: Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane 8/10 stars from 200 users. Reviews: 50.
You hand Google that and it has to determine what the site is all about and then run all it's fancy math to give you a ranking.
Now let's look at a page that helps Google a LOT more.
Example 2 – Movie Page With Schema.org Markup
Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Jack Sparrow and Barbossa embark on a quest to find the elusive fountain of youth, only to discover that Blackbeard and his daughter are after it too.Director:
, and 7 more credits Stars:
The additional information that example 2 is telling the search engines thanks to all the “itemprop” tags is:
- This page is entirely about a movie
- The name of the movie is “Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides (2011)”
- It points out the movie description
- The director is a person by the name of Rob Marshall
- The author of the movie is also a person by the name of Ted Elliott
- The actors are people with the names Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, and Ian McShane
- The movie received a rating of 8 out of 10 stars from 200 people.
- The movie has received 50 reviews.
Holy monkey nuggets! That's an insane amount of information.
What This Has To Do With You
It took me a full day of hacking my theme to add this markup to the site here and make it dynamic, and I've scratched the surface of what's possible.
Let's compare a blog post of mine that I ran through Google's rich snippets tool with one of my clients posts who doesn't have this update, yet.
Example 3 – Client Blog Post, No Microformats
That's 3 sad faces out of 3. Now it's my turn.
Example 4 – How Google Sees My Blog Post
Here's the list of additional information I'm providing Google via the Schema.org markup:
- Type of content = blog post
- Name of the post
- What the post is about
- Copyright holder
- Copyright year
- Name of the content creator
- Date the post was created, published and modified (these could all be different)
- Publisher name
- The article body (differentiating it from any other part)
- All of the author information, with the author being indicated as a person – name, image
- All of the comments on the post as well, being labeled as “comments” in the “discussion” portion of the page
That's a lot more information, and thanks to my Google+ profile being fully linked to my website (and all of my other online properties and social media profiles) I have a nice picture of me attached to the search result.
Note: in case you're wondering Google uses your Google+ profile picture in the search result.
So I'm sure you're now wondering this effects SEO. Let's see…
How This Effects SEO
Well that's a very good question and frankly I'm not 100% sure. With these format on many more sites Google could provide you with additional filtering. For instance, you could filter by source such as “blogs” or “movies”. Ultimately you could do even less searching to get exactly what you're looking for.
In addition, the heavy hitters in the SEO world I follow are strongly suggesting that site owners add this markup to their site. Why? Well anything that can help tell Google what your page is all about will help you rank better.
What is Google's purpose? To index the content of the world yes. But their primary goal in their search engine is to return the most relevant result possible. The more they know about the page, and the more they know about what you're searching for, the better the result you'll receive.
In addition, think of the changes Google is making to their search engine because of Google+! Come with me down the rabbit hole.
How Well Does Google Know You? Better Than You Know…
Google is on a personalization rampage. As a researcher this annoys me. But most people aren't me and they love it.
So here's the situation, and where it gets heavy…
Note: if Google is going this far with it I'm not sure however all of what I'm about to describe is possible, and they have a lot more smart people than me thinking about this stuff.
First you create a Google+ account and add all these details about yourself. You link all of your social media profiles and your websites. Google can follow these links and create a pretty good profile on you.
Second you create circles, find people you know (or find interesting) and add them to your circles. You are thus telling Google how you categorize those people. Google sees that and can compare how you “describe” them to how they describe themselves. The more labels the better Google can describe someone and suggest other people you might be interested in.
Third, you read blog posts, Google+ posts other content and +1 it, telling Google what you like and find interesting. If that person has a Google+ profile Google has more dots to connect. Either way Google can classify that content and know more about what you like, increasing the level of personalization they can offer.
When it comes down to it it can seem pretty damn scary. But if you're not worried about Google becoming the Borg I suppose it's all well and good in the name of finding what we want online faster and easier.
Future-Proofing Your WordPress Site
So back to the headline of this post – future-proofing your WordPress site for SEO.
Adding this markup to my theme took me a full day, and as I mentioned I only scratched the surface. Go to the New York Times site, view the source of any of their web pages, and you'll see just how deep it can get, on a per-post basis!
I haven't even gotten to marking up the content inside of the post.
What I did though is make a mark in my Google Analytics of when I added the additional markup. Time will tell if this effects the SEO rankings of the content here. I have a feeling it will, for the positive. We'll see though and of course I'll be letting you know!
What I've also done is take a snapshot of my current rankings as reported by the Rank Tracker plugin (which you should definitely be using).
If you are involved in a business and want to attract and convert your ideal customers online I highly suggest that you begin looking into the cost and time required to implement these on your site. Google is going down the road of personalization and isn't looking back. Be on the front-end of this one or it'll end up costing you more time and money to catch up.
If you're a client of mine shoot me an email and we can talk about what it will take to add these for you.