RDFa format data: what is its impact and when should you implement?

Google Rich Snippet Listing For Taylormade Golf ClubsRich snippets have become a lot more prominent within the SERPS over the past couple of years, with appealing, feature-rich listings becoming a more and more commonplace. Google refers to these enhanced search listings as “Rich Snippets”, and from a search marketing perspective they are often more appealing to users and increase Click Through Rates (CTR).

The increase in CTRs can be attributed to the fact it stands out and therefore increases the chance of a click through. The use of rich snippets can also provide search engines with greater insights into what the web page contains – with the mark-up highlighting key factors.

Although marking code up in this format isn’t essential, it has become increasingly popular and is now considered best practise from an SEO perspective, giving you a key advantage over competitors in an increasingly competitive search environment.

The Mark-ups

Schema.org and Goodrelations are types of Rich Snippets, with GoodRelations a welcome extension to the standard schema.org for increased mark-up on ecommerce websites.

Adding the Schema.org data along with further attributes GoodRelations offers does not instantly have a positive impact on rankings within search engine results. However, it is a contributing factor to improved rankings, as Google favours websites with a high CTR. High CTRs are a sign of a popular website that meets a searcher’s query. CTRs are of course also based on the price or products and other elements, such as brand recognitions and review scores.

The addition of GoodRelations data provides increased benefits for ecommerce websites as there are additional elements within the GoodRelations vocabulary.  GoodRelations data can supplement existing product data by providing product types, shipping options, eligible countries and payment methods to name just a few. Shipping options can also be shown within the SERPS, increasing the likelihood of a click through based upon the customer’s needs.

A further extension to Schema.org and GoodRelations is productontology.org which supports over 300,000 product type identifiers. However, to use this mark-up the product tag has to have a corresponding Wikipedia page so that it can be used. For certain niches this may not be possible as no Wikipedia pages may exist.

The example below shows RDFa mark-up used on a product. RDFa mark-up is a more advanced way of publishing details of products in a way that search engine friendly.  The example below shows a combination of RDFa, GoodRelations and productontology.org to mark-up a product allowing Google to extract the products attributes with ease.

RDFa Mark-up Example

To ensure all rich snippet code is working correctly the Google rich snippets testing tool http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets is available to view whether the correct snippets are being pulled from the URL.

BestBuy has implemented RDFas across their site with a great deal of success. The CTR on the BestBuy website increased by 15%, an increase of 30% was also present in search results for key terms. This growth was achieved within three months of implementation and sustained once reaching these increased levels.

If the CTR increase isn’t evidence enough for the implementation of Rich snippets then surely the increase in rankings should entice all SEO specialists to ensure this is implemented on their ecommerce websites for quick results.

What are the positives and negatives of implementing RDFa data for ecommerce websites?

For the searcher the implementation of RDFa will be a positive as they can find the correct product, price and shipping details without entering websites – and therefore increasing their searching experience.

For companies trying to attract more traffic to their website this will make the SERPS a more competitive place, with all competitors attempting to create the most eye catching listings. This could of course be in vain if a particular niche is strongly price-driven. The style of a website may no longer  have a large impact on conversion rates as key aspects of the product are being shown within the search engine listings and generating the conversion.

Rich snippet data being used by Google itself has also increased in recent times, with the addition of general information being pulled from Wikipedia on the right hand side of SERPs – particularly for searches relating to well-known people, places and organisations.

David Beckahm Rich Snippet Example

David Beckham example of a rich snippet

For example: when trying to find simple basic information about David Beckham these small areas of information reduce the requirement to click through to websites. If you want to find out the age, height or other simple facts about David Beckham this level of engagement with search results may be sufficient; reducing CTRs to sites such as Wikipedia.

When searching for the weather in a specific location Google has provided a four-day forecast which removes the need to click through to a website unless an extended forecast is necessary.

Weather Rich Snippet

Weather rich snippet

Google is essentially evolving into a search engine which allows people to extract information quickly, and all these changes have been implemented for usability purposes.

The Future

Companies will have to alter their sites to optimise rich snippets and benefit from increased CTRs. This will reduce the amount of time potential customers spend searching for specific products, with the cheapest or most appealing snippet being found almost instantly.

Users will find the new changes more beneficial as searching for products, information and recipes — to name a few typical searches – will take less time.

On the other hand companies and SEO specialists will find all markets a lot more competitive if these formats are launched across a lot more websites. The largest impact will be on ecommerce websites, as certain attributes will drive users to websites with less research around price required.

Of course if you have a strong level of brand awareness searchers tend to find a company’s website in this manner. But a loss of longer tail non-brand conversions may decrease in time if no action is taken to implement Microdata.

But if Google continues to adapt the SERPS in this manner what else may change in the future, and importantly: will it be for the better?

  • http://manu.sporny.org/ Manu Sporny

    Hey Gregg,

    I’m the current Chair of the RDFa Working Group (we created RDFa). Overall – great article! Thanks for writing it. :)

    A couple of stylistic fixes to your markup:

    1) You are using HTML5 (which is not XML-based), so get rid of all the xml: and xmlns: statements.
    2) Don’t use xmlns: anymore, it is deprecated as of RDFa 1.1. Use prefix instead. For example: prefix=”schema: http://schema.org/ gr: http://… foaf: http://…” and so on.
    3) Use lang=”en” instead of xml:lang=”en”.

    The rest of the markup looks pretty solid. You can run it through http://rdfa.info/play/ if you want to see the result of it.

  • Gregg Turner

    Thanks for the feedback Manu.
    I will change it and run it through thanks again.

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  • http://webdatacommons.org Robert meusel

    Hi Gregg,

    great article. Thanks for pointing this out!

    If you are interested in the actual deployment of RDFa data have a look on webdatacommons.org. We released end of last year a new extraction based on the CommonCrawl corpus 2012.

    Best,
    Robert

    P.S.: There is a small typo in the first link of productontology.org

  • Arthur Keen

    Hi Greg,

    I enjoyed your article. FYI: Your link on productontology.org has a typo and is actually pointing to http://www.productonology.org

    Best,
    Arthur

    • Gregg Turner

      Thanks Arthur I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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