Tag Archive | "Markup"

4 underutilized schema markup opportunities that impact SEO

Contributor Tony Edwards recommends taking advantage of little-used brand, image, app and person schema that indirectly help position a website for better rankings.

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Google May Add Structured Markup & Data To Ranking Algorithm

Google hints it may decide to use structured data in its ranking algorithm some day, though the company has previously denied it.

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SearchCap: Google Carousel Expands, Yahoo Java Deal & Markup Spam

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

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SearchCap: Google Carousel Expands, Yahoo Java Deal & Markup Spam

Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.

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An Introduction to Schema.org Markup for Emails

Posted by kristihines

If you are a Gmail user, you have likely received some emails that stand out from the rest with a call to action button within the subject line.

If you’ve booked a flight recently, your airline may have sent you an email that includes an interactive way to view your travel plans.

Similarly, Google Inbox app users might have seen emails that look like this.

These calls to action are courtesy of Schema.org markup for email. Just like Schema.org markup for web pages helps web pages stand out in search results, Schema.org markup for emails helps certain emails stand out from the rest in your inbox.

The goal of email markup is to allow people to take action on emails as quickly and simply as possible. For marketers, there are both pros and cons of this feature. In this post, we’re going to look at the email markup options currently available, who can use it, and if it’s worth it.

Should you use email markup?

Email markup is currently available for Gmail email recipients only. The number of Gmail users was over 350 million in 2012. To determine whether you should use it, you shouldn’t go off a three-year-old statistic, but rather a survey of your own email list or customer database.

Most email service providers (like GetResponse, shown in the example below) allow you to search your subscriber list for specific criteria. Search yours for emails containing Gmail to determine the number of Gmail addresses your emails reach.

Of course, this isn’t the whole picture. There are likely more people that use Gmail for business with their own domains. So although their emails do not say Gmail, they open their emails in the Gmail web browser or app.

Another consideration for using email markup is tracking. If you rely heavily on the ability to track email opens and clicks to trigger autoresponders and other marketing automation actions, you may not want to give your subscribers the option to bypass opening your email and clicking on your link.

Once you’ve determined the approximate number of Gmail users you reach and whether you need the ability to track email actions, your next job is to see if you qualify to use email markup.

Register for email markup with Google

Before you can use email markup, you must register with Google. Google will check to make sure you meet email sender quality guidelines, bulk sender guidelines, and action / schema quality guidelines.

Here are some of the key guidelines you need to know. Emails must be authenticated via DKIM or SPF. The domain of your from email must match the signed-by or mailed-by header.

You must send a minimum of a hundred emails per day to Gmail users for a few weeks before applying. Google will want to see that you have a very, very low rate of spam complaints from Gmail recipients.

Bulk email guidelines include using the same IP address to send bulk mail, using the same from email address, only adding subscribers to your list that have opted in (preferably with a double opt-in or confirmation), and allowing list members to unsubscribe easily. These guidelines will not only help you get approved for use of email markup, but will also help your emails get delivered to more Gmail users without being marked as spam.

Action / schema guidelines boil down to making sure you use the appropriate action markup when possible. When an action markup is not available, or the process is more complex than can be handled inside Gmail, a go-to action should be used. Go-to actions should link directly to a page where the email recipient can complete the action as labeled on the call to action button.

An introduction to email markup actions

Actions created by email markup allow email recipients to interact with your business, product, or service within Gmail. There are currently four types of actions to choose from using email markup.

One-click actions

One-click actions are those where a task can be completed with one click within Gmail or Inbox. For example, when someone signs up for an email list, they need to confirm their subscription.

One-click actions are broken into two categories: confirm actions and save actions. The above example is a confirm action. Save actions can include adding an item to a queue or saving a coupon. Both confirm and save actions can only be interacted with once.

RSVP actions

RSVP actions allow email recipients to confirm whether they will attend an event using an invite from Google Calendar. Your email will include the event card you usually see in emails from meeting invites.

Having people confirm their attendance to your event will help ensure that they don’t forget by getting it on their calendar.

Review actions

Review actions allow email recipients to add a star and comment review for your business, products, and services right from the subject line of their email in Gmail.

You can see an end-to-end example of the scripting necessary to create a review action for a restaurant to get reviews from a Gmail user’s inbox to the Datastore using Python.

Go-to actions

Actions that do not fall under the above types are considered go-to actions. These are used when you need to take an email recipient to your website to complete an action that is too complex to be handled within the recipient’s Gmail or Inbox app.

All of the following are examples of go-to actions that take email recipients to do things on another website.

The call to action on these can be customized, so you are not limited to just viewing orders, tracking packages, and opening discussions. You can tailor them for specific uses, such as resetting a password, reviewing questionable transactions on your credit cards, and updating payment information.

An introduction to email markup Highlights

Another use for email markup is Highlights. Highlights summarize key information from specific types of email for users of the Inbox app. For example, Highlights are used for these order confirmations to show the products ordered.

Another example is this flight reservation using Highlights to show the round-trip flights purchased.

Specifically, there are six Highlights that businesses can use. They are as follows:

  • Flight reservations – Includes options for displaying basic flight confirmation information, boarding pass, check-in, update a flight, cancel a flight, and additional options. This Highlight is also supported in Google Now.
  • Orders – Includes options for displaying basic order information, view order action, and order with billing details.
  • Parcel deliveries – Includes options for displaying basic parcel delivery information and detailed shipping information.
  • Hotel reservations – Includes options for displaying basic hotel reservation information, updating a reservation, and canceling a reservation. This Highlight is also supported in Google Now.
  • Restaurant reservations – Includes options for displaying basic restaurant reservation information, updating a reservation, and canceling a reservation. This Highlight is also supported in Google Now.
  • Event reservation – Includes options for basic event reminders without a ticket, event with ticket & no reserved seating, sports or music event with ticket, event with ticket & reserved seating, multiple tickets, updating an event, and canceling an event. This Highlight is also supported in Google Now.

Note that while Highlights are a great feature, they only work for Gmail Inbox users. If Google continues to push Gmail users to using Inbox, this user base will grow exponentially.

Test email markup before sending

While you are waiting to be registered with Google, or prior to sending out emails with Schema.org markup, you should run some initial tests to ensure that your markup is correct. You can start by copying and pasting your code into the Email Markup Tester to check for basic errors.

You can also add email markup to emails you send from and to yourself on Gmail. It’s important to test as one of the action / schema guidelines is a low failure rate and fast response for action handling. You can learn how to send test emails to yourself in this tutorial using script.google.com.

The tutorial gives you some simple code you can copy and paste as directed.

When you save and run the project as directed, you will immediately get the following result:

You can then begin to experiment with the code for the email markup you want to use.

Run your script again and again to produce new emails.

Any approved business can use the go-to actions to link the subject line of their email to any portion of their website. As you continue to experiment, think of new ways to engage your audience with email markup.

Final questions to answer

Here are some final questions you need to answer before you invest in email markup are the following.

  1. Will you get more of your desired results by adding Schema.org actions to your emails? For example, if you use the review action, will you actually get more reviews for your business?
  2. How much time will it take to revise your emails if / when Google standardizes email markup with Schema.org? It might pay to wait until email markup has been standardized and make the time and coding investment all at once.
  3. Will email actions be supported by other email platforms in the future? Schema.org is a collaboration between Google, Bing, Microsoft, Yandex, and Yahoo. So while not guaranteed, it can be assumed that all of the major email platforms on the web could embrace email markup in the future.

If, after answering these questions, you can see a real need for email markup, then find out if you meet the guidelines set by Google to use it and register.

If your business uses email markup, be sure to share your experiences and results in the comments!

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Feeding the Hummingbird: Structured Markup Isn’t the Only Way to Talk to Google

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

I used to laugh at the idea of Hummingbird optimization.

In a recent poll, Moz asked nearly
300 marketers which Google updated affected their traffic the most. Penguin and Panda were first and second, followed by Hummingbird in a distant third.

Which Google update had the biggest affect on your web traffic?

Unsurprising, because unlike Panda and Penguin,
Hummingbird doesn’t specifically combat webspam

Ever wonder why Google named certain algorithms after black and white animals (i.e. black hat vs. white hat?) Hummingbird is a broader algorithm altogether, and Hummingbirds can be any color of the rainbow.

One aspect of Hummingbird is about
better understanding of your content, not just specific SEO tactics.

Hummingbird also represents an
evolutionary step in entity-based search that Google has worked on for years, and it will continue to evolve. In a way, optimizing for entity search is optimizing for search itself.

Many SEOs limit their understanding of entity search to vague concepts of
structured data, Schema.org, and Freebase. They fall into the trap of thinking that the only way to participate in the entity SEO revolution is to mark up your HTML with complex schema.org microdata.

Not true.

Don’t misunderstand; schema.org and structured data are awesome. If you can implement structured data on your website, you should. Structured data is precise, can lead to enhanced search snippets, and helps search engines to understand your content. But Schema.org and classic structured data vocabularies also have key shortcomings:

  1. Schema types are limited. Structured data is great for people, products, places, and events, but these cover only a fraction of the entire content of the web. Many of us markup our content using Article schema, but this falls well short of describing the hundreds of possible entity associations within the text itself. 
  2. Markup is difficult. Realistically, in a world where it’s sometimes difficult to get authors to write a title tag or get engineers to attach an alt attribute to an image, implementing proper structured data to source HTML can be a daunting task.
  3. Adoption is low. A study last year of 2.4 billion web pages showed less than 25% contained structured data markup. A recent SearchMetrics study showed even less adoption, with only 0.3% of websites out of over 50 million domains using Schema.org.

This presents a challenge for search engines, which want to understand entity relationships across the
entire web – not simply the parts we choose to mark up. 

In reality, search engines have worked over 10 years –
since the early days of Google – at extracting entities from our content without the use of complex markup.

How search engines understand relationships without markup

Here’s a simple explanation of a complex subject. 

Search engines can structure your content using the concept of
triples. This means organizing keywords into a framework of subjectpredicateobject.

Structured data frameworks like schema.org work great because they automatically classify information into a triple format. Take this
example from Schema.org.

<div itemscope itemtype ="http://schema.org/Movie">
  <h1 itemprop="name">Avatar</h1>
  <span>Director: <span itemprop="director">James Cameron</span> (born August 16, 1954)</span>
  <span itemprop="genre">Science fiction</span>
  <a href="../movies/avatar-theatrical-trailer.html" itemprop="trailer">Trailer</a>
</div><br>

Extracting the triples from this code sample would yield:

Avatar (Movie)Has DirectorJames Cameron

SubjectPredicateObject

The challenge is: Can search engines extract this information for the 90%+ of your content that isn’t marked up with structured data? 

Yes, they can.

Triples, triples everywhere

Ask Google a question like
who is the president of Harvard or how many astronauts walked on the moon, and Google will often answer from a page with no structured data present.

Consider this query for the ideal length of a title tag.

Google is able to extract the semantic meaning from this page even though the properties of “length” and its value of 50-60 characters
are not structured using classic schema.org markup.

Matt Cutts recently revealed that Google uses over 500 algorithms. That means 500 algorithms that layer, filter and interact in different ways. The evidence indicates that Google has many techniques of extracting entity and relationship data that may work independent of each other.

Regardless, whether you are a master of schema.org or not, here are tips for communicating entity and relationship signals within your content.

1. Keywords

Yes, good old fashioned keywords.

Even without structured markup, search engines have the ability to parse keywords into their respective structure. 

But keywords by themselves only go so far. In order for this method to work, your keywords must be accompanied by appropriate predicates and objects. In other words, you sentences provide fuel to search engines when they contain detailed information with clear subjects and organization.

Consider this example of the relationships extracted from our
title tag page by AlchemyAPI:

Entities Extracted via AlchemyAPI

There’s evidence Google has worked on this technology for over 10 years, ever since it acquired the company Applied Semantics in 2003.

For deeper understanding, Bill Slawski wrote an excellent piece on Google’s ability to extract relationship meaning from text, as well as AJ Kohn’s excellent advice on Google’s Knowledge Graph optimization.

2. Tables and HTML elements

This is old school SEO that folks today often forget.

HTML (and HTML5), by default, provide structure to webpages that search engines can extract. By using lists, tables, and proper headings, you organize your content in a way that makes sense to robots. 

In the example below, the technology exists for search engines to easily extract structured relationship about US president John Adams in this Wikipedia table.

The goal isn’t to get in Google’s Knowledge Graph, (which is exclusive to Wikipedia and Freebase). Instead, the objective is to structure your content in a way that makes the most sense and relationships between words and concepts clear. 

For a deeper exploration, Bill Slawski has another excellent write up exploring many different techniques search engines can use to extract structured data from HTML-based content.

3. Entities and synonyms

What do you call the President of the United States? How about:

  • Barack Obama
  • POTUS (President Of The United States)
  • Commander in Chief
  • Michelle Obama’s Husband
  • First African American President

In truth, all of these apply to the same entity, even though searchers will look for them in different ways. If you wanted to make clear what exactly your content was about (which president?) two common techniques would be to include:

  1. Synonyms of the subject: We mean the President of the United States → Barack Obama → Commander in Chief and → Michelle Obama’s Husband
  2. Co-occuring phrases: If we’re talking about Barack Obama, we’re more likely to include phrases like Honolulu (his place of birth), Harvard (his college), 44th (he is the 44th president), and even Bo (his dog). This helps specify exactly which president we mean, and goes way beyond the individual keyword itself.

entities and synonyms for SEO

Using synonyms and entity association also has the benefit of appealing to broader searcher intent. A recent case study by Cognitive SEO demonstrated this by showing significant gains after adding semantically related synonyms to their content.

4. Anchor text and links

Links are the original relationship connector of the web.

Bill Slawski (again, because he is an SEO god) writes about one method Google might use to identity synonyms for entities using anchor text. It appears Google also uses anchor text in far more sophisticated ways. 

When looking at Google answer box results, you almost always find related keyword-rich anchor text pointing to the referenced URL. Ask Google “How many people walked on the moon?” and you’ll see these words in the anchor text that points to the URL Google displays as the answer.

Other queries:

Anchor text of Google's Answer Box URL

In these examples and more that I researched, matching anchor text was present every time in addition to the relevant information and keywords on the page itself.

Additionally, there seems to be an inidication that internal anchor text might also influence these results.

This is another argument to avoid generic anchor text like “click here” and “website.” Descriptive and clear anchor text, without overdoing it, provides a wealth of information for search engines to extract meaning from.

5. Leverage Google Local

For local business owners, the easiest and perhaps most effective way to establish structured relationships is through Google Local. The entire interface is like a structured data dashboard without Schema.org.

When you consider all the data you can upload both in Google+ and even Moz Local, the possibilities to map your business data is fairly complete in the local search sense.

In case you missed it, last week Google introduced My Business which makes maintaining your listings even easier.

6. Google Structured Data Highlighter

Sometimes, structured data is still the way to go.

In times when you have trouble adding markup to your HTML, Google offers its Structured Data Highlighter tool. This allows you to tell Google how your data should be structured, without actually adding any code.

The tool uses a type of machine learning to understand what type of schema applies to your pages, up to thousands at a time. No special skills or coding required.

Google Webmaster Structured Data Highlighter

Although the Structured Data Highlighter is both easy and fun, the downsides are:

  1. The data is only available to Google. Other search engines can’t see it.
  2. Markup types are limited to a few major top categories (Articles, Events, etc)
  3. If your HTML changes even a little, the tool can break.

Even though it’s simple, the Structured Data Highlighter should only be used when it’s impossible to add actual markup to your site. It’s not a substitution for the real thing.

7. Plugins

For pure schema.org markup, depending on the CMS you use, there’s often a multitude of plugins to make the job easier.

If you’re a WordPress user, your options are many:

Looking forward

If you have a chance to add Schema.org (or any other structured data to your site), this will help you earn those coveted SERP enhancements that may help with click-through rate, and may help search engines better understand your content.

That said, semantic understanding of the web goes far beyond rich snippets. Helping search engines to better understand all of your content is the job of the SEO. Even without Hummingbird, these are exactly the types of things we want to be doing.

It’s not “create content and let the search engines figure it out.” It’s “create great content with clues and proper signals to help the search engines figure it out.” 

If you do the latter, you’re far ahead in the game.

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10 Reasons Writers Should Claim Their Google Authorship Markup

Image of Google+ Logo

To say Stephen King is prolific is a gross understatement. Since he published his first novel (Carrie) back in 1973, he’s written over 70 more.

Early in King’s career, he wanted to write and publish constantly — which was against the prevailing wisdom of the time — and eventually convinced Signet to let him release a few books under the pen name “Richard Bachmann.”

King also wanted to answer the question of whether success was related to luck or talent. He went as far as purposefully suppressing the marketing of his Bachmann books.

His little experiment ended prematurely when someone outed Bachmann as King … but the results were clear. The Bachmann book Thinner sold 28,000 copies during its initial run. When it was identified as a book by King, it sold ten times as many.

When it comes to creating great content … it really does matter who you are.

And this is equally true online.

Introducing authorship markup

Authorship markup might prove to one of the most confusing conversations in our Author Rank series.

For one, many people think authorship is the same thing as Author Rank. Repeat after me:

Authorship markup is not the same thing as Author Rank.

Authorship markup is the method to display authorship information in search results for the content you create. For example, this shows up on page one of the SERPs for the phrase “content marketing”:

Authorship is how Google knows that an individual human being named Brian Clark published that article.

Author Rank, on the other hand, is an aspect of the search algorithm that Google appears to be implementing. There isn’t enough data yet to identify precisely how it works, but advances like authorship markup, Google+, Search Plus Your World, Agent Rank, and so on certainly look like they’ll play an increasingly major role.

Authorship markup is also confusing because it’s difficult to implement (or used to be).

But I’m getting ahead of myself …

Authorship helps you stand out in search

Authorship markup made a big splash toward the end of 2011 — about two months after Google+ launched.

Many people praised the move because of the impact it had on search results.

While by itself it wouldn’t help you rank higher (you still have to create great content), it would help you stand out.

Here’s an example. Do a search for “intellectual snobbery” and this probably what you’ll see:

Any doubt on which link you will click on?

The headline alone is pretty tantalizing, but my mug shot beside the results … it makes that listing stand out from the rest. (And yes, I’m quite pleased with those results. Does that surprise you?)

And, as you might have guessed, implementing authorship markup typically increases click through rates to your site.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top ten reasons you should claim your Google Authorship markup …

Authorship benefit #1: Higher click through rates

Shortly after its implementation, sites ran tests to see how much it increased markup. In some cases the increase in click through was as high as 150%.

This is exactly what happened to Catalyst.

Cyrus Shepherd further increased free traffic with authorship markup by doing nothing more than plugging in a better headshot.

With authorship markup implemented, you also get this sweet byline in your search rankings:

Here’s what those links do:

  • Click on “by Brian Clark” and you will land on his Google+ page.
  • Click on “More by Brian Clark” and you’ll land on a page that serves as a mini search engine that serves all the examples in which “content marketing” and “Brian Clark” are mentioned.

Those links are potential clickthroughs, too.

Authorship benefit #2: Higher visibility

Look back at that image for the search phrase “intellectual snobbery.” I might as well have the number one spot because my listing stands out from the others.

That visibility is a huge advantage.

In fact, eye tracking studies are showing us that the eye is first drawn to the image, then to the headline (which is why writing seductive headlines is so important).

Furthermore, studies have shown that by placing a photo so that you’re looking to the right (toward your listing) encourages people to actually look at your listing.

(If you want more hints and tips on creating an image that stands out, take a look at the Google Authorship and Author Rank community’s Authorship 101: Basics page.)

Let’s look at another interesting perk of authorship markup.

Authorship benefit #3: Higher page views

Imagine someone clicks your listing, wanders down your page for about two minutes, and then, satisfied, hits the back button.

The search results page they land on will be slightly different. See if you can spot what’s new:

It’s the additional links beneath Charissa’s listing. Those weren’t there before, and they actually equal more opportunities to get people to look at your content.

Google is probably thinking this: if someone clicks through to your page, but bounces out immediately, then your content is weak, and the user is not interested in seeing more.

If they stayed on your page for at least two minutes, however, that demonstrates to Google that your page has value, and perhaps other pages will provide additional information useful to the user.

In other words, SEO and user experience are blood brothers.

This is yet another signal in the Google machine that suggests useful, unique, and authoritative content is valued and rewarded … but it also reinforces another idea very important to us: the writer runs this show.

Why Google implemented authorship markup

Authorship markup and Google+ are two sides of the same coin.

Google+ is the identity platform (which is why your Google+ ID is a long string of numbers, not unlike your Social Security or driver’s license number) … and now authorship markup is the digital signature.

Exactly what they need to pull off something like Author Rank.

In essence, Google is saying … we want to make sure that you are a real human being … we want to stamp out anonymity and spam … we want to regard you as someone who is willing to put your name on the line for the content you create and share.

So … are you willing to put your name on the line?

Seven more benefits claiming authorship markup …

Together, authorship markup and Google+ work hand in hand to deliver some pretty slick benefits to the writer … to signal that the writer truly does run the show.

I’ve already mentioned the big three above. But for those who need further proof that authorship is worth claiming, here are seven more:

  1. Beat plagiarism — With authorship markup, the original author will be pushed to the top of the search results over content scrapers.
  2. Elevate the role of the writer — As you build your reputation in two or three specific categories, and your content follows you around … businesses will start to recognize the value of a good writer — and stop paying malt liquor prices for exquisite craft beer product.
  3. Verify guest posts and comments — Your Google profile also follows you across the web into comments and articles published on other blogs.
  4. Rank for different topics — Author Rank isn’t a wholesale score, but rather … broken down into categories. Which means you can be an expert in content marketing and skydiving without either of those categories watering down your score for the other. But this doesn’t mean you should try to be an expert in a dozen topics. Limit it to two or three.
  5. Build trust — The recognition that you have a Google+ account and a headshot beside your search listing is going to separate you from the faceless content creators. David Gould said it best: “For users, this reinforces the idea that the result is reputable: this link isn’t just the result of robotic SEO manipulation, but rather it’s from a human being who we can learn more about. Knowing that at least some minimal verification has gone on creates a trust factor with the user.”
  6. Establish authority — An author with a Google+ follower count of 32,299 is going to be recognized as a higher authority than an author with an account of 3,299. Why? Because of a number of factors we discussed in the Google+ article. It’s not perfect, but it’s something. It’s social proof.
  7. Keep people from hijacking your name — Finally, authorship markup will overcome the challenge that might occur when you share a common name like John Smith. Or, Brian Clark. If two articles appear in the search engines by people with the same name, the verified account will be deemed more credible.

What you need to do next …

I need you to do three things. First, claim your content with authorship markup.

You can head over to Google authorship markup support and follow the directions (you have two options).

Or, if you have a WordPress site and are using the Genesis framework, then you can claim your content in three easy steps.

Next, I need you to join us on Google+. We’ve got a growing, lively community where we share smart online marketing content and groovy 80s music videos.

Finally, wait patiently for the last article in this series — The Content Marketer’s Author Rank Cheat Sheet — where I bring all of this home.

Cool?

P.S.

This is the fifth in my series exploring the power and future of Author Rank. You can grab the others right here …

  1. Why Hunter S. Thompson Would’ve Loved Author Rank (And Why You Should, Too)
  2. How Google’s PageRank Algorithm Screwed the Online Writer (and What They Did to Fix It)
  3. Seven Ways Writers Can Build Online Authority with Google+
  4. Why Google+ Is the Best Social Platform for Content Marketers

… and make sure you subscribe to Copyblogger so the next one lands right in your inbox or RSS reader.

About the Author: Demian Farnworth is Chief Copywriter for Copyblogger Media. Follow him on Twitter or .

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