Using Microdata to improve SEO
What is Microdata?
Microdata is a specification describing how to structure data on your web page.
Previously webmasters would use standard Semantic HTML markup to describe data. An example would be the use of Heading tags (H1, H2 etc) to describe the data that the page contains.
This was extended by resource definition framework (RDF) which is a great format however due to its complexity it has not been widely adopted by the web community.
Google started using microformats in 2009 with their “Rich Snippets” and later in 2010 when they started using them to describe cooking recipes. However there was still no standard way of describing data and no agreement between search engine companies to support any specific formats. While they still support microformats they have now moved on to microdata.
What is Schema.org?
Microdata is an extension of all of this. It has taken the ideas and work of Microformats and RDF, extended and consolidated it. Microdata is a proposed HTML5 specification.
Schema.org is a website set up by Yahoo, Bing and Google which promotes the use of these mircodata formats. Schema.org specifies the format of over a hundred categories of data such as events, organisations, places, products and news articles using the microdata format.
Schema.org and SEO
The big question is if you convert your existing website over to this format will it improve your search engine ranking?
The search engines will always be trying to improve the way they understand and use the data they retrieve. If schema.org is widely adopted then it means search engines will be able achieve this and with this information they will be able to give users more accurate results to their queries.
So while you will still need to have great data if you are using microdata and your competitor is not then this should provide you with a better search engine ranking.