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Jim Yu

Structured Data: Content, Rich Snippets & Authorship vs. Author Rank

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structured-data-imageOver the last 12 months we have witnessed a content marketing explosion and a rapid evolution in search and social media marketing techniques. This has been driven by technological and algorithmic advancement and has changed the way we produce and consume content and data.

In fact, the production of digital and social content growth accounts for over 90 percent of all global data produced over the last two years, according to IBM.

The amount of content and data that our industry generates, manages, and optimizing is staggering. The way that this content and data is structured and presented in the SERP’s is the focus of my article today and how you can map the relationship from structured data, content and social media, to search results.

Relevant Content and Structured Data

Data comes in multiple formats that take the form of un-structured, semi structured and structured data. It is the relationship between structured data and search marketing that is of topic relevance to today’s content and search marketer.

Before you can look at structured content and data markup in search it is important to create relevant, targeted, compelling and engaging content as your start point. How you do and how you share this is, then, of vital importance to how search engines begin to assess and place you content in the SERP results. 

Structured data and content conversations become more technical when we discuss marking up the content on your website so that search engines and multiple devices can access your content in a number of unique and insightful ways. Beside Panda updates Google began to first give marketers a clear signal of increased focus on quality content with is Structured Data report in Google Webmaster Tools.

As search marketers our job is to ensure sites are visible and understood by search engines whilst providing valuable and relevant results to searchers. Structured data and Semantic markup allow us to do this more effectively by giving websites data and content structure. Semantic markup allows search engines to understand, beyond just crawling, content.

Structured data:

  • Allows search engines to understand what the content is specifically about.
  • Allows users to see the value of a website before they click and visit – via rich snippets in the SERPs.

structured-data-visual-content-social-search

Rich Snippets and Schema.org

To help users quickly assess the relevance of search results, search engines expose additional rich information in the snippets shown below each listing. Marketers now leverage the power of schema.org mark ups in a cost effective way to drive higher CTRs and revenue from search engines.

These rich snippets, such as reviews and pricing information for products or show times for events, allow searchers to quickly get a sense of how useful the search listing is. To determine the rich content information that appears in a snippet, search engines rely on markups on the source pages crawled.

There are multiple approaches to marking up pages for search engines crawlers. Google currently supports microdata, microformats and rdf-a. Increasingly all search engine including Google are adopting schema.org markups as the industry standard for passing across semantic details about a web page.

rich-snippets-apple-pie-google-serp

Having rich data included in snippets when their web pages rank helps both the SEO and the Content Marketer. The presence of rich snippets makes listing standout and drive higher CTRs and traffic/revenue to web pages. As a result of this promise of higher CTRs and higher rank, many marketers have already marked up their pages or are looking for help in making the business decision on adopting schema.org markups.

  • Rich snippets provide the user with only the important & precise information to display in search result snippets.
  • Rich Snippets allow you to stand out from the competition through interaction (photos, star ratings, price and author)

When we look to the future and Mobile Carrie Hill made a great point of SEW last week:

“I think if an app, or a search engine wanted to deliver mobile-friendly content – the content from the semantic markup that schema provides would be a great place to find it”

Markup and microformats are also becoming extremely important to local rankings.

Authorship

Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance. – Eric Schmidt

In past posts I have talked about the importance and intrinsic relationship between search and social and content, social and search. Content marketing is the glue that binds the search and social media relationship. Search and social media is now being consumed and distributed locally and globally, across multiple devices like mobile and video and in multiple formats such as video and images. Dependent upon your channel of distribution, the content you create has to be unique, insightful and relevant.

Search for a brand in 2013, and it’s increasingly likely a Google+ page will appear in the SERP. This is an area which has seen a significant increase in the past year, and is now at one in five brands. Twenty percent of brands now have their Google+ page show in the SERP.

When Google+ was launched last year it also introduced authorship to give content producers a way to verify their identities. Google+ is the vehicle to connect your content with others and hence if you are not utilizing Google+ you are not utilizing authorship markup.

Authors could get a rich snippet enhanced search result that would display their author profile photo, along with a link to their profile, number of Google+ circles they’re in, and a link to more of their related content.

For example, today Google gives you the ability to have your author picture appear next to your listing in search results with some links to your stories.

authorship-author-pic-content-marketing-seo-google-serp

Authorship is a social signal and social signals affect rank.

Authorship is an important social signal because it allows Google to attach those signals to an individual, not just a web site. Over the last 10 years the social graph has grown extensively when compared to the link graph. As Google mentions on its Inside Search site

“When you search, you’re not just looking for a webpage. You’re looking to get answers, understand or explore.”

Building authorship and preparing for Author Rank:

  • Ensure your online content is properly linked to your Google+ profile.
  • Build an influential Google+ profile and include people in your circles who are influential and related to topics and content that you author
  • Continue to write and build content and posts on a number of influential sites that are relevant to your topic areas
  • Ensure all authored content is properly verified and -linked to your Google+ profile
  • Build your personal brand and share content from conferences, Google+ hangouts and so forth for your target topics

Further reading:

Author Rank

It is important to distinguish between Authorship and Author Rank. Authorship as explained above connects content anywhere on the web and our Google+ profiles. Through this you gain advantage of the search and social signal relationship via Authorship Rich Snippets in search results.

Author Rank is a phrase coined by the SEO industry and relates to the future/potential for Google to use authorship as a direct ranking factor.

With Author Rank Google can potentially generate a score for you in each of the topic areas about which you regularly build content, and then use that score to affect your search rankings for content in each of your topics. Ranking scores could be determined via trust and how content is shared and trusted via topic.

The topic of Author Rank itself comes into question when people talk about if Google+ data isn’t used. Since authorship is tied closely to Google+ some people say that the whole idea of AuthorRank is difficult to measure.

Building authorship, as per above, can improve rank through social signals and prepares you for a future world of Author Rank.

Conclusion

As we move toward a content-centric approach to marketing, search and social media new influence based metrics become more important. People, as authors, become part of the semantic web equation. Technology has changed the way we consume content. Schema.org and rich snippets reflect the structured way in which this data is now being presented in the SERPs.

People are publishers and, as Google evolves, people and the content they produce are beginning to be prioritized by the search engines.


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