In a joint move, Google, Bing and Yahoo! have announced they will work together in a combined effort to create standardized tags to better search and index structured markup data on Web pages. Markup data allows site owners to tag various attributes in their documents to help organize the data and make them searchable. Their new initiative, called schema.org, establishes a common set of data scemas that can be used to describe sites in a universal language all the search engines will understand.
As the Web grows more dynamic, search engines continue to determine what data relate to which types of objects. For example, an online video has a length, author, audio format (stereo or mono), actors, a producer and other meta data by which it could be categorized. Similarly, recipes can have ingredients, preparation and cooking times, nutritional information, photos, reviews and many more tags. It is difficult for a search engine to categorize those data to make them easier to search and provide faster, more relevant results. Now they can.
You've seen the results of the structured markup data in action. Any time you see a review or links to extra data like show times or locations, those links have been created by the search engine using markup data.
Bing Tiles show movie ratings, running time, "star" ratings and more.
Google Rich Snippets allow users to see Star ratings, price range and reviews for restaurants.
Many site owners have implemented extended data markup on their Web pages. Google helped to facilitate this two years ago when they introduced their rich snippets markup. Since then, several variants of these markup have popped up, based on what's known as Resource Description Framework in attributes, or RDFa for short. Bing has a feature called Tiles, which accepts microformat, Open Graph and other data schemas. Since people think differently, many of the tags that are used to describe the sites are not consistent across the Web. By joining forces, the search giants will make everyone's job easier and presumably make a better search experience. The new schema.org site simplifies the guesswork of the data structures, including over 100 different data schemas for movies, civic structures, events and even creative works.
Google re-assures Webmasters that if you have already added microformats or RDFa tags, your site will still appear in SERPs with rich snippets. Bing echoed that sentiment in their announcement, stating the formats they have previously accepted will also continue to work. According to Steve Macbeth, Bing Partner Program Manager, they hope to "simplify the markup choices for Webmasters and amplify the value they receive in return."
This is not the first time the search engines have partnered up on a project. Back in 2006, The "Big Three" joined forces to create sitemaps.org, a combined effort to standardize Web page submission and feeds.
Do you use any type of data markup like Rich Snippets, RDFa or microformat? Will this announcement now make you want to try to adopt it for your site? Let us know!