A Markup That Could Have Big Implications for SEO

RDFa Could Play an Increasingly Big Role in Search

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RDFa, which stands for Resource Description Framework in attributes, is a W3C recommendation, which adds a set of attribute level extensions to XHTML for embedding rich metadata within web documents. While not everyone believes that W3C standards are incredibly necessary to operate a successful site, some see a great deal of potential for search engine optimization in RDFa.

In fact, this is the topic of a current WebProWorld thread, which was started by Dave Lauretti of MoreStar, who asks, "Are you working the RDFa Framework into your SEO campaigns?" He writes, "Now under certain conditions and with certain search strings on both Google and Yahoo we can find instances where the RDFa framework integrated within a website can enhance their listing in the search results."

Lauretti refers to an article from last summer at A List Apart, by Mark Birbeck who said that Google was beginning to process RDFa and Microformats as it indexes sites, using the parsed data to enhance the display of search results with "rich snippets". This results in the Google results you see like this:

RDFa in play

"It’s a simple change to the display of search results, yet our experiments have shown that users find the new data valuable — if they see useful and relevant information from the page, they are more likely to click through," Google said upon the launch of rich snippets.

Google says it is experimenting with markup for business and location data, but that it doesn’t currently display this information, unless the business or organization is part of a review (hence the results in the above example). But when review information is marked up in the body of a web page, Google can identify it and may make it available in search results. When review information is shown in search results, this can of course entice users to click through to the page (one of the many reasons to treat customers right and monitor your reputation).

Currently Google uses RDFa for reviews, but this search also displays the date of the review, the star rating, the author and the price range of an iPod, as Lauretti points out.

Best Buy’s lead web development engineer reported that by adding RDFa the company saw improved ranking for respective pages. They saw a 30% increase in traffic, and Yahoo evidently observed a 15% increase in click-through rates.(via Steven Pemberton)

Implications for SEO

I’m not going to get into the technical side of RDFa here (see resources listed later in the article), but I would like to get into some of the implications that Google’s use of RDFa could have on SEO practices. For one, rich snippets can show specific information related to products that are searched for. For example, a result for a movie search could bring up information like:

– Run time
– Release Date
– Rating
– Theaters that are showing it

"The implementation of RDFa not only gives more information about products or services but also increases the visibility of these in the latest generations of search engines, recommender systems and other applications," Lauretti tells WebProNews. "If accuracy is an issue when it comes to search and search results then pages with RDFa will get better rankings as there would be little to question regarding the page theme." (Source) He provides the following chart containing examples of the types of data that could potentially be displayed with RDFa:

RDFa Implications

"It is obvious that search marketers and SEOs will be utilizing this ability for themselves and their clients," says Lauretti. Take contact information specifically. "Using RDFa in your contact information clarifies to the search engine that the text within your contact block of code is indeed contact information." He says in this same light, "people information" can be displayed in the search results (usually social networking info). You could potentially show manufacturer information or author information.

RDFa actually has implications beyond just Google’s regular web search.
With respect to Google’s Image search, the owner of images can also use RDFa to provide license information about the images they own. Google currently allows image searchers to have images displayed based on license type, and using RDFa with your images lets the search bots know under which licenses you are making your images available (Via Mark Birbeck). There is also RDFa support for video.

Following are some resources where you can learn more about RDFa and how to implement it:

Google Introduces Rich Snippets
Introduction to RDFa
RDFa Primer
About RDFa (Google Webmaster Central)
RDFa to Provide Image License Info
RDFa Microformat Tagging For Your Website
For Businesses and Organizations
About Review Data (Google Webmaster Central)

Google’s Matt Cutts has said in the past that Google has been kind of "white listing" sites to get rich snippets, as Google feels they are appropriate, but as they grow more confident that such snippets don’t hurt the user experience, then Google will likely roll the ability out more and more broadly. This is one thing to keep an eye on as the year progresses, and is why those in the WebProWorld thread believe RDFa will become a bigger topic of discussion in 2010.

WebProNews would like to thank Dave Lauretti, who contributed some findings to this piece.

Update: As I pieced together this article, Google coincidentally announced support for rich snippets for Events.

Related Articles:

> Get Your Breadcrumbs in Google for More Links in Results

> Google Makes it Easier to Tell Where Results Originate From

> Get More Links in Your Actual Google Results

A Markup That Could Have Big Implications for SEO
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  • http://www.gasmerlin.com Decoracion de interiores

    more problems to make SEO, or a new joke of Google ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Dave Lauretti

    Great article Chris, I’m more than delighted to see that the RDFa is becoming more than just a suggestion and that people are starting to realize the great benefits of using RDFa in their documents.

    RDFa has been around for a little while now but with more and more articles and exposure regarding this topic more SEOs will be taking the time to understand the framework and use it to their customer’s advantage.

    I’ve recently launched my own SEO services website, seoBuilders and once I get the ball rolling with a new template (it’s hideous right now) I will be making sure the site is 100% RDFa and will validate at W3C as well.

    Thanks again for putting this together so clearly.

    • Chris Crum

      Thanks for the kind words and for you contributions Dave. Best of luck!

      • http://www.1-dynamic-design.com eBay Store Design, Website Design, and SEO Specialist

        Thank you so much Chris for your wonderful article about using RDFa
        for one to get better search engine optimization. I will be definately
        be using RDFa for my sites and also for my clients.

        I am currently in college studying website design
        and I am also a website designer and seo specialist.

        You have been a tremendous help!
        I am one of your long time avid readers. =)
        I LOVE reading your articles.

        Sincerely yours,
        Tonya Becker-Haddadeen
        in Stafford VA near Washington DC

  • http://theblog-log.net Ray

    It’s fascinating to watch the changes in the web. Incremental changes to things like how search engines present their information, or for that matter derive their results are occurring everywhere, and all at once. The difficulty is in keeping up with it all, but keep up with it we must. Articles like this one go a long way to accomplishing that goal. Thanks for the information. Now it’s time to go off and do a bit more continuing education.

    Thanks again,


  • http://www.SearchRevenues.com Paul Denhup

    Good stuff here. Let us see how long it takes before people try to overuse it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • http://www.firetext.tv text messaging software

    This is great! Thanks for the tip!

  • http://www.usall.com Eric S. Meyer

    I believe this additional information will help improve the experience of most web surfers, saving them time, and is worth my company utilizing to better serve my clients for SEO services. With additional details, the web surfers may feel less discouraged in researching more often for longer lengths of time, thus benefiting the engines in return with more searches and a more productive consumer buyer group.

  • JohnSmith

    I think that one of good ways to increase traffic to your site is this service http://www.joomag.com/

  • http://roundedcornermaker.com Bryan

    I believe this could be a very useful resource for both SEO’s and searchers.

    I just wonder about future implications. Will search engines become more demanding on webmasters for information they might not want to disclose? For example, if someone has new content that is not yet rated, or a bad rep from competition or false information, will they be required to disclose bad ratings or a bad reputation. Just sayin this could be abused.

    On the other hand if this markup is used as a more efficient way for webmasters to communicate helpful information, this would be excellent. It would give webmasters more control over what is displayed in the SERP’s.

    And. of course, there will be spammers.

  • http://www.thebookabyss.com.au Australian Bookshop

    great article. I wonder what the consequences will be for those not utilising RDFa in their SEO campaigns.

  • http://BizTravelGuru.com Business Travel Guru

    A great post on RDFa This is the first I have heard about this markup and the potential for my sites looks good So I will be investigating further!

  • http://www.goodsamdental.org Dental tourism

    This seems like something that could have a tremedous potential I would really like to learn more about RDFa, and how to write it into my website.

  • http://www.Business-Trader.com.au Business Trader

    Great article and I have been waiting for this topic to hit the forum.

    A good friend of mine affectionately kown as ‘Webnauts’ from SeoWorkers.com has been talking about this for some time now.

    A lot of people are dismissing RDFa and believe it may not have any effect for many years, but I say watch this space! I believe Google will be giving value to site which are RDFa formatted like my site www.Business-Trader.com.au sooner than expected.

    • Dave Lauretti

      Yes I must give massive thanks to Webnauts for keeping up with the times, the improvements in web technologies and for sharing with me the importance and significance of RDFa – from providing truly accessible web documents and obviously helping rank higher in the search engines.

      • http://www.seoworkers.com Webnauts

        Thanks Dave for the kind words. It was my pleasure to share all this.

  • http://www.CustomerParadigm.com/ Jeff Finkelstein

    Thanks for covering this topic that’s so near and dear to my heart. I’m still shocked that so few people have adopted the RDFa protocol, even though it can make such a big difference for SEO, as well as prepare them for the up-and-coming Semantic Web. :)

  • http://asylum-et.com/ Asylum

    It will only remain useful until people catch on to how they are going to abuse it and aside from that when everyone’s website is done like it then it will be the same as it is now, a bunch of non relevant content. Just a thought anyway.

  • http://www.awebguy.com Mark Aaron Murnahan

    How many people who know nothing about SEO other than that it has something to do with getting search engine results have you heard talk about meta tags? I still hear it even in 2010!

    I think it is very funny, because I hear people all the time who want to sound savvy about my job by throwing out words like “meta tags” and “serps”. I guess they think it will intimidate me the way it intimidates car repairmen when they talk about their muffler bearings or their mechanically inclined cousin’s advice.

    That said, I do not see RDFa as quite the same, so don’t get me wrong. I would suggest that this will be less manipulated than it may appear on the surface. I think there will be good uses for RDFa but just like anything in SEO, the usefulness will fade in time.

    Until then, I think you will do well to look at RDFa carefully.

  • http://officialsafetyandsecurity.com Official Safety and Security

    I’ve trusted others in the past with my safety and security web site SEO and found I could have flushed my money down the drain and accomplished the same thing. Obviously I’m pretty skeptical but it all sounds very interesting. Thanks, Chris.

  • http://www.hormonesolutions.com.au Lance Chambers

    Thanks for the article it will become a very useful adjunct to my ongoing SEO endeavours. The reasons I support the continued complexity of SEO is that, in the main, it leaves the amateurs behind and offers the dedicated practisioner an edge on the field.

    I feel that serious SEO will become a highly complex field that will require dedicated time to learn and understand – in effect it will become a field of practise that will require the time to become proficient equal to that required to earn a college degree.

    Author: Lance Chambers. Responsible for the online presence of Lawley Pharmaceuticals (http://www.hormonesolutions.com.au)

  • Guest

    Certainly has its advantageous but seemingly only for those using it with genuine intentions, I can already see how easy this can be to abuse for the wrong purposes and thus reduce its effectiveness and value to search engines, we’ll just have to see how it plays out.

  • http://www.best-short-stories.com bestshortstory

    Thanks for the info, Chris.

  • http://www.gtwcmt.co.uk GTWCMT

    I have been using RDF Meta for some years (about 6) as its always played a part in the SEO of a website, but not only SEO but it also matters if your content is shown at all in the search results.

    Surely people have actually noticed this already?
    well maybe it will not show to many as they do not search from other computers and realise how different the results are on other computers and networks..

    Nice little video as 4 of my sites are used for images, and for the FIRST time ever some one actually ASKED if they could use an image, I almost rolle dover and died with the shock but the licence atrib could be a good thing as the number of google searches which are based on images is very high.
    Also on a little side note, did you know that blocking google bot for images will lower your rank and results listing?? Found out this a while ago when I blocked all image folders from the bot…

    But with regards this post, its interesting and good to see OLD tech being reused..

  • http://newstechnica.com David Gerard

    Microdata is not as good technically as RDFa, but is being much more widely adopted already.

    Barring a major site adopting it, RDFa is likely to become an also-ran.

    (As it hasn’t been decided yet, Wikimedia is making both possible in MediaWiki and eventually on Wikipedia.)

  • http://www.mmasupplements.org Toshi O.

    im sure they are not complaining

  • http://www.topseopackages.com TopSEO

    Google and the other search engines will never stop changing, so it is important to learn SEO and keep up with the changing times. SEO is like the English language, every couple years you have to go back and do it all over again.

  • http://www.great-seo.co.uk Sam Langdon

    Nice article Chris – there’s no doubt that support for RDFa from Google and Yahoo will encourage webmasters to start using it, with the possible reward of more coverage in the SERPs.

    With RDFa being pushed by Google, extensive categorisation of data by social media websites and HTML5 use growing, it seems like we’re getting closer to a Semantic Web. I’ve discussed the topic in this article – it would be great to hear your thoughts:


  • http://www.zenoseo.com/company/brisbane Brisbane SEO

    Nice information about SEO(Search Engine Optimization) and RDFa. Lot of good information shared here. Thanks for sharing. While SEO(Search Engine Optimization) a business issue all over the world then these are really valuable.

  • http://www.claritytech.com.au Sydney search engine optimization

    Nice post, I likes your post. Very useful and informative.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Mike

    Tips included in this blog are very good for beginner SEO’s. I have found some tips that i have not found anywhere. I’ll use them for website optimization and promotion.


    Regards:- SEO Orange County

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