Monday 8 April 2013

Adding semantic mark-up to optimise your webpages for search engine

We didn't have a meeting last week due to our AGM taking place later this month (for more details see our events page), so in lieu of that we have a guest post from Georgina Tarrant about her work as a Taxonomist. Great to to be able to showcase the varied landscape of the information profession! Take it away Georgina...

Hello, my name is Georgina Tarrant and I am a taxonomy specialist.  I have worked on for a number of years and during that time I observed a shift from using in-house business listings data to using third party taxonomies and data providers to help us to achieve our organisation goals.

One of the simplest and most effective of these projects was creating mappings between taxonomy headings and specific classifications to improve the way our business profile pages are displayed in organic (i.e. free) search engine results using content mark-up. was chosen for this project as it is an open source taxonomy created collaboratively by Google, Bing and Yahoo.  Using the taxonomy creates semantic mappings that help search engines to make use of our content.  We started small – we simply added mark-up to our business listings pages which told the search engines that the page was about a local business.  We didn’t even say what type of business and yet this simple change led to a dramatic improvement in how our pages appeared in the automated summaries in search engine results.  Google have a test that web masters can use:

Website mark-up languages like HTML are used to specify how webpage content should be formatted. tags are different because they specify each different type of content on the page in a way that search engines can understand.  This enables us to control how our business profile pages are displayed in automated result summaries e.g. we can make sure that addresses and telephone numbers are correctly formatted as they are elements of the local business taxonomy term.

The next logical step was to tell the search engines what type of business each page was about.  The types of business were sub-categories of the local business heading.  My task was to create a new ontology structure to recreate the headings in and then to match them to the classifications that each business was classified under.  Now Google and other search engines can tell when it is looking at the business listing page for a bakery and when it is looking at a restaurant or takeaway – hooray!  Adding the mark-up made it worthwhile having all of our extended content such as maps, user reviews and opening hours displayed correctly.

We started with local business and food establishment Schema headings but our intention was to roll this out across the whole classification set.  Hopefully this will improve our search engine rankings and make use of the rich content we have!