Ep#11: Semantic Markup & Rich Snippets

Semantic markup and rich snippets in the search results in an interview with Tony McCreath.

In episode 11 I speak with Tony McCreath about Semantic Markup and Rich Snippets in the search results. These are things you can do to your website to make it stand out more in the search results and get more clicks. This is the third part of my four part series of interviews with Tony. You can find parts 1 and 2 in episodes 7 and 9.

Covered in this episode;

  • What does semantic markup mean?
  • What are rich snippets?
  • How can rich snippets benefit a website?
  • Is this something regular business owners can implement or will they need the help of a developer?
  • What is the future of rich snippets going to be like IYO?


The featured photo this week is a snap by our Work Experience student Sam taken near our office in Crafers.

Crafers, Adelaide Hills

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Nick: Welcome back to Episode 11 of the WMA Podcast. This week, we’re speaking with Tony McCreath from Website Advantage about semantic mark-up and rich Snippets in the search results. This is my third chat with Tony. The last few episodes you can find my first and second chats with him in Episodes 7 and 9 respectively.

I have to apologize that the sound is a little hard to hear at times because it was very windy when we were recording the interview, we were recording it outside but you should be able to get most of the information fairly easily.

Just before we head to that interview, there’s a heads up that we have for a Flying Solo Small Business Meet up event happening next week on October the 9th on Tuesday. That’s at the Hackney Hotel at 10 a.m. Head to the show notes at webmarketingadelaide.com.au for a link to more information about that, hoping to get quite a few people this time, maybe sort of 10 to 15 or so, so it’s a great opportunity to network with other small business owners in Adelaide. Now, let’s go to that interview.

Alright, welcome back to Web Marketing Adelaide. We’re talking again this week with Tony McCreath from Website Advantage, SEO expert from Adelaide and today, we’re going to be addressing the topic of Semantic Mark up and Rich Snippets. Now, we touched on this a little bit in previous weeks when we talked about Google Plus and overshoot mark-up, but let’s just get started.

First of all Tony, welcome back to the show. Good to have you with us still. So, what does Semantic Markup mean?

Tony: Probably best to define what Semantic means. I’m not a semantic expert but the general idea of semantic is the meaning behind words. So, instead of just seeing a bunch of words, and they are words put together. Semantic is about understanding what the actual sentence is about and the subject matter. So, Semantic Mark-up is a way that you have the ability to actually enhance your website by defining the meaning behind sentences to help Google actually understand what a sentence is about or a paragraph rather than Google just guessing.

A good example, maybe your contact page, Google scrapes content pages to find out the business name, the address, the phone number and Google is kind of clever at that but it’s guessing, it’s looking for a series of numbers. What semantic markup is, you will actually say on that page, this sentence is my business name. This sentence is my business phone number, this is my street address. This is so on, that you can give all this information and you can say the page, as a whole is a definition of your business.

So, you can add all this information, to provide meaning for Google, so that Google doesn’t have to guess, they know and this all leads up to what Google is calling the Knowledge graph. Its pulling all this information together, and finding how they associate, so you might reference another business, so Google knows this is a business linking to another business and this is the author of the business, all these semantic knowledge that Google is pulling together to improve it’s search results.

Nick: And when we talk about semantic mark-up, that’s happening in the code of the page, this isn’t something that people will see on your website, it’s actually happening behind the scenes.

Tony: Yeah it’s hidden, it’s written as part of your HTML. A good source for learning about it is schema.org, which you’ll put a link to. This is the officially endorsed version of semantic mark-up, of Google, Bing, maybe Yahoo if that’s still around, have endorsed. They currently support some forms of mark-up like business names, people, product reviews, videos, and that will enhance in the future.

Nick: And what are rich snippets?

Tony: Rich snippets are enhanced results we talked on an earlier episode at the start about the offered pictures, so that’s a rich snippet, where your mug shot is added to the results, the search results in Google feed. Your normal search results consists of a title and what we call a snippet, which is a paragraph about the page and a link of course. Rich snippets are things like pictures, if it’s a reviewed page, it might show star ratings and the Youtube videos might cover a thumb shot shown on it. Another big one is if you’re branded really well, you might get what we call, site links, which is secondary links within your entry and sometimes that can take up a whole chunk of the search results.

Nick: You might often see this when you make a brand search, and you’ll have links to the about page and the contact page as well as the main website.

Tony: When Google thinks the search is very specifically about a particular website or business, they will give you a very enhanced result.

Nick: So all of these extra things in the search results are all rich snippets?

Tony: Yeah, anything that’s kind of enhancing the result is classed as a rich snippet rather than a normal snippet.

Nick: Right, so how can a rich snippet benefit a website?

Tony: It makes you stand out more. So, your listing may get a little bit more real estate than the one next to you. It also provides more ways for people to actually go to your website, like site links, will have things like people can go straight to your contact page or your product page and it also creates trust. If there’s a picture there, people tend to trust that more than the one next to you, that’s a quite anonymous little normal snippet.

Nick: Yeah. Great. Now, is semantic mark-up and rich snippets, is this something a regular business owner can do on their own or is this something that you really need a web developer to do?

Tony: Most cases, a web developer, and in a lot of those cases, the web developer will have to go to someone and learn how to do it.

Nick: Right, an SEO person.

Tony: It’s enhancing your HTML, so whoever does it has to know the schemer.org stuff and they have to learn an extra language effectively, on how to do it. There are plug-ins on WordPress, and a few content management systems are starting to build it in, but it’s very immature at the moment and hit and miss. So, even if you use the WordPress plug-in, it might not actually work.

Nick: Right, but it’s something that people should think about doing, like it’s worth it?

Tony: I’d say it depends on your business. If you have reviews on your website, having those star ratings will make those reviews look better, although rich snippets are recipes. So, if you’re a cooking website, it’d be really great if you could get a picture of your recipes with I think, it also sums up cooking times and things within the rich snippet. So, if a certain recipes or pictures suits your business, it can be worth setting those up. It’s basically down to what benefits you will personally get from it. All of three are probably one of the easier ones to set up, it’s more of working out your Google Plus account. So, that may be quite an easy one to get going.

Nick: And what is the future of rich snippets going to look like, do you think? Is there an option to keep adding more and more information to the search results, or are they still experimenting?

Tony: They’re always experimenting. I never realized that – hope you can still hear me, the breeze kept blowing away…

Nick: It gets blown away in this lovely Adelaide weather.

Tony: I would say, more as a whole, not just the rich snippets but the search results are revolving all the time. We’ve got the Knowledge graph, which is adding stuff to the side of the results. We’ve got Google shopping, which is adding products information, which look like rich snippets but is a separate system, and they are going to start supporting more types of rich snippets. At the moment in Australia, I don’t think we’re seeing product based rich snippets yet but I believe they have them in America. Same with things like maybe music, more different types of iTunes will start appearing, and the idea is Google gives people a better view of what they’re looking for, a better search experience and again, it means they get more people coming in, clicking on the adverts and in fact, on their adverts are also getting more sophisticated.

It wasn’t long ago that we started seeing pictures in adverts here. If you look at American results, the adverts take up a lot of the search results now and they have everything from maps, reviews, Google Plus segments, the advertising results are getting a lot more sophisticated.

Nick: Yep, and so you’ve mentioned America a few times. America’s a good kind, I guess what’s going to come down in the pipeline to Australia by looking at what the Americans are doing.

Tony: Yeah, you’d probably see the same. If you follow American SEO’s they talk about a lot of stuff and they go, oh we don’t get that yet, and it can be months or years before it actually arrives in Australia, things like the Knowledge graph is probably 6 months before, Google shopping I think just appeared this year and it’s been around for years and years in America and the UK, so, we are a bit behind. It means that if you monitor it, you know what’s coming.

Nick: You know what’s coming, sort of an advanced warning.

Tony: Yeah.

Nick: Great. Well thanks very much for talking to us about semantic mark-up. Did you have anything else to add to that topic?

Tony: No, I think it was covered. You can always do research on it, as I say, schemer.org is the place to go to learn about the technical side of it. Google provides the tool to actually test whether you’ve got it right, so when you get your web developer, you can confirm that they’re doing the right sort of thing and it’s going to get more mature and probably easier for people to do in the future.

Nick: Great. We’re going to be talking to Tony again in the next few episodes about Google shopping and until then, nice having you on the show.

Tony: Cheers, nice to be here.


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