Ask the Experts: Semantic Tags for Rich Snippets
Q: I’m confused. What are Schema.org tags and are these the same as semantic tags for rich snippets? Which ones should I use?
A: Have you ever wondered how some websites’ listings in Google and Bing get those great-looking review stars, price ranges, and other enhancements, like the ones shown here?
This is all achieved through the magic of semantic tagging. Semantic tagging allows website owners to put tags around their content to help search engines understand the meaning of that content. Say a website owner put a <price> tag around the price of a product: <price>14.99</price>. That would help a search engine understand that it’s looking at the price of the product. Then, the search engine can use this information to improve its listings for your site.
Semantic tags for rich snippets have been supported by Google for years, but the new Schema.org tagging expands the type of information that can be tagged, and is also supported by Bing. Here’s a quick overview:
- Semantic tagging per Schema.org. This was recently announced by Google and Bing and is remarkable for being supported by both of the rival search engines. Because Schema.org tagging is still very new, we don’t know exactly how it will be used by Google and Bing, but we expect that it will be used to improve search engine listings with rich snippets, and could help with positioning in Shopping search.
- Semantic tagging for rich snippets using microformats or RDFa. This is an older form of semantic tagging that has been supported by Google for at least a couple of years. It uses a different format than Schema.org tagging but provides some of the same information. It is more limited than Schema.org tagging and only provides a few pieces of information about a product, including name of product, price, availability, and the number of review stars.
Which one should you use? We recommend Schema.org because it is fully supported by both major search engines, Google and Bing.
Are there any possible downsides to using semantic tagging? Yes. Semantic tagging could help search engines create content pages that give visitors the information they’re looking for without clicking through to your site. Many website owners already feel that Google News, Google Places and Google Shopping have intercepted potential visitors to their site. Some content creators think search engines are becoming no better than content scrapers that steal content from their websites. Weigh this concern against the benefits of having enhanced listings on search engines. As SEOs, we continue to lean toward doing everything we can to feed quality information to search engines, but a dose of healthy skepticism never hurt anyone.
Readers: are you using rich snippets? Have you seen more traffic, or are you concerned about search engines scraping your content?