October 22, 2012

A visual guide to rich snippets [Infographic]


Rich snippets: Concert dates in Google.

This is the first of a two-part series. Also see:
Why Google Authorship matters to your business

Guest post by Selena Narayanasamy
Director of Strategy Development, BlueGlass Interactive

If you’re not familiar with rich snippets, they’re data, included in the code of a page, designed to summarize the content of a webpage in a way that makes it even easier for users to understand what the page contains.

We see rich snippets on tons of search engine results pages, with some verticals having a higher abundance of them than others. For the average searcher, these rich snippets help show us that what we’re searching for is within reach on a particular site. Continue reading

June 16, 2011

Top 10 Predictions on What’s Coming Up Next in Social Media

future-web

Ayelet NoffAt the beginning of the month I was asked to speak on a panel that discussed social media, social networks and “what’s coming up next.” In research for this discussion, I came up with a few insights on what I foresee coming up next in the world of social media.

Here are my top 10 prognostications:

1The physical and digital worlds will be more highly connected than ever before — already today we are able to run in the park and track our progress online while sharing it with our friends or track our weight loss, or even our ovulation (well, some of us, that is) with iPhone apps that connect to our Facebook and Twitter profiles and enable us to keep track of our progress as well as share the data with our friends. Robert Scoble had a brilliant presentation on this topic at the last TNW Conference in Amsterdam. You can see it here.

2Facebook, Twitter and other major social networks will become increasingly what Fred Wilson termed “social dashboards.”.In essence, Facebook and Twitter are social channels on which other companies can grow and develop their own technologies and businesses. Both Facebook and Twitter have created economies far larger than many nations. Take, for example, companies like Stocktwits, Tweetdeck and Zynga (among others) that have made huge profits piggybacking on these two platforms.

3Until now, brands have been very concerned with bringing as many people as possible to their pages. Consumer brands can now finally reap the fruits and build social commerce stores where Facebook users (all 600 million of them) can purchase products on their favorite social network without needing to go to any destination site. Facebook will become one of the major channels of future online shopping.

4Companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon are currently collecting information about each and every one of us: our likes and dislikes, our interests and activities. Soon in an age of Web 3.0, an age of Semantic Web, we will no longer need to search for information on the Web as information will find us based on all this data that companies are collecting. The right information will be served to the right people at the right time, saving us all a lot of time, effort and energy.

5Mobile technology will become more dominant and near field communication (NFC technology) will be developed further enabling it to offer us special promotions, coupons and tips based on our geographical location and the interest graph we discussed in insight #3. Continue reading

November 9, 2010

The benefits of structuring your data using microformats

Google Rich Snippet Testing Tool
Google’s Rich Snippet Testing Tool

Deltina HayLast week we discussed how the Semantic Web relies upon markup languages that tag Web content, making it easier for machines to interpret. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including tagging content as structured data or linked data.

Today we’ll take a look at marking up your content as structured data using microformats.

Microformats for structured data

Microformats are one of the standard markup formats used to create structured data. Like any markup language, they consist of tags and attributes that are used to “mark up” your Web content so that a search engine can recognize the content as structured data.

Content that is typically marked up using this standard includes contact and location information, reviews, products, and events. To transform your data into structured data using microformats, you simply add some additional classes and tags to your existing HTML, adhering to the microformats standard.

To demonstrate, let’s look at the “hCard” format. This format is used for marking up information about people, companies, organizations, and places. Here is how the marked-up content will look within the HTML of your Web page:

————-

<div id=”hcard-Deltina-Hay” class=”vcard”>
<a class=”url fn” href=”http://www.plumbwebsolutions.com”>Deltina Hay</a>
<div class=”org”>PLUMB Web Solutions</div>

<a class=”email” href=”mailto:[email protected]”>[email protected]</a>
<div class=”adr”>
<div class=”street-address”>P.O. Box 242</div>
<span class=”locality”>Austin</span>

<span class=”region”>Texas</span>
<span class=”postal-code”>78767</span>
<span class=”country-name”>USA</span>
</div>

<div class=”tel”>512-555-9999</div>
</div>

————-

And this is how it will appear on your website:

Deltina Hay
PLUMB Web Solutions
[email protected]
P.O. Box 242
Austin, Texas, 78767 USA
512-555-9999

To the naked eye, there is nothing special about this content. It is nothing more than your contact information with links. Search engines and Internet browsers, however, will now be able to interpret the content as structured data — specifically structured contact and location information about you and your company — and display it or use it accordingly. All you need to do is mark up your existing contact information using the microformats standards.

Microformats.org has a lot of resources to help you out, including an hCard creator that you can use to generate code similar to that in our example. Continue reading

November 1, 2010

The Semantic Web: An explanation in plain English

E&O search results
An example of Google Rich Snippets.

Deltina HayThe Semantic Web is a big step toward Web 3.0, where the ultimate goal is to make Web content more machine-friendly and thus, in turn, more useful to humans.

Most websites are produced using HTML, which is a markup language used to make a website “look” a certain way. The Semantic Web, on the other hand, is based on markup languages that focus on tagging the content by what it “means.”

A more “semantic” Internet will allow search engines to produce more relevant results because the searched content will be “marked up” in such a way that the engines (machines) can make better sense of it.

The Semantic Web is not AI (artificial intelligence), as some people seem to think. It is about making the content easier for machines to interpret, not about making the machines themselves smarter. Two ways in which this is accomplished is through structured data and linked data.

Structured data: Making it easier to share information

You can prepare your content in a way that will help search engines include it in very relevant search results. For instance, you can offer ways for your contact information, products or reviews to show up directly in a Google or Yahoo search result by adding a few tags to your content that will transform it into what is called “structured data.”

Contact and location information, events, products and reviews are all perfect types of structured data and can be tagged in standard formats called “markup formats” to make it easy for search engines to recognize them as such.

Structured data has been around for some time, waiting in the wings for the search engines to take it seriously. In 2009, Google introduced “Rich Snippets,” a feature that recognizes markup formats and displays the content in your search listing accordingly. See the image at top for an example.

Google is supporting the two most standard markup formats: Microformats and RDFa. Both of these standard formats are very straightforward. Anyone with experience building a website or using a content management system like WordPress can easily use them to mark up their existing Web content as structured data.

Linked data: Create apps from rich datasets

Linked Data also refers to a way of structuring data, but it does so by using the Web to create links between data from many different datasets and classifies it using an established data commons.

By using a common reference to represent a piece of data, that data can be linked easily to and from other sources of data, creating what is referred to as a “Web of Data.”

The most impressive of these Webs of Data is the Linked Open Data (LOD) cloud. In the center of this “cloud” (only a small part of it) is “Dbpedia,” which is the dataset that feeds Wikipedia.

Linked Open Data Cloud

The resulting “Web of Data” can be accessed by semantic Web browsers that navigate between different data sources, similar to how traditional Web browsers navigate between HTML pages.

One of the things that make Linked Data so powerful is what one can do with the data once it is linked. Given the right tools and know-how, anyone can draw from this tremendous resource to create powerful applications. Continue reading

October 21, 2010

Web 3.0 demystified: An explanation in pictures

Socialmedia.biz contributor Deltina Hay now has a featured column on Technorati called You’ll Be Back: Search Optimization & Survival. The column focuses on search optimization as it applies to the entire Web: search engines, social search, mobile search, the semantic Web, etc. You can read the articles right here on Socialmedia.biz every week.

In this first series of articles, we discuss each of the fundamental elements that are moving us toward an application-driven, Web-based, mobile computing era, and how they will ultimately affect search optimization.

Deltina HayWeb 3.0 aims to make online content easier for machines to understand and opens up and links large sets of data in consistent ways.

Finding a definition for Web 3.0 is no easy task when most people are still trying to grasp Web 2.0. However, it is a necessary task since Web 3.0 technologies are encroaching on the Internet quickly. Perhaps the best way is to start at the beginning.

Web 1.0: The Internet in one dimension

In the beginning, the Internet was flat. Think of it as a collection of documents (Websites) lined up side by side. Though many of the sites may have linked to each other, those links simply took a user straight to the linked site, and maybe back again.

Each website was classified using metadata composed of meta-keywords, meta-descriptions, and meta-titles that described what the content of the website was about. At their simplest, search engines used established search algorithms to comb through all of the websites’ metadata to return what it considered relevant results based on your choice of keywords.

The inventor of the Web, Timothy Berners-Lee, refers to this phase of the Internet as a “Web of Documents.”

Web 1.0

Web 2.0: A two-dimensional Internet

This next generation of the Internet added another dimension: collaboration.

This added dimension means that websites were linked in a more collaborative way. Instead of sending a visitor away from a site to view related content, the content is actually drawn into the visited site from the related site using RSS feeds or widgets.

But it isn’t only the websites that are more collaborative, it is also the users of the websites’ content. Internet users tag and comment on content and collaborate and interact among themselves.

Search engines have a whole new layer to consider in their searches: user-tagged Web content and the relevant connections between the users themselves.

Berners-Lee named this Internet phase the “Web of Content.”

Web 2.0

Web 3.0: The third dimension

Even with the rich metadata, collaboration between websites and users, and user-generated relationships to draw from, machines are still machines, and they still find it difficult to discern actual meaning from human-generated content. The third evolutionary step of the Internet aims to fix that by adding the dimension of “semantics.”

The goal of this phase is to make the content of the Web more easily interpreted by machines. Web content is typically written for humans, which means that it is produced with aesthetics in mind — little attention is paid to consistency or relevancy of the content itself.

Tim Berners-Lee calls this phase — rather passionately — the “Web of Data.” Continue reading

May 4, 2010

OpenCalais: Serving up context on the fly

Why sharing your content is a smart business move

JD LasicaYou may have heard about the threat by online publishers to cordon off their sites’ content and put a No Trespassing sign on their lawns to ward off crawls and indexing by the search engine.

That chest-thumping strategy is a dead end.*

Consider the exact opposite of that strategy: Sharing your content in a broad ecosystem of traditional news sites, blogs and alternative publication. That’s the approach taken by participants in OpenCalais.

I’ve been hearing for some time about OpenCalais (pronounced cal-lay) — have you? — but I didn’t really begin to grasp it until I ran into Krista Thomas of Thomson Reuters at NewComm Forum.

I suspect most of us don’t really want to know the under-the-hood stuff about the Semantic Web. What we want to know is: How will these new capabilities advance my publication, my business, my blog, my cause? (Trust me, they will!) Here’s your five-minute backgrounder on OpenCalais, one important slice of this onrushing shift in Web technologies.

A context engine for blogs and news publications

Calais MarmosetIn a sentence, OpenCalais is the Thomson Reuters initiative that provides a free Web service and open API to connect content on the Web — and offer much-needed context. As its website proclaims, “We want to make all the world’s content more accessible, interoperable and valuable.”

Krista, who is also vice president of marketing & communications for OpenCalais, puts it this way: “Some call this trend the semantic Web, some call it Web 3.0, but simply put, OpenCalais is a quick and easy way for publishers to generate metadata for their content –- which they can use to streamline content operations, improve SEO, drive increased reader engagement, automate the creation of topic hubs and more.” It’s a valuable toolkit of capabilities that allow you to easily incorporate state-of-the-art semantic functionality within your blog, content management system, website or application.

Yes, any website or blog, no matter how small. Continue reading