10 reasons why you should start thinking about semantic technologies for your SEO strategy

You can read all relevant articles from which I draw inspiration on Inslices.com in the public list named Semantic Web, SEO and Google Rich Snippets

This post started with the reading of the latest news about Google Rich Snippet’s adoption on ReadWriteWeb.

Google’s engineer Pravir Gupta, whose name might not be unknown to you if you have already tried the Rich Snippet Testing Tool (see image bellow) , and Kavi Goel, Product Manager, have both confirmed that Google Rich Snippet adoption has grown four-fold since its launch in October 2009. We’ve learned in this presentation that Microformats is being prefered to RDFa to power rich snippets and that among all Microformats, the most common formats are hCard and hReviews (mainly because at that time, they were the only ones supported by Google). RWW also points out the fact that semantic markups have more gained ground in big Internet companies rather than in small ones.

This sounds interesting but there is lack of emphasis on the real benefits and reasons to prepare your site for Rich Snippets. The only fact that Google pushes structured data might be self-sufficient to convince you to add semantic markups to your website, but the low adoption tends to proove that it is not.

So, let’s try to list 10 good reasons to add semantic markups to your websiste:

  1. Google rules the Web!

    As a I said before, Google is the best advocates of semantic web. The Rich Snippets are not intended to make your snippet more sexy.It is defined by Google as a way to : “give users convenient summary information about their search results at a glance” (see Google’s announcement on the Introduction of Rich Snippets).
    Indeed, who the hell is optimizing its website for Yahoo or Ask? Almost nobody cares to the point that some SEO experts are increasingly speaking about Google Search Engine Optimization rather than Search Engine Optimization.

  2. Everyone’s using them (semantic markups)

    As seen in Pravir Gupta’s presentation, Microformat is the most used format for displaying Rich Snippets. And if you still skeptical of its support on the web, you should take a look at the following Slideshare presentation from Emily Lewis. Indeed, Google Rich Snippet is not the only service that pushes Microformat’s usage. You’ll notice that it is also supported by majors Internet actors like Linkedin, Yahoo, MySpace, Technorati, Twitter, Flickr and more.

  3. Easy sharing and publishing of higher fidelity information

    Still analyzing the success of Microformat, Google’s presentation shows that hCard is by far the most common use case. How can we explain that? First of all, as ReadWriteWeb points out: “there has been uptake on social networking sites, like Facebook and LinkedIn”.
    Secondly, adding a hCard to your presentation page for example will enable people to easily add your contacts to Yahoo’s adress book or export your Vcard to Outlook. In a certain way, it also encourages engagement. If you contact are more accessible, visible and structured, people we’ll be encouraged to add you in their adress book, hence widening your social network. You can find on the official Microformat’s blog, some pretty impressing use cases of hCard.

    Same thing for the hEvent and the possibility to quickly add an event to your Google or Yahoo Calendar using the Operator Extension

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  4. Boost your CTR

    Yahoo started introduced their own snippets in 2008 and already reported at that time a 15% increase of the click-through rate.
    Appearing in search results is great but unfortunately not sufficient to improve your visibility. It might sounds obvious, providing richer and more accurate information on a page in a snippet will result in a more eye-catching search result compared to others.

    Try with the following request on Google.com “Samsung LED TV review”.

    Aren’t you more attracted by the second result than the others?

    In another article by ReadWriteWeb on “How Best Buy is using the Semantic Web”, Best Buy’s Lead Web Developpment Engineer Jay Myers says that adding the combination of RDFa and Good Relations Ontology brought a surprising 30% increase in search traffic to their local store’s websites.

    Will will thus probably assist within the next years in an increasing SEO strategy combing tradionnal content techniques with data-driven semantic websites as forecasts Jay Myers in his blog

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  5. Improve your rankings

    OK, this could have been merged with the previous reason ! To be honest, I made this on purpose to achieve “10 reasons”. “9 reasons” wasn’t really sexy actually.

    Even if you are not an SEO expert like me or understand every single aspect of Google’s algorithm, you will easily understand that Google’s will is strongly user-oriented and that the 10th or 20th first results for an expression or keyword are supposed to reflect the results that potentially best satisfy user’s request ( I know it is hard to reduce this ranking to this simple assertion !!!)

    So if users click more on your snippet when looking for something ( because they are able to quickly scan and identify the most relevant result), and provided that they find what they were looking for, your ranking should subsequently increase, which sounds king of logical.

    That’s why I am really astonished not to see more often articles in SEO blogs or websites like “How semantic web technologies can participate to your SEO strategy” or “10 ways to optimize your visibility on the Web with semantic mark-ups”.

    For instance, I’ve found only one recent post from SEOMOZ on this subject : Google quietly pushing more links + Data in Snippets”. Or maybe, it is because SEO guys want to keep it confidential. Because the day, every website will be prepared for Rich Snippets, it would be hard again to see the difference from a snippet to another

  6. Lower your SEM expenses

    This might be another advantage of adding semantics to your website and another consequence of the increase of direct traffic driven by rich snippets or any other semantic use case. However, it mainly concerns e-commerce websites who spend a lot of money in Search Engine Marketing or in their visibility in shopping comparaison services. If this website can leverage more free traffic, i.e, search engine traffic, and if it is combined with a better conversion rate, why would they maintain such expenses?

  7. Differenciate yourself from your competitors

    Everyone having a website or in charge of its traffic should ask himself this question: ” What can I do more or better than my competitors”. The low adoption of semantic technologies and the Best Buy use case ( recently followed by Tesco ) prove that if you can add something more or better than your competitors, there is no reasons that you cannot achieve good results.

    Even if your statistics are not as good as Best Buy, users could probably see you as someone innovative or bringing something more compared to the competitive offer

  8. It is (relatively) easy to implement

    It particularly deals with Microformats, because RDFa and the use or creation of an Ontology is far more complex than adding a few classes to your HTML template. It really takes 5 minutes to create your first Microformat ! And even if you won’t be able to adapt all the existing and available microformats, you will at least be able to add an hCard to your “About us” page.

  9. Invest in the future

    Just watch Tim Berners Lee presentation at the TED Conference on Linked Data:how could you not pay attention to the vision of a guy who has invented the Web?

  10. Encourage widespread adoption

    The slow adoption rate of semantics mark-ups need advocacy to gain ground. This can start with a modest post like this one or show and link websites who are using it. And if you start by adding Microformats for example on your blog and suddenly climb in Google SERP’s, you will soon see your competitors doing the same. Press pressure can sometimes be the best advocates of a technology