What is all the fuss about microdata?

What is in a name?  Diana.   Am I referring to the Roman Goddess of the hunt?  Perhaps the Diana monkey?  Surely, I mean Princess Diana.  That is the point.  Microdata gives search engines the information necessary to interpret exactly who and what you are writing about.  Otherwise, your intentions are easily lost in translation.  Search engines have a limited understanding of what what message you want to relay without the added tags to your HTML that describe the specific content in a relevant way. 

In other words, search engines do not have the same capacity as humans to interpret meaning without context.  The benefits of creating microdata within existing web pages is to add supporting vocabulary to describe an item and help search engines and web crawlers better understand what information is on the web page, thus improving search results.

Lets get down to business, here we will use the common data markup vocabulary provided by schema.org ( Schema.org provides html tags easily recognized by the major search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo).   Imagine you want to write about the Roman Goddess Diana book, a link to a book on Roman mythology and information about the author.  Your HTML code would look something like this:

<h1>Roman Goddess Diana</h1>
by Homer (born 8th century) covering Mythology
<a href="/books/Diana-the-Huntress.Poems.html">Book</a>. The book is 378 pages long and is illustrated by David Kane.


First, let’s identify the section of the page that is about the book Roman Goddess Diana.  We need to add the itemscope element to the HTML tag that encloses the information about the item.  The purpose in adding the itemscope is to specify that the HTML contained in the <div>...</div> block is about a particular item.  Then when you need to specify what kind of iem it is by using the itemtype attribute immediately after the itemscope.  In addition to using the DIV tag, you can use the inline <span>... </span> tag to add and set the attributes for each property.

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Book" >

<h1>Roman Goddess Diana</h1>
by Homer (born 8th century) covering Roman Mythology
<a href="/books/Diana-the-Huntress.Poems.html">Book</a>. The book is 378 pages long and is illustrated by David Kane.


In this case, the item types are provided as URLs.
1. Make sure to use a supported and recognized schema by the search engines;e.g. http://schema.org, http://data-vocabulary.org.
2. Make sure to point to the proper property in the schema; e.g. the propery Book should be addressed by http://Schema.org/Book.

Keep in mind, you want to provide as much additional information as you can to the search engines about the book Roman Goddess Diana.  Books have numbers of pages, when they were written, characters, plots.  Use the itemprop attribute to label the properties of an item.  For example, to identify the author of the book, add itemprop="author" to the element enclosing the author’s name.

<div  itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Book">
<h1 itemprop="name">Roman Goddess Diana</h1>
by <span itemprop="Author"> Homer </span> (born 8th century) covering <span itemprop="genre">Roman Mythology</span>
<a href="/books/Diana-the-Huntress.Poems.html">Book</a>. The book is <span itemprop="numberOfPages">378 </span> pages long and is illustrated by <span itemprop="illustrator"> David Kane </span>.


The addition of <span>...</span> tags to attach the itemprop attributes to the appropriate text on the page. <span> tags don't change the way pages appear on web browsers, so they are a convenient HTML element to use with itemprop.

In summary, microdata when properly used will enhance the ability for search engines to understand and properly index your web pages.  

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