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How to use Google Data Highlighter, part 1

Google Data Highlighter is a web tool that allows you to tag certain types of pages that will display as content-rich snippets in search results.

In December 2012 Google announced the development and deployment of their Data Highlighter, which is part of the Google webmaster tools that helps Google learn about the patterns of structured data on your website. In the last few weeks more information was released as to how the data highlighter works and how you can add tags so that your data can get displayed in new ways on search results. What this means is that you can tag data for event listings such as name, location, and times, and the next time Google runs a crawl on your site, it will create content rich event snippets on search results pages such as the example displayed in Figure B.

Figure B

The Data Highlighter can only recognize web pages that have been recently crawled by Google, and cannot access any pages behind authentication mechanisms or those behind an Intranet firewall for example. In this piece, I will review the types of structured data that the highlighter will accept and in the next part, I will present a tutorial on creating single and multiple page sets where you can add highlighted tags to your individual pages or multiple pages using the Google Data Highlighter optimization tool.

Overview

As a quick overview, you can already add micro data markup to your HTML files, but Google Data Highlighter is an alternative method that allows any webmaster to show Google the patterns of structured data on your pages without actually modifying the pages themselves. Once the page shows up in Google Highlighter you highlight important fields and then label them with the appropriate data type. The data type will be added to the right-side bar and then Google Data Highlighter will review all your other pages with similar data and automatically highlight them, you just need to review those pages and correct any errors. Once you are done highlighting your data, click the publish button, and Google will apply these patterns to your web pages and entire website regardless of its size (up to 500,000 pages) and Google will start showing off your data snippets.

Google Data Highlighter supported data types

The data types currently supported by the data highlighter include Articles, Events, Local Businesses, Movies, Restaurants, Software Applications, and TV Episodes. A short summary of information and the required and optional tags on each data type are provided below.

Articles

Tag data in newspapers or magazine articles such as title, author, and rating and Google will present your data in new ways; however, depending on the product, each has its own rules upon how it displays the highlighted data. All article tags correspond to the Schema.org Article schema, and several are required tags while others are optional. The only required tag for articles is the title (name); optional tags are author (author), date published (datePublished), image (image), category, (articleSection), and average rating (aggregateRating).

Events

With the Data Highlighter you can tag events such as concerts, film showings, festivals, benefits, and any occasion you want Google to display in the new fashion. Google provides usage guidelines that will help to ensure your event data gets displayed accurately, for instance, the following two examples are considered valid event name entries:

  • Film Festival of the East Coast
  • Symphonic Orchestra Presents a night with George Takei

Entries that would not get picked up by the Google Data Highlighter and are considered invalid include the following event name entry examples:

  • Vacation Packages: Hawaii 7 nights starting $1,500/person
  • Festival of Music: $25 each

The event tags correspond to the Schema.org Event schema, and include several required tags along with several optional tags, the two required tags are name (name), date (startDate, endDate), the optional tags are location (place), image (image), official URL (URL), category (additionalType), and ticket (offer).

Using the Data Highlighter for events the Google knowledge graph can display data like the display in Figure C.

Figure C

Local Businesses

Google Data Highlighter can be used to tag data about local businesses such as name, address, customer reviews, and ratings, and each tag corresponds to the Schema.org Local Business schema. The required tags are name (name), address (address), and telephone (telephone), while the optional tags are opening hours (openingHours), category (additionalType), image (image), URL (URL), average rating (aggregateRating), and review (review).

Movies

Using the Data Highlighter you can tag movies with related data such as title, director, reviews, and viewer rating, with each tag corresponding to the Schema.org Movie schema. The only required tag for movies is the name (name), while the optional tags are image (image), director (director), screenplay by (author), actor (actor), date released (datePublished), genre (genre), MPAA Rating (contentRating), duration (duration), official URL (URL), average rating (aggregateRating), and review (review).

Restaurants

Data Highlighter can use data tags such as name, address, reviews and ratings using the corresponding Schema.org Restaurant schema for restaurants. The required tags are name (name), address (address), and telephone (telephone), and the optional tags are opening hours (openingHours), cuisine (servesCuisine), image (image), URL (URL), reservation URL (acceptsReservations), menu URL (menu), average rating (aggregateRating), and review (review).

Software applications

Using the Data Highlighter for tags such as name, publisher, reviews, and user rating you can promote your software applications in new ways on Google search results. Using the Schema.org SoftwareApplication schema, the only required tag is the name (name). Optional tags are image (image), category (applicationCategory), publisher (publisher), official URL (URL), download URL (downloadURL), operating system (operatingSystem), date published (datePublished), software version (softwareVersion), average rating (aggregateRating),  and review (review).

TV Episodes

The last data type includes tags that relate to a television episode and include title, director, reviews, and viewer ratings using the corresponding Schema.org TVEpisode schema. The required tags are series name (partOfTVSeries), season number (partOfSeason), and episode number (episodeNumber). The optional data tags are episode name (name) , image (image),  director (director), actor (actor), air date (datePublished), official URL (URL), average rating (aggregateRating),  and review (review).

Creating page sets

In the next post, I will review creating page sets so that you can add data tags to specific areas of your individual pages or multiple pages using the Google Data Highlighter. This will allow Google to start crawling your designated pages and including the new highlighted tags and data sets, which will eventually get populated into the new search results and displays. I will provide a step-by-step tutorial for both the single page set and the multiple pages set for adding typical data tags for data types such as local business data and event data.

Google Data Highlighter can be a huge benefit for website optimization, especially for those organizations that do not have an SEO budget, but maybe an extra hour here or there where tags can be created or added. Can you think of specific areas of your websites that would benefit from the new ways in which Google can display your web content with the highlighted data types?

About

Ryan has performed in a broad range of technology support roles for electric-generation utilities, including nuclear power plants, and for the telecommunications industry. He has worked in web development for the restaurant industry and the Federal g...

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