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Microdata Guidelines

Microdata Guidelines

This article describes the basic Microdata guidelines that Google and other Search Engines look for on your Website.

What is Microdata?

Microdata is a WHATWG HTML specification used to nest semantics within existing content on web pages. Search engines, web crawlers, and browsers can extract and process Microdata from a web page and use it to provide a richer browsing experience for users. Microdata helps technologies such as search engines and web crawlers better understand what information is contained in a web page, providing better search results. Microdata is an attempt to provide a simpler way of annotating HTML elements with machine-readable tags than the similar approaches of using RDFa and Microformats.

The HTML Microdata Specification

The HTML5 microdata specification is a way to label content to describe a specific type of information—for example, reviews, person information, or events. Each information type describes a specific type of item, such as a person, and event, or a review. For example, an event has the properties venue, starting time, name, and category.

Microdata uses simple attributes in HTML tags (often <span> or <div>) to assign brief and descriptive names to items and properties. Here’s an example of a short HTML block showing basic contact information for Bob Smith.

For Example

<div> 
  My name is Bob Smith but people call me Smithy. Here is my home page:
  <a href="http://www.example.com">www.example.com</a>
  I live in Orlando, FL and work as an engineer at ABCD Corp.
</div>

Here is the same HTML marked up with microdata.

<div itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Person"> 
  My name is <span itemprop="name">Bob Smith</span> 
  but people call me <span itemprop="nickname">Smithy</span>. 
  Here is my home page:
  <a href="http://www.example.com" itemprop="url">www.example.com</a>
  I live in Albuquerque, NM and work as an <span itemprop="title">engineer</span>
  at <span itemprop="affiliation">ACME Corp</span>.
</div>

Here’s how this works.

  • In the first line, itemscope indicates that the content in the <div> is an item. itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Person indicates that the item is a Person.
  • Each property of the Person item is identified with the itemprop attribute. For example, itemprop="name" describes the person’s name.

Nested entities

The example above shows contact information about Bob Smith, but it doesn’t include his address. The example below shows the same HTML, but in this case, it includes the address property.

<div itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Person">
   My name is <span itemprop="name">Bob Smith</span>, 
   but people call me <span itemprop="nickname">Smithy</span>.
   Here is my homepage: 
   <a href="http://www.example.com" itemprop="url">www.example.com</a>.
   I live in 
   <span itemprop="address" itemscope
      itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Address">
      <span itemprop="locality">Albuquerque</span>, 
      <span itemprop="region">NM</span> 
   </span>
   and work as an <span itemprop="title">engineer</span>
   at <span itemprop="affiliation">ABCD Corp</span>.
</div>

Here’s how this works:

  • The address property is itself an item, containing its own set of properties. This is indicated by putting the itemscope attribute on the item that declares the address property, and using the itemtype attribute to specify the type of item being described, like this: <span itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Address">.

Date and time information

To specify dates and times unambiguously, use the time element with the datetime attribute. Here, the startDate property indicates the start date of an event. The value in the datetime attribute is specified using the ISO date format. Using this format lets you provide search engines with detailed date, time and—optionally—time zone in ISO format (“2009-10-15T19:00-08:00“), while still displaying the date on your page in a user-friendly way (“15 October 2009, 7PM”).

<time itemprop="startDate" datetime="2009-10-15T19:00-08:00">15 October 2009, 7PM</time>

Non-visible content

In general, Google won’t display content that is not visible to the user. In other words, don’t show content to users in one way, and use hidden text to mark up information separately for search engines and web applications. You should mark up the text that actually appears to your users when they visit your web pages.

There are a few exceptions to this guideline. In some situations it can be valuable to provide search engines with more detailed information, even if you don’t want that information to be seen by visitors to your page. For example, if a restaurant has a rating of 8.5, users (but not search engines) will assume that the rating is based on a scale of 1–10. In this case, you can indicate this using the meta element, like this:

<div itemprop="rating" itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Rating">
   Rating: <span itemprop="value">8.5</span>
   <meta itemprop="best" content="10" />
</div>

Here’s how this works:

  • The meta tag is used to specify additional information that is not visible on the page—in this case, the fact that the “best possible” rating is 10. The value of the property is specified using the content attribute.

Similarly, providing the duration of an event in ISO duration format can help ensure that it appears correctly in search results, like this:

Duration: 
<span>1 hour 30 minutes<meta itemprop="duration" content="PT1H30M" />
</span>

Here’s how this works:

  • Use the meta tag to specify the value of the property (in this case a duration). This allows you to use the value of the content attribute (“PT1H30M”) to specify the duration in ISO 8601 duration format, while still displaying the duration in user-friendly text (“1 hour 30 minutes”) on the page itself.
  • Google looks at the parent element of the meta element to identify what information that is being represented in an alternate way inside the meta tag. So in this case, it is important to make sure that the immediate parent node of the meta tag wraps around the text “1 hour 30 minutes”.

 

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