In this blog post I hope to show you the bigger picture of a semantically marked up web looks like and more importantly to you, why you should already be taking full advantage of it today for your own automotive website. The Semantic Web, or Web 3.0 is considered to be the next phase of internet and it’s already happening all around us.
We hope to explain to you why the structured web is not a fad or a new buzz-word, but part of a larger movement that is the foundation for linking social signals, web development, search engine optimization, online reputation, paid search, and improved search engine usefulness in general.
What Is Structured Data?
In the past search engines have done their best to return results to users that have keywords matching the words they use to search. Yes it’s more complicated than that, but at it’s core this was the goal of search engines. They wanted to try to match words typed into their search engine with web pages that have similar words. The order of the results was basically the most authoritative site that had the words matching the words being searched.
Search engines have come a long way and are getting more aggressive than ever in their quest to return the best results based on what they think the meaning behind the search words really is (The intent of the search). Search engines want to try to comprehend the context and meaning of the keywords entered into their search engine and now they want to provide results that best match the answer to the question (sometimes answering the question right in the search results in addition to providing linked pages in the search results) and keywords entered into their search bars.
The schema.org project was created in 2011 to expand upon the RDFa (Resource Description Framework in Attributes) work begun by W3c Semantic Web Activity (World Wide Web Consortium). On-page markup enables search engines to understand the information on web pages and provide richer search results in order to make it easier for users to find relevant information on the web. Markup can also enable new tools and applications that make use of the structure. A properly marked up website utilizing a microformat from schema.org will allow machines to easily read and relate data. This allows not only search engine spiders but also assisted machine readers for visually impaired individuals to better navigate and understand the content on the website.
By utilizing structured markup on your website you can help the search engines to better understand the content of your website in much greater detail than ever before. A properly marked up website will give search engines all of the information they need to be confident in knowing if your pages will answer those questions that people are entering into their search engines. This confidence is all part of the authority you want to build on your website by hitting all the marks in the complicated search engine algorithm.
It’s important to point out that you can mark up much more than just text on your website. Videos, PDF documents and more can be marked up with structured data too!
What does a semantic web mean for the future?
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has worked along with many others in the Internet community for more than a decade to achieve his next big dream: the semantic web.
Their vision of the future of the internet is a web of related data that is machine consumable because of a unified structure which will bring in a new era of data usability. Web 1.0 and 2.0 phases were built around humans consuming information through websites. Web 3.0 will be about letting machines consume the data in a way that they can understand. This will allow machines to do all of the heavy lifting for humans when it comes to information. A human can ask the internet through a search engine portal a question and fully expect to get a highly relevant answer to any question form an authoritative source. In many cases the machines will be able to aggregate data and provide simplified recaps from a variety of sources.
It is not hard to imagine your Web-enabled microwave oven consulting the frozen-food manufacturer’s Web site for optimal cooking parameters. and automatically altering the proper time and power setting to microwave a food you give it, this is the power of the semantic web!
How about a doctor able to gather the latest treatments for a rare disease based on accredited publications from around the world in an instant? In today’s archaic world the doctor must attend seminars and subscribe to research publications, making it virtually impossible for any human to retain real time data about every disease and treatment. This is just one example of the incredible usefulness and power of the future of a semantic web and machines capable of utilizing it for the betterment of humankind.
Why Use Semantic Markup For Automotive Websites?
My interest in the semantic web movement has been growing for many years. My position as the COO of Drive Digital Group allows me to implement it in an industry that is perfectly suited to structured data! Vehicles are a product like any other. E Commerce applications for structured data have been aggressively implemented in a variety of other industry already with major players such as:
- New York Times
- Facebook (The Open Graph protocol)
- Google (The Knowledge Graph)
- BBC (World Cup 2010)
- Boeing (Testimonials)
- O’Reilly (Semantic SEO)
- Rotten Tomatoes
I have found that many automotive website providers have implemented semantic web markup in only the most rudimentary of ways. Typically we will see a dealer’s website address, phone number and sometimes a vehicle price being marked up. This is an incredibly feeble attempt to embrace structured data in the automotive industry!
There are a variety of markup languages being utilized depending on the data and usage of that data. Open Graph technology is great for websites that want to use social media as the primary marketing method of sharing their website data. Microformats like RDFa, Microdata, and JSON-LD are much better suited to product data such as manufacturer, year, make model, vehicle options, vehicle features, color, VIN number, mileage, sales price and so on.
If you want to ensure that your business is doing everything possible to take advantage of this growing technology, you need to make sure that you are partnering with a company that fully understand and supports it. Yes structured data does play a role in both how you rank and how your data that you rank for is displayed in the search results pages. This WILL have an effect on your bottom line so there is no reason to not take full advantage of a technology that will have increasingly greater importance now and into the future.
Lets be honest with each other, the subject matter we just covered in this blog post is far more advanced and nuanced than your typical GM, GSM, Owner, Internet Director, etc. is used to having about their digital strategy. My first recommendation to people when we talk about our implementation of semantic web is cover your basics first. You need to have a strong foundation to build upon if you really want to get serious about more advanced digital strategies. A well coded fully responsive website platform that can be fully marked up with structured data for semantic SEO is a great place to begin.
Once your foundation is solid you can focus on social media signals, social media engagement, your online reputation and what your local citation situation looks like. Each of these things plays a part in your overall search engine reputation which all ties back to your digital storefront… your dealership website. These are not separate things which can be treated independently any longer. The dealership of the future needs to have a clear roadmap for 2015 and beyond which will have a robust and unified digital marketing strategy in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
If you would like my team to provide you with a free digital analysis that will show you exactly how you are performing well or need improvement in every area of your digital strategy, simply request a free evaluation and we will be more than happy to present it to you with no obligation.