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How Joomla 3.3's Microdata Support Can Improve SEO

Joomla 3.3

The Joomla! Project is days away from being released Joomla 3.3, and this update contains a number of changes such as adding a built-in JQuery library and integrated support for Microdata. Microdata being one of the more interesting changes to anyone that wants to improve a site’s SEO (search engine optimization).

Below, we will take a look at how support for Microdata tagging can make your site more SEO friendly.

What is Microdata?

Microdata is quickly becoming a must-have tool for site developers that want to improve their overall SEO strategy. By using Microdata tags, sites can tell search engines what type of content is being presented.

Let’s say you want to feature a movie on your site somewhere, and you would like to let the search engine know that you are listing a movie, as well as some important information about it.

Enter Microdata tags. These let search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo know that people searching for that particular movie might find your site useful. If anything, it makes it a lot more clear to their crawlers what the content on your site is about, so it can better determine how you fit in the results.

Microdata is more accurate than traditional metadata because it is content specific, not page specific. You can tag individual blocks of text differently, making a clear difference between a person’s name, their address, and a recipe for lobster ravioli.

An Example

In this example, we will take a look at a code block that would appear on a website to present information about an upcoming event. As search engines crawl the site, they are gathering information about the page, and are often limited in terms of context as these systems can rarely determine the reason specific information is presented.

This paragraph can also exist within a page that covers a wide range of topics. It could be the home page of a software company that wants its customers to know that they will be presenting something at an upcoming conference. Rather than use metadata to declare that the entire page is devoid of any information about the event, or to state that the entire page is in some way related to an event, Microdata makes it possible to declare a specific area of the page as such.

Here is what the section might look like without Microdata:

<a href="http://www.cesweb.org/">
  International CES 2015
</a> 
  Tuesday, January 6, 2015 
<a href="/lv-convention-center.html">
  Las Vegas Convention Center
</a>

Here is what the section will look like with Microdata:

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Event">
  <a itemprop="url" href="http://www.cesweb.org/">
  International CES 2015
  <span itemprop="name"> CES Opening Keynote </span>
  </a>
  <meta itemprop="startDate" content="2015-01-6">
    January 6, 2015
  <div itemprop="location" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/Place">
    <a itemprop="url" href="/lv-convention-center.html">
    Las Vegas Convention Center
    </a>
    <div itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">
      <span itemprop="addressLocality">Las Vegas</span>,
      <span itemprop="addressRegion">NV</span>
    </div>
  </div>
</div> 

The itemscope listed in the initial div wrapper lets the search engine crawler know that everything contained in the div will fall under the Microdata tag category set by the itemtype. In this case, the content pertains to an event, so all of the tags are based on the Event tag set which can be seen by going to the included URL.

Once this is done, every text block can be issues item properties which are basically content tags related to events. The URL, name, and start date are listed here. Using the itemtype of Place the location of the event can be further refined.

Instead of giving the search engine a block of text that looks like a giant address, you have told it this:

The CES Opening Keynote at the International CES 2015 event is taking place on January 6, 2015 at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV. It also tells the search engine that the links you set up for International CES 2015 and the Las Vegas Convention center go to sites set up for an event, and a place.

How Joomla’s Core Microdata Support Will Likely Work

You can already use Microdata tags in modules and articles with custom HTML. Microdata works just fine in previous versions of Joomla where it is hand coded in custom_HTML modules, articles, etc. Where this change makes a difference is in content rendered by Joomla.

When you view an article on a Joomla site, there is a lot of content that is delivered by Joomla’s core that relates to specific information. The author’s name, for example, is a piece of data that can benefit from having a Microdata tag attached that lets search engines know that the author’s name is that of a person, rather than just another part of the article.

Anything you hand code will still need to have these tags added manually. They are only being added by Joomla for content that Joomla itself renders, dynamically.

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