Why Is Semantic Markup Important to Local SEO?

by in Local SEO

Local SEOWith search engine optimization methods increasingly moving to a content marketing strategy, on-page SEO factors are becoming more important than ever. Add to this the never ending rise of mobile access, and you can really start to see how a solid local SEO strategy will benefit both the web visitor and search engines.

Internet users want their search results to be fast and accurate, and webmasters need to find better ways to optimize their websites to help search engine filters identify relevant information and tag it as appropriate to the user’s query. Updating your online social profiles, and adding citations and customer reviews is a good start, but that is just the beginning of a local SEO strategy. Even with updated information and glowing reviews it can still be difficult for search engine filters to find and identify the information on your page.

By using semantic markup techniques, you can help those search engine filters to quickly find the information they’re looking for, tag it as relevant, and deliver your site in the search results.

Semantic Markup 101

Semantic HTML markup, at its most basic, is a machine readable language that is used to tell search engines and browser apps exactly what a block of information on any given page contains. Search engine filters are extremely sophisticated, and they can crawl over any website’s content to infer relevance and value. But that takes time, and search engines are designed to deliver results at top speed. By employing semantic markup techniques, you can focus the filter’s attention on specific relevant information, which it can then quickly identify and tag as desirable.

In short, semantic HTML markup is a way of indicating the meaning of web content to the search engine.

Semantic Markup and The Local Search

The best place to begin applying semantic markup techniques on a website is with the business’ name, address, and phone information, aka NAP. Since local searches are a large part of the online search equation, it is important that search engines should be able to identify the name of a business and where it is located as quickly and accurately as possible. By adding markup to the business’ name, address, and phone, it becomes possible to focus the search engines attention to the information so it can quickly tag it as relevant to the users search.

A Simple Example of Semantic Markup

Let’s look at a quick example using structured data. A user is searching for your business, Awesome Widgets in Chicago, IL. The search engine goes to work looking for suitable results, and your website has taken advantage of this markup. The HTML code makes it possible for the search engine to quickly recognize the information it is scanning as an address, and that the address matches the user’s search criteria. The search engine doesn’t have to slow down to read the content itself to interpret the text. It has been told directly through the semantic HTML markup that your business is located in Chicago, Illinois. The information is tagged as relevant to the search criteria and presented in the search results. Without the markup, your address and phone information might have been missed, or misread, leading to a lower ranking in the search results.

Here is an example of the fictional Awesome Widgets’ address information using Schema.org LocalBusiness microdata:

<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/LocalBusiness">
   <span itemprop="name">Awesome Widgets</span>
   <div itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">
     <span itemprop="streetAddress">123 Somestreet Rd</span>
     <span itemprop="addressLocality">Someplace</span>,
     <span itemprop="addressRegion">IL</span>
     <span itemprop="postalCode">60606</span>
   Phone: <span itemprop="telephone">(630) 555-1212</span>

Each span of the microdata above identifies the content as something specific, namely a business address. By using this semantic markup technique it becomes possible to help search engines and browser apps to quickly classify information, and to match that information to the user’s search request. The search engine does not need to interpret the data, it is told in its own language exactly what that data is and whether or not it is relevant to the initial search criteria.

Where Do You Add Semantic Markup?

With the simple local address example above, you could add this information to the footer HTML code of all your pages. However, these same markup techniques can be used to highlight other more advanced information on a website, including customer reviews, music playlists or even recipe items. Semantic markup gives SEO’s and webmasters an extra tool that can be used to direct a search engine’s attention to specific information on any given website. With your online content more easily identifiable to the search engine, it can then be more quickly included in the relevant search results.

How Do You Know Your Markup Is Working?

It would be completely inefficient to wait for search engines to re-crawl your changes to see the live results. Luckily, Google has a very simple to use structured data testing tool built right into webmaster tools. Just add your link and click “preview”.

Local businesses need to start thinking about techniques that can be used to help elevate their online profiles. Semantic markup offers a way of optimizing any business’ website for local searches, and ultimately making it easier for search engines and potential customers to find them.

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