An Introduction to the Semantic Web

sarahjThe Web is full of valuable information. There are pages upon pages full of knowledge and all of them are connected to one another with links. The deeper you go, the more you can learn. The problem is, to a computer, this information and all of the links are totally meaningless. Or at least it used to be. There is now a way to show this intrinsic knowledge available to us, to search engines. It’s called Microdata. By adding semantic annotations to your code, you can vastly improve your indexing and searchability. Let’s look at this example:

semantic1As a human, we can read through this information and understand how it is all linked together. The movie is Ghostbusters, it was directed by Ivan Reitman who was born on October 27, 1946. And look, there’s also a link to view the movie trailer. How nice! To a computer, all it can see is divs, headers, spans and links, with some text scattered in between. There is no understanding of the value of the information presented.

semantic2

With this additional Schema markup, search engines can now understand the relationship of the information, just as we have.

This can have a real impact on your site. Many companies that have implemented Microdata into their sites have seen improvement in the indexing of their products and offers. One notable example would be Best Buy. They’re using a semantic markup called RDFa, and the above example above was showing Microdata based off of Schema.org.

We’ve all seen the changes Google has been going through lately. One that stands out the most is the quick information sidebar that will show up on the right during certain searches. This is all part of the Google Knowledge Graph program, which is an application of semantic Web technologies. As more information is added to the Web with semantic annotations, more information will be included in the Knowledge Graph. This means more relevant information will be shown on search results.

As Web developers, we can contribute and benefit from enriching our content with meaningful information.

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