The Impact of Microdata on Organic Search Rankings

Blog Categories:  SEO  

One of the hottest topics in the internet marketing world right now is the impact of microdata on organic search rankings. Microdata has been around since the release of HTML5, and became an SEO factor during the summer of 2011 when Google, Yahoo and Bing came together to implement Bing’s Duane Forrester stated in the Bing Webmaster Center Blog, “this jointly supported protocol … helps us better understand your content.” Google has not yet disclosed its impact on search results – if any. At Straight North, we added microdata to our own site and ran an experiment to test the post-microdata effects on organic search rankings with Google and Bing.

Implementing Microdata

Adding microdata markup is simple and can usually be done within a couple hours depending on the size of the site. First, change the DOCTYPE on all pages to be compatible with the HTML5 format. In most cases, this will not cause any issues with the website. If you are running an ecommerce site, check out my article on best practices for ecommerce microdata for a step-by-step guide on marking up product-related pages. For B2B corporate sites, use my ecommerce microdata article in conjunction with my corporate B2B site microdata along with to come up with the best-fit markup for your website elements. Once the markup has been added, use the Google Rich Snippets Testing Tool to make sure it parses properly.

The Microdata Experiment

Upon completion of the microdata project, we decided to use Straight North’s leadership page as the test subject for this experiment. The names, positions, and variances in names of each person mentioned on the leadership page were added to a spreadsheet. We ran each name through Rank Checker, and recorded their Google and Bing rankings. After documenting the ranks, we submitted new sitemaps through Google and Bing Webmaster Tools then submitted the homepage to Googlebot and Bingbot to ensure the changes get indexed right away. Four weeks later, we re-evaluated the organic search rankings of the leadership page.

Google Microdata Test Results

After the four-week test period was over, there seemed to be very little difference in Google organic search rankings. There were some minor variances in ranks, but no solid pattern was apparent. Some went up, some went down, but most didn’t change. Google does not seem to place any weight on microdata at this time for SEO. Out of 48 keywords, nine increased in rank while nine decreased in rank. The other thirty saw no change.

Bing Microdata Test Results

Bing’s results greatly differed from the Google results. Microdata had a huge impact on Bing rankings. Before microdata, we weren’t even ranked in Bing for most of the keywords in the experiment. At the conclusion of the experiment, we were ranked on the first page of search results in Bing for nearly half of the keywords. Out of 48 keywords, fifteen increased in rank while only one decreased. The other 32 did not change. Thirteen of the keywords that were previously not ranked are now being ranked in organic search results.

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