Marketers might wonder if executives at the big three search engines finally came together to create a common schema to make it easier for webmasters to add markup language to Web pages, which in turn allows search engines to develop more innovative and sophisticated features. Or, was it prompted, in part, as a competitive strategy to control processes based on Facebook's decision to create Open Graph? Perhaps I'm being a bit skeptical.
The structured data -- HTML markup language for Web pages -- is used on the search results, making it easier and more manageable for webmasters. It creates the standards or building blocks on which to build. This language is used by search engines to serve up content like recipes, reviews and ratings in results.
Schema.org provides one repository for a common set of schemas. The group has already created more than a hundred HTML markup tags in categories ranging from movies to music to products. The numbers will continue to grow as the project gets feedback from webmasters.
A Microsoft spokesperson declined to share the number of participating representatives from each company who will contribute ideas in the group, or the frequency of the meetings -- only that the group will continue ongoing dialogue and collaboration during the next few years.
Although not a formal standards body, the three engines will also support a dedicated Web site, Schema.org, to give site owners and developers one location when looking for tools and tips on how to improve how sites appear in search results.
Shashi Seth, SVP of Yahoo's search and marketplace team, wrote in a blog post that the efforts are continuing support for the open Web and an effort to deliver on a richer search experience. The collaboration is similar to the three engines coming together to support sitemaps since 2006.
Acknowledging Facebook's contribution to the Open Graph, the three explain in the FAQ section of Schema.org that "Facebook Open Graph serves its purpose well, but it doesn't provide the detailed information search engines need to improve the user experience."
That's because one Web page may talk about more than one thing. If search engines understand the various components of a page, it can improve our presentation of the data in search results. A page about an author could include a bio, list of books and price for each.
"Even if you mark up your content using the Facebook Open Graph protocol, schema.org provides a mechanism for providing more detail about particular entities on the page," according to the site.
Marketers and webmasters can find more information here.