It’s not often that all three major search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo!) team up together on a project, but this time the project is well worth the mutual cooperation. The three search giants have partnered to launch the site schema.org, which helps webmasters define structured data for their websites for easier searchability.
First, you might be wondering what is structured data? It is also called microdata, or microformats. This is a type of markup that defines more narrowly specific content on a web page that humans might understand when they read the text content, but that search engines would have a difficult time understanding from the text.
The Schema.org website uses this example:
(note: replace * with < and >)
Avatar is a term that can be used in more than one context. For example, it could refer to the movie or it could refer to your Web graphic or profile picture. The simple html tag H1 tells browsers how to render the text, but it doesn’t tell search engines the particular context of the reference.
To fix this, you could add a schema to your html code to tell the search engines what “Avatar” means. If you are referring to the movie, then you’d enter code that looks like this:
*span*Director: James Cameron (born August 16, 1954) */span*
Itemscope is the schema and the content that falls between the div tags is the microdata that defines that schema.
The brilliance of schema is that it is flexible, so flexible in fact that webmasters can define their own schema beyond the definitions offered by the search engines. If those schema become popular enough, then the search engines will begin to use them for search indexing purposes.
I encourage you to look over the schema.org website and see if you can identify any web pages that could benefit from defining microdata. It could push you up a little in the rankings by helping the search engines define your content a little more clearly.