Google Microdata is a way of adding Structured Data to axis vMerchant product pages to describe to search engines more precisely what is on the page using code, or "markup", that is contained within the web page but invisible to the human visitor.
Configuration of Google Microdata is a standard facility in all axis diplomat 2018 systems linked to one or more axis vMerchant websites.
What is Structured Data?
"Structured Data" simply refers to any data that is organised into specific categories or elements, as opposed to, for example, natural language.
An Example of Unstructured Data
An Example of Structured Data
Without structured data, software such as search engine bots must try and identify what the web page is about in order to index it correctly. It needs to try and understand the context of the web page based on attributes such as the general position and size of text and the language - something that seems very easy as a human but software finds extremely difficult.
For example, if the sentence read "Moby Dick was written by the American Herman Melville, who died in 1891", the software would need to understand every subtle nuance of English to understand that the date related to the author and not the book.
Structured Data gives software help in understanding the content of a page. Of course, the Structured Data only helps if it is written using the same terminology and language that the software is expecting - for instance, if the software expects Date= rather than Year= then the example above will not make any sense to it.
The terminology used (Title, Author, Year and Country in the above example) is known as the Vocabulary.
The format of how that data is laid out is know as the Syntax - for example, XML or JSON
An Example of XML Structured Data
An Example of JSON Structured Data
These two examples use the same Vocabulary but different Syntax.
What is Google Microdata?
There are a number of different agreed standards for adding Structured Data to a web page; Google have laid out which ones that they support. For this reason, we have chosen to refer to the implementation of Structured Data within axis vMerchant as Google Microdata to clarify that it adheres to their scheme.
Google specify the syntax (JSON-LD, Microdata or RDFa although JSON-LD is recommended) and vocabulary (as defined by schema.org) that is to be used to describe the Structured Data. Although targeted at Google, the structured data is there and available to any software accessing the web page - meaning that it can be used by other search engines as well.
Should I add Microdata to my Web Pages?
Simply on the basis that adding Google Microdata to your product pages makes it easier to index those pages and, the more help you can give the search engines, the better, the general view is that it is a good thing, or at the very least, not a bad thing.
Will Microdata Improve my Search Engine Ranking?
To quote moz.com, "Whether structured data affects rankings has been the subject of much discussion and many experiments. As of yet, there is no conclusive evidence that this markup improves rankings.".
In other words, there is no evidence either way whether you will move up the Search Results by adding MIcrodata to your site but it may help to ensure that you are listed for particular search terms in the first place - particularly those searchs looking for specific products by name, brand or part code. In this sense, it helps with the page's relevance.
For this reason, it is particularly useful to those selling third-party products that also appear on many competitors websites, such as consumables. This is because the part codes or barcodes will help tie the results together and may even be the search term that people use when searching for products to buy.
Explicitly confirming to the search engines that a given web page relates to a product with a particular part code is more reliable than hoping the search engine can determine, from all of the pieces of text on your web page, what the part code is and how it might relate to similar products on other websites.
The one disadvantage is that, at the same time as making it easier for search engines to understand your data, it makes it easier for competitors as well - anyone who is concerned about having their website "scraped" by competitors should probably consider very carefully the pros and cons of adding structured data.
Of course, if competitors are scraping your website, it is probably to determine your current pricing so one compromise might be to include basic product information in the Microdata (for example, part code, barcode and description) but exclude the price - this is one reason why each field, beyond the mandatory code and description, is optional with axis vMerchant.
How to add Microdata to an axis vMerchant Website
Users of axis diplomat 2018 should refer to the axis vMerchant Administrators User Guide for step-by-step information on configuring Google Microdata.