Can you correlate a baseball to the game of baseball? If you’re human you know a baseball is thrown in a game of baseball. If you’re a search engine then that correlation of data might be harder to understand. The building of the semantic web is the next great challenge of the computer industry. In fact I am going to go out on a limb and say that the completion of a semantic web could be the single greatest leap forward for mankind since going to the moon (if you believe that happened).
Now I’ve Got You Scratching Your Head
Why would correlating a baseball to a baseball game be a leap forward for mankind? Simply put, if you can get a computer to understand the relationship between two identical yet different uses of the same term then the computer will begin to understand the world around it. No, I’m not talking about the Terminator searching for Sarah Conner. Right now, if you do a search for ‘baseball’ the results returned will focus on the game and ignore the object.
When a searcher asks the engines ‘baseball, baseball game’, they are presented with a mishmash of choices. Results range from fantasy baseball to online games to sports news. They even threw in a personal result for me of an SEO industry expert talking about the first baseball game he attended. The results don’t answer the question because the search engines can’t comprehend the correlation of these two items. They know what a baseball is and they also know what a baseball game is but can’t connect the two together. Now do you see how this could change everything?
The Teaser of Rich Snippets
Back in 2009 Google introduced rich snippets as a better way for Webmasters (I hate the term. It’s so Dungeon & Dragons) to alert the engines when something is a recipe, review, or other organized bit of data. This week Google, Bing, and Yahoo joined together to take another step toward the semantic web with the release of Schema.org.
This lays the groundwork for adding more than a hundred new points of correlated data. Webmasters can use this microdata in their HTML and provide the search engines with a clearer comprehension of what is on that page. This microdata will eventually be used in building the semantic web.
Slowing the Progress of the Semantic Web
However, I believe that by putting the ownership on the individual webmaster the search engines are in fact slowing the progress of the semantic web. I realize that’s a pretty bold statement so let me break it down a little slower.
There are billions of web pages on the Internet. Some of them have been floating around untouched for decades. It is true these sites probably don’t rank on the first page for any major keyword; they still exist within the larger search results. By pushing forward with webmaster enhanced microdata the search engines are quickly setting up a ‘haves’ versus ‘have not’ scenario.
I realize that with the rapid changes in website code this is already beginning to happen. Websites that are more SEO friendly are gaining in the search rankings. This is a great thing. The more that companies understand the importance of SEO to their marketing efforts the larger I can grow my company.
A Needle in a Haystack
But it’s kind of like a needle in a haystack. There are thousands possibly tens of thousands of webmasters throughout the world but only a fraction of the billion websites are keeping up with the latest code changes and SEO enhancements.
What this could potentially lead to is a rapid segregation between sites that correlate semantic web data and those that don’t. This leaves the possibility of future search results showing only sites the engines comprehend. All other sites get left by the wayside and even potentially dropped from the engines completely.
Schema.org is asking webmasters to adapt these enhanced SEO practices. Wouldn’t correlation run better and faster on the server-side? I realize that the search engines have been racing towards solving this problem. I just feel putting it in the hands of the webmasters will only lead to further problems.
- Introducing schema.org: Search engines come together for a richer web (googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com)
- Schema.org: Google, Bing & Yahoo Unite To Make Search Listings Richer Through Structured Data (searchengineland.com)
- Schema.org and some of my take (yihongs-research.blogspot.com)