RDFa, Web Development Standards, & SEO

Yesterday someone asked me “Is a site’s SEO improved at all if it is tagged using RDFa?”

My first step in answering this was to ask Derek!  His technical skills and in-depth knowledge of cutting edge SEO developments far outweigh mine.

Derek’s answer was:

“RDFa is a web design/development standard (RDFa details here).  SE’s take into account some of the variables but being RDFa compliant does not ensure a better ranking.  It’s like being W3C compliant; proper code helps improve an SE’s ability to crawl and interpret the website but does not necessarily improve rankings.”

In my response to the e-mail, I added the following (slightly paraphrased here thanks to an additional eye from Derek!):

“Engines are interested the coding of a site in terms of accessibility to information, but not as it relates to establishing the relevance of a site/web page to a query. The search-engine companies are not out to force millions of websites to be re-coded, and if simply using standards added a rankings boost, everyone would re-code. The bottom line is that if a website at least allows engines to crawl it freely and find content, then it’s all a matter of using basic SEO practices in tandem with a focus on the user experience from there on out – if users like it, rankings will follow.”

Bottom line – the use of RDFa by itself will not boost search rankings.

The question did spark my curiosity a bit, and I looked further into this.

Yahoo! did announce support for RDFa not too long ago.  At the moment this support comes through Yahoo!’s SearchMonkey.

The use of RDFa will likely manifest itself in how search results are displayed.  If engines use RDFa to interpret additional elements of a web page, then they may incorporate components such as images, addresses, contact info, etc. directly into a search result.

These “enhanced” search results may in turn improve the CTR for those results.  Increased CTR will mean more people will see the page.  So, while not providing a direct boost to rankings, the use of RDFa may influence search engine optimization strategies.

A great article about this was written by Scott Brinker – SEO + Semantic Web = SEO++

Of course, everything from there on out will still rely on how users feel about the content and website experience.  For example, it is becoming increasingly talked about that Google may use website usability factors such as bounce rate to influence rankings.

A well-coded, standards-based website is definitely one tool in the SEO toolbox, but only one of many, and probably not something to think too long and hard about if you have an existing site that does not use all of the W3C standards.  Content.  Good content is always where the majority of your attention should be focused (and hundreds of other things that we help clients with on a regular basis).

Additional Reading:

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