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Organisation and Brand Microdata in Bigcommerce

Bigcommerce Microdata SEO Hack

I have been using the Bigcommerce ecommerce platform in conjunction with SEO clients for over 3 years. Straight out of the box it is a platform that works really from an SEO perspective.

Customer growth is normally testament to how good a product is and it seems to hold true for Bigcommerce clients because the business has had a pretty explosive growth cycle.  As i said, it’s SEO out of the box solution is good but can always be improved on. With that I noticed a quick SEO hack that can be implemented by all Bigcommerce users that will bring greater search relevance to your organisation or brand.

What you will learn?

  • The history of Microdata and why it improves search results.
  • How to install schema mark-up to your product pages so as to trigger rich snippets from within the search results.
  • How to modify the standard Bigcommerce code to distinguish between orgnaisation and brand structure.

The goal is to distinguish between your company brand and product brands to add better SEO value for the search engines.

Why Microdata Improves Search Results.

Microdata is a mark-up language that is readable by search engines/computers. Microdata exists in many different formats such as RDFa, JSON-LD, and Schema. There is also computer readable formats like Microformats that achieve the same thing but for the purpose of this post we will be concentrating on Schema microdata mark-up because it is what is supplied as part of the Bigcommerce platform as standard.

So what is Schema? Schema.org was a collaboration between all the major search engines Google, Bing and Yandex.  Once computers, browser and search engines understand these mark-up attributes they are able to provide richer search results on the search landscape. These rich snippets help users make a more informed decision on which web pages to click thru to.

rich snippets

We have all seen them, and clicked on them without necessarily knowing what they are. For the majority they exist for product sale information, customer reviews, recipes, events and movies to name a few. That said, the current schema protocol already has over 655 different attributes, this continues to grow as and when a new attribute is agreed by the governing members. These are attributes that can be tagged to a webpage to add value to a computer so as to add value to the user. When I say add value to a machine what does that mean?

Humans understand language and the context of that language whether it is relating to a name, place, slang or event. Machines find this a lot harder. The classic example is from the Terminator movie franchise. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a terminator is being the taught the value of human interaction and sarcasm from a young John Connor. This is instead of a monotone response in a purely machine driven way. Some may argue Arnie is actually a machine anyway. My point is it is hard for machines to understand native language in the context that it is delivered.

A more practical example can be shown with the actor River Phoenix, showing my age now. This term presents multiple variations as to why a machine may find it hard to understand the relevance of this term.

  • River – a large natural stream of water flowing in a channel to the sea, a lake, or another river.
  • Phoenix – a unique bird that lived for five or six centuries in the Arabian desert, after this time burning itself on a funeral pyre and rising from the ashes with renewed youth to live through another cycle.
  • Phoenix Arizona – is the capital, and largest city, of the state of Arizona
  • River Phoenix – Could be the name of a river
  • River Phoenix – Could be the name of a river in Phoenix.
  • River Phoenix (August 23, 1970 – October 31, 1993) was an American actor, musician, and activist

These variations present too much of a challenge for a computer to understand the real context of the term. By adding a ‘person’ schema tag around the code associated with the name it defines an attribute to the phrase, that is River Phoenix is a person. It is these schema attributes that helping machines break down the web and making it easier for them to digest. The biggest depository of computer markup code is Wikipedia, be it in a microformat mode. Another great example of microdata/microformats in action is within Google’s Knowledge Graph. The knowledge graph with the aid of microdata/microformats mark-up is able to understand entities and relationships between them.

Adding Schema Microdata to the Bigcommerce platform.

Schema tags around product ratings, reviews, price, and availability need to be implemented on your ecommerce store in order to add value for all concerned. Value for the consumer, and value for the vendor as rich snippets help a webpage convert better for a sale or action.

If you have a Bigcommerce theme that was built after March 26, 2015, you should already be up to date. If you applied a Bigcommerce theme to your store before March 26, 2015, you’ll need to update your theme. If not, you should go to this Bigcommerce support page so as to understand how to update your theme to suit or just to check that the relevant code is present of your site. Free and premium themes made by Bigcommerce now come with Schema.org microdata markup language already built into product pages

Their schema html code mark-up is below.

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Product”>
<meta itemprop=”name” content=”%%GLOBAL_ProductName%%”>
<meta itemprop=”description” content=”%%Page.MetaDescription%%”>
<meta itemprop=”image” content=”%%GLOBAL_ThumbImageURL%%”>

<div itemprop=”aggregateRating” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/AggregateRating”>
<meta itemprop=”worstRating” content=”1″>
<meta itemprop=”bestRating” content=”5″>
<meta itemprop=”ratingValue” content=”%%GLOBAL_Rating%%”>
<meta itemprop=”reviewCount” content=”%%GLOBAL_ProductNumReviews%%”>
</div>

<div itemprop=”offers” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Offer”>
<meta itemprop=”price” content=”%%GLOBAL_ProductPrice%%”>
<meta itemprop=”priceCurrency” content=”USD” />
<link itemprop=”availability” href=”http://schema.org/InStock” />
</div>

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Organization”>
<meta itemprop=”name” content=”%%GLOBAL_BrandName%%”>

You may not be a developer but hopefully you can see how they have broken up the product information into different schema categories.

Product Related Information

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Product>

Customer Review Related Information

<div itemprop=”aggregateRating” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/AggregateRating”>

Product offer Related Information

<div itemprop=”offers” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Offer”>

Organisation Related Information

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Organization”>

To see how this html schema code is rendered for search engines try Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. Bing has one to but you need to access it from within the Bing Webmaster Tools account.

  1. Go to Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool.
  2. Click Fetch URL and enter the web address of a product you’d like to test, then press Fetch & Validate. The Results box on the right shows the microdata detected by Google.

We tested this particular product url,

http://www.fuelequipmentspecialists.com.au/diesel-tanks/poly-tanks/400-litre-poly-diesel-tank/

In the interest of clarity, the organisation is Fuel Equipment Specialists and the product is an Alemlube portable diesel tank that can be transported in the back of small commercial vehicles.

You can see how the particular html schema code has been processed by Google. Take note of the categories and the descriptions, all rendered form the schema code.

schema rich snippets testing tool results

All very straight forward. WRONG, there is one element of this code classification that is fundamentally broken, the differentiation between organisation and brand.

Differentiating between Organisation and Brand Microdata in Bigcommerce

Referring to schema, this is what they understand is the definition of Organisation and Brand.

Thing > Organization

An organization such as a school, NGO, corporation, club, etc.

 Thing > Intangible > Brand

A brand is a name used by an organization or business person for labeling a product, product group, or similar.

From this we have two different distinctions.

What your business needs to understand is where do we fit within this definition? Ask yourself this,

  • Does I sell my own products?
    • If you do, then you are a unique entity and at the simplest level there is a blend between organisation and brand.
  • Do I sell others Brands products?
    • If you do, you need to distinguish between your organisation and other brands products that you sell.

A clear distinction needs to be made between what is your company organisation and a 3rd party brand.

With the current code recommendations you can see that the mark-up has Alemlube as an organisation, when in fact it is a brand. It is a brand that the company Fuel Equipment Specialists is selling, so this can be misleading. Referencing back to the original code you can see the mark-up is referring to organization.

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Organization”>

If you change the reference to ‘Brand’, it switches the focus of the category from organisation to a brand.

<div itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Brand”>

Google Developers Testing Toolbrand focus.

Clear organisation and brand distinction has been established.

Another tip I would recommend is having schema organisation mark-up in conjunction with logo, address, phone number on any page that has company contact details and a logo on it. This helps reinforce your organisation structure in the first instance.

With these items in place you can see how the distinction between organisation and brand has been established across your website.