The other night I was cruising around in Google Webmaster Tools for an e-commerce website I just launched to sort out some indexing issues. I stumbled upon a new area of GWT that caught my eye: Data Highlighter. At first, I had little idea about what it entailed but after watching the video it made perfect sense. Up until this point using Microformats and structured data to improve the look of your SERP listings was a task left for a developer. Now Google as has produced an alternative that in many ways replaces the need for hiring a costly developer to ensure you are getting the most out of structured data.
What is the Google Data Highlighter?
If you want to use Structured Data on your website, which you should, this new tool from Google makes it extraordinarily easy for just about anyone to do. It seems it would help to have some previous knowledge of Structured Data and micro-formats but the tools make it pretty simple. To explain the tool better watch the video below provided by a Google employee to give you a little overview.
This is great for events, recipes, e-commerce products and many other sites. If you have patterns of structured data throughout your site then this tool with allow you to quickly and easily Highlight Data across your entire site as an alternative to manually adding structured data HTML. Data Highlighter is available in Google Webmaster Tools under Optimization.
How Can the Google Data Highlighter Help Me?
Improve your look in the Search Engine Results
If you want to improve conversion from the search engine results page (SERPs) then you want to be using Structured Data, Microformats & Google Data Highlighter. To make your listings stand out from your competition and be more appealing and resourceful on a surface level. Without Structured Data your SERP listing will be plain old titles and descriptions. Get on board now or be left behind as you watch your competition use these methods to dominate you.
Where is the Google Data Highlighter Most Useful?
Using Structured Data on some types of websites over others is something to consider. It can be very useful for local search engine optimization as well if done correctly. If you have an e-commerce site, recipe site, event site, and other types of sites that make the most of Structured Data then this new tool will be great for you. Even if your site does not fall into one of those categories there are many other types of sites that can benefit from Structured Data and more micro-formats are being developed every day. The Data Highlighter tool will be particularly useful for me on huge sites, such as the e-commerce site I was working on, where deploying Structured Data across the entire site can be cumbersome.
What Results have Become of this New Tools?
Even after using the new Data Highlighter tool results are not guaranteed. It is still ultimately up to Google to decide what to include and how they want to format it to display in the search results pages. This tool is still new enough that not a lot of data has been gathered about the effectiveness yet. I would put this new tool in the bucket of “use it because the alternative of not using it is less bright.” Kind of one of those tactics you can do and know that you are not being hurt by it and that it can only help. That statement may not be true if you go and use the tool like a loose cannon without knowledge of how to use it for maximum benefit. That is when you may want to hire a professional to use the Data Highlighter for you.