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Written by Craig Charley – Thu 13 Dec 2012
Google have just announced an incredible new Data Highlighter in Webmaster Tools which allows you to mark up events on your site with simple point-and-click actions.
This is a life saver for webmasters who want to add structured data to their sites but don't have the skills to implement microdata, microformats or RDFa on their site.
For those unfamiliar with structured data markup, it is code added to a site, page or page element that makes content more understandable to search engines and other crawlers which is then translated into Rich Snippets - extra information shown in SERPs with your result. Previously, this would involve marking up elements individually using tags like schemas but now with Google's new Data Highlighter even those with no understanding of HTML can markup certain elements.
The idea behind Structured Data is to take the internet beyond just an archive of 'pages' and instead becomes an 'internet of things' - something that search engines are racing to be the best at. It's something Facebook does - recognising people, relationships, faces and interests. Google are on the right track with authors, publishers, knowledge graph and semantic search but they need the help of webmasters to take this a step further.
Structured data is vital for SEO - something we're looking to add to our SEO courses - not only does it help search engines understand your content but also gives you more visibility in SERPs. Likewise it's a must for content marketers - not so much for blog posts but for other content that needs clear labelling.
Currently the Data Highlighter tool just for events, but we believe that if this test is successful then other elements will be supported. Google made a similar move by making authorship markup (rel=author) easier to implement using email verification rather than tags.
The main point of Google's new Data Highlighter tool is that it is dead simple to use. It just requires a Webmaster Tools account and (of course) events on your website.
Disclaimer: If you're thinking "I love the sound of extra real estate in SERPs, but I don't have events,
I had better set some up!" then please stop right there. Tools like these only work if they're not abused.
If you must, think hard about what real event you could put on - it could be a talk, a free session
or a demonstration - just don't set up fake events.
Firstly, log in to your Webmaster Tools account, click on Optimization in
the sidebar and select Data Highlighter. Then click the big red 'Start Highlighting' button.
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