Schema.org: Who benefits from search engines becoming decision engines?

Schema.org is potentially big news for website owners. It’s a collection of “tags, that webmasters can use to markup their pages in ways recognized by major search providers. Search engines including Bing, Google and Yahoo! rely on this markup to improve the display of search results, making it easier for people to find the right web pages” says the Schema.org website.

So everybody wins, right? As Wikipedia puts it: “schemas can be recognized by search engine spiders and other parsers, thus gaining access to the meaning of the sites”. Machines being able to extract meaning from web pages is important. It brings us a step closer to the benefits of the semantic web.
Wikipedia: “The semantic web is a vision of information that can be interpreted by machines, so machines can perform more of the tedious work involved in finding, combining, and acting upon information on the web.”

But “Follow the money” said Deep Throat in the movie All the President’s Men.

So let’s quickly consider it.

Bing, Google and Yahoo! are businesses. What if they are collaborating on Schema.org for some other reason than helping mankind?

If websites add Schema.org microdata to their pages, search engines will be able to extract more meaning from those pages.

But search engines will also be able to display that extra information on their search engine results pages (SERP).

Which may mean that the user searching for information does not have to leave the search engine’s website, as they’ve found the info they were looking for on the search engine’s website. No need to click through to the website that provided the info, as the user has gleaned enough info to make a decision from the search engine.

The longer the user stays on the search engine’s (now: decision engine’s?) pages the more likely it is that they’ll click on the nearby adverts.

Then the big three search engine’s benefit financially while smaller websites lose advertising revenue.


Should you add the Schema.org microdata to your website’s pages?

The answer is: probably yes for a trial period.
Try it and see if more people visit your site because of the added prominence given to your listings on search engine pages.

But bear in mind that your short term gain may be your long term loss as you’re potentially aiding three huge companies that are looking to dominate the market in information.

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