On Wednesday, December 12, 2012 Google announced a new feature for Webmasters called the Data Highlighter.
The Data Highlighter is one way by which a webmaster can identify to Google the structured data on your website. Google will then provide enhanced search results (rich snippets) to users of the Google search engine.
In case you don’t know what structured data or rich snippets are, here is a summary:
In 2011, in conjunction with schema.org, Bing, Google, and Yahoo provided a shared collection of standard data sets (or schemas) to schema.org that webmasters could use to markup certain sets of structured data on their website. Structured data is often stored in databases and formatted into HTML. Some examples include: product name, price, quantity, or event name, description, or location. Each search engine integrated schemas into their browser and search results. However, each search engine uses and displays them differently. The display of the structured data in search results is known as rich snippets. Below are examples of how Google search results are displaying rich snippets (star rating, reviews, price, track name, track duration, etc.):
You quickly get the idea how rich snippets stand out differently than standard results and could differentiate you from your competitors.
Getting back to the Data Highlighter – currently, the Data Highlighter only supports the Event schema and only in the English language. In the months ahead, Google will update the Data Highlighter to support more languages and additional data types.
The original way to markup structured data was by wrapping specific html tags around the data points. With the Data Highlighter, there is no code change required. An authorized user of your Google Webmaster Tools account simply highlights and tags each data point using their mouse.
Additionally, if Google recognizes a consistent structure across multiple pages, Data Highlighter will learn that format and automatically suggest additional tags.
Once completed, you review and publish if correct.
It is important to keep in mind that while this Google tool does and will potentially make marking up structured data easier, it will only work within Google search results. You will still be required to markup structured data in the traditional sense to identify it for other search engines.
For more information about the Highlighter Tool and available schemas, view the following: