Google Data Highlighter: boost your Google search rankings

What is Google Data Highlighter and how can you use it on your website to boost its presence in Google search results?

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Google Data Highlighter

Structured data is an excellent way of telling search engines a little more about the pages of your website, but the idea of tampering with HTML can be a little intimidating (we are looking at you, Schema markup!). Luckily the good folks at Google sympathise and are here to help out; within Google Search Console, there is a powerful and easy to use tool called Data Highlighter, which helps webmasters add structured markup to a site, without the need for code.

What does Data Highlighter do?

The Data Highlighter, defined by Google as a ‘point and click tool’, is a way of telling the search engine a little bit more about your site, beyond what is learned from its bots during a site crawl.

Let’s say you run an e-commerce site without structured markup, the product pages will likely contain a title, images, prices, reviews and so on. And when Google crawls your site, hopefully its bots will pick up on all this important information and display that in a snippet within its search results. But with Data Highlighter, you can help Google understand what it will see on any page of your site and what it needs to include in these snippets, therefore increasing your site’s presence in search engine results.

How does Data Highlighter work?

Instead of leaving everything to Google and its invisible little minions, you can use the Data Highlighter tool to tell the search engine exactly what information it should be seeing on your site, by tagging it. And what’s more, it is very user friendly. You simply highlight the aspects of your site you want Google to know, and define them using a predetermined set of options – such as image, date, or title.

The highlighting itself is organised under nine categories:

  • Articles
  • Book reviews
  • Events
  • Local business
  • Movies
  • Products
  • Restaurants
  • Software applications
  • TV episodes

The most common categories are local business, events, and products as these pages often contain detailed information that can be used to entice a user to click on a snippet in Google, information such as positive reviews, prices, dates, and contact information.

What are page sets in Data Highlighter?

What happens if you have a bunch of similar pages on your website that all need highlighting? Google comes to your rescue once again, that’s what…

Data Highlighter has two options for tagging pages of a site – one at a time, or up to 500,000 in one go using a page set. And once again, the process couldn’t be simpler as Google holds your hand through the process.

Much like the method of tagging individual pages, you begin by guiding Google through one page, highlighting the key points and tagging them accordingly. However, the tool will now scoot off and look at every other URL on your site with the same parameters i.e.*/. Google returns from its trip with between 5 and 10 examples, already highlighted to match the structure of the initial page you worked through. You will be asked to check all the pages have been automatically tagged accurately, submit the page set once you are happy with Google’s work, and the changes will be picked up during the next site crawl.

Is Data Highlighter right for you?

Data Highlighter is all about quick wins without the need to create or implement code on your website. So if this is what you are looking for, then the tool is for you. But, if you are skilled in the arts of HTML and building websites, then take a look at Schema markup as this will be right up your street.

Bits you need to know

  • Make use of page sets where possible. As mentioned above, page sets are great for tagging similar pages in one go, but bear in mind there does not appear to be a method of viewing every single page within a page set, only the overall number of tagged pages and the examples you tagged
  • The structured markup will be applied to a site following its next Google crawl, and not instantly
  • This is not a ranking factor, but can improve a website’s overall SEO performance
  • Google Data Highlighter only works for Google. The structured markup is created and stored by Google, and does not exist in the code of a website, therefore other search engines cannot see it
  • The tool is not dynamic. Changing the code structure of a highlighted page will break the structured markup

For those who want to add a little structured data to their site, but want to avoid HTML, this tool is perfect. And if you are looking to being your journey into structured markup, Jack is here to help.

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