Yesterday, Google officially announced support for schema.org video markup. What does this mean? Well, it's good news for publishers and it may eventually make video indexing issues, a thing of the past.
In this post, I'm going to explain why this is important and exciting for video publishers, and, I'll walk you through how to get started. So, this is going to be a long post. Here's a TOC:
- What is schema markup?
- Google & support for VideoObject
- Why Schema markup is important for video
- How to markup videos with Schema.org
What is Schema.org Markup?
Last year, Google, Bing and Yahoo announced an initiative (which Google was working on since 2009) to create a common markup vocabulary and set of schemas for structured data markup on web pages (schema.org). For those of you that aren't HTML or SEO people, you might be saying, "What the heck is markup?" Well, I don't have a clue. Kidding, kidding.
On-page markup is a way of assisting search engines to better understand the information contained in a web page which in turn helps the search engines provide richer search results. Additionally, markup allows the search engine to take that structured data and use it to enhance the information displayed in search results with rich snippets. Here's an example results for a page that's marked up for recipes:
Google & Schema.org VideoObject Markup Support
Information on the videoObject markup has been available on schema.org for some time, but until yesterday, there was no official declaration of support for video schema markup. Fortunately, I've been in touch with Google's video team from time to time and so I knew that support for this was coming – it's really good news for video publishers!
"Videos are one of the most common types of results on Google and we want to make sure that your videos get indexed. Today, we're also launching video support for schema.org. …now the recommended way to describe videos on the web." – said Henry Zhang, Product Manager for Google Videos. (totally cool guy BTW)
Why Schema.org Markup for Video?
I won't go into this here as this is already a long post, but crawling, digesting, analyzing, and indexing video content is a tough job for a search engine crawler, for many reasons: variations in publishing methods, inadequate recognition technologies, etc… Google launched video sitemaps in late 2007 as a way to overcome these challenges, by having video content publishers provide information to assist Google in locating and indexing video assets. This was a great step and has certainly helped in increasing the number of videos indexed. If you're unfamiliar with video sitemaps, I've covered them in depth and we even did an in-depth webinar with Google on video sitemaps.
However, it's always the desire of a search engine to be able to discover content on it's own and not necessarily rely upon sitemaps to index content. While video is more difficult to discover, over the past year or so, I've seen clear indication that Google (in particular) is getting much better at indexing videos without sitemaps, and that's the goal.
Enter Schema Markup & VideoObject:
Now that Google is getting good at identifying video assets through a crawl, they're encouraging video publishers to implement a standard schema markup (VideoObject) for video pages to further assist Google in understanding what the video content is about.
What about Video Sitemaps?
Video sitemaps are still very important as they can provide Google with additional information that you may not want to put on-page. If you're doing video sitemaps or MRSS feeds already, you should continue. As Henry put it,
"Using schema.org markup will not affect any Video Sitemaps or mRSS feeds you're already using. In fact, we still recommend that you also use a Video Sitemap because it alerts us of any new or updated videos faster and provides advanced functionality such as country and platform restrictions."
That being said, the good news is that for many who dont need to provide additional information, getting your videos indexed is going to become easier and easier, especially if you start marking up your video content with schema markup as it's a clear indication to Google that you have video on a given page. SO, how do you do that?
How to Markup Videos with Schema Markup VideoObject :
You can review the full specification regarding VideoObject at schema.org. If you're already familiar with schema markup, this will be easy. Essentially, all you need to do is to include some additional HTML markup when you embed or publish a video on your page. Here's an example of a typical embed code scenario:
<object ...> <embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" ...> </object>
With schema videoObject, there's only a few required properties that include the title of your video, description, thumbnail URL, and embed URL (like your player.swf) or content URL (location of the video file itself – you might use this for HTML5 video). Here's how the markup could look:
Example Video Embed with Schema Markup
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/VideoObject"> <h2>Video: <span itemprop="name">Title</span></h2> <meta itemprop="thumbnailURL" content="thumbnail.jpg" /> <meta itemprop="embedURL" content="http://www.example.com/videoplayer.swf?video=123" /> <object ...> <embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" ...> </object> <span itemprop="description">Video description</span> </div>
There are other properties that are optional but may be useful for you depending on your use case. For example, just as you can in the video sitemap, you can indication a video's expiration using "itemprop="expires". Again, you can find all the properties on schema.org.
Often times, you already have a title and description surrounding your video and you'll just need to add the "itemprop" to indicate that. There are a few requirements that you should be aware of in order for this to work:
- As I indicated earlier, you should also submit a video Sitemap as that will still help Google discover your videos and provides additional information about your video content. Doing both is a good way to help Google verify the information that you sent in your sitemap, matches what you have on your page.
- As such, it would be a good idea to make sure that you have the same information in both your video sitemap, and your on-page markup.
Verifying Proper Schema.org Video Markup
You can check your markup and verify what Google sees as well as what rich snippets could potentially appear in search results by using Google's Rich Snippet Testing Tool. Your video may not appear with the rich snippets, but this tool will still show you whether it's being seen by Google.
Conclusion – Good News for Google & Us
So, I don't want to go on too much in this post but I think you can see where things are headed. If everyone were to adopt this as a standard when publishing videos to websites, we'd be on a fast track to the day where we no longer have to worry about our videos getting indexed. Google would have more video content which rocks, and video publishers could spend less time fiddling with video indexing and more time creating good content.
There's a lot to digest here. If you have any questions, please let me know and I'll do my best to answer them.