This is a pretty well-discussed example in the Semantic Web community, but just wanted to briefly explore how Best Buy is using RDFa to semantically markup its web pages to increase the visibility of its products and services.
Let’s look at an article from ReadWriteWeb from July 2010 titled How Best Buy is Using The Semantic Web. This article is based on an interview with Jay Myers, Lead Web Development Engineer at BestBuy.com. There’s several things I’d like to highlight.
The Why – Focus on Business Objectives
OK, so this may go without saying, but the Semantic Web, for businesses, needs to be about solving business problems, not about a cool technology. And sure enough, Myers told ReadWriteWeb that “the primary goal of using semantic technologies was to increase the visibility of its products and services”.
The How – RDFa
This increase in visibility comes through using a semantic markup language called RDFa to unambiguously describes the meaning of data on a web page – data that is important to Best Buy’s business, things like Customer data, Product Data, location data, etc.
Can you show me an example?
Yeah sure. The screenshot below from the RWW article shows a Best Buy webpage, with the RDFa tags that describe the associated data elements:
Hmm, that’s pretty cool. So rather than just a whack of text and images on a page – from which a search engine would have to do its best to infer what the page is about – this web page actually exposes data that is marked up with semantic tags. These semantic tags unambiguously describe the meaning of the data.
But do the semantic tags do that? I mean, a “Services” tag could mean a lot of different things in different contexts, right?
Ontologies – standardized vocabularies of shared meaning
That’s where the GoodRelations standardized vocabulary comes in. It provides a standardized vocabulary for e-commerce that describes product, price, and company data on the Web.
The GoodRelations vocabulary provides a set of shared Terms that define common concepts in retail/e-commerce such as product, price, etc. This vocabulary is used by both vendors in their web pages, and search engines, to provide searchers on the web with results that are most relevant to their queries.
That’s pretty cool.
In Summary …
That’s it. A pretty simple concept really. Just wanted to describe it in simple terms, so that I could refer back to this post when introducing colleagues to RDFa.
Another nice post from Chris Silver Smith on Local Business SEO for Geo titled Should You Geotag Pages For Local SEO? As Silver Smith points out, geocoding web pages is acheived through semantic markup formats such as Geo microformat, ICBM meta tag (GeoURL), RDF tags, and the Geo tag meta data format. These various approaches are nicely summed up at the following Geotagging wikipedia page.
Which format to use? Here’s what Silver Smith has to say on the matter:
If you were only going to add one set of geotags, I’d suggest adding either the Geo microformat or RDF, because they’re supported in some ways by Yahoo! and Google (”supported” in the sense that both deliver up local content with microformats, and both have used microformats and RDF for purposes of special results listing treatments). Also, providing the coordinates on the page visibly can enhance usefulness as people are able to copy them directly into their GPS devices.
Another excellent blog post by Chris Silver Smith: Brave New World For Yellow Pages: Google Nabs Marketshare, Strangles Local Directories, from September 2009.
Also see the following related posts from Chris Silver Smith:
- Why Use Microformats?
- How To Geocode An Address & Optimize Location Pages
- The hCard Microformat & Local Search Optimization
- Optimize Local Events With hCalendar Microformat
A very nice introduction to RDFa semantic markup for HTML pages by Mark Birbeck. This presentation is from a Google talk Mark gave in June 2009.
[Warning: This talk is definitely for a technically-inclined audience. But if you are technically-inclined, and want to learn about the RDFa approach to semantically marking up HTML web pages, this is a great video.]
The code samples can be more clearly seen in the accompanying slide presentation.