Highlighting your data for search engines isn’t a new concept. Certain items are on your website are more important for your visitors depending on whether you are a local business, event center, or large company. These pieces of information can include addresses, phone numbers, hours of operation, specific event dates, etc.

Rich Snippets

An example of rich snippets highlighting multiple upcoming events.

Google uses this information to create specialized search results for your site that offers more pertinent information directly in the search results. If your business or site appears in search results, your address, phone number, and/or event dates will be visible right underneath your title. These are called rich snippets, and with them, potential customers or visitors may get the information they were looking for from your site before even selecting a search result. If they see your site is useful and informative right from the search results page, they are much more likely to visit the site itself.

What is Structured Data?

With Google Data Highlighter, you’re going to be highlighting “structured data” on your site. Structured data is simply information that has been categorized on the source code level. It used to be that you had to go into the source code yourself, and identify key pieces of information that you wanted to categorize and highlight for search engines. This is still a viable way of data highlighting, and is explained in the article, “How to Implement Schema Markup for a Local Business.”

Recently, however, Google released its own Data Highlighter that is much simpler, and less technical than previous methods.

Step by Step Guide to Data Highlighting

Data Highlighting

First time Data Highlighting?

1. Make sure you have access to Google Webmaster Tools for your website. For a guide about setting up Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools, check out “Getting Started on Google Analytics.”

2. Select “Data Highlighter” underneath the “Search Appearance” drop down menu in the navigation bar. If this is your first time using the Data Highlighter for this website, it should offer you a brief look into what you will be doing. I recommend watching the intro video, as it will explain what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.

3. Go ahead and click “Start Highlighting.” This will bring up a URL entry box. Decide which type of data you’ll be highlighting and choose an appropriate page for the data. The example we’ll focus on is Local Business Addresses. Enter your URL (most likely your “Contact Us” page), and select the type of data you’re highlighting with the drop down menu. If the data you’re highlighting is specific to only that page, select the “Tag just this page” radio button, if the data is present on multiple pages throughout the site, select the “Tag this page and others like it” radio button.

4. It will now open up a rendering of your website in Webmaster Tools. Simply use your mouse to highlight the pieces of information you wish to flag for Google. On the right hand side you’ll see what items Google is looking for. Using the Local Business Address example, you should see entry boxes for the Name, Street Address, Phone Number, Hours of Operation, etc. After you highlight the information you desire, click done to move on to the next step.

5. The Data Highlighter tool will then ask you if you wish to create a Page Set. These are particularly helpful if you have a certain piece of information on multiple pages throughout your site. A good example might be having all of your contact information in either a header or footer of every page.

Google will give you examples of pages from all parts of your site that you may want to add to this page set. After you have decided which pages you wish to keep in the page set, you only have publishing left.

Finally, Google will ask you to review the pages which it has highlighted data for and if they are correct you can go ahead and publish it!

Now that you have highlighted all of the data you wish to, those pages will have rich snippets applied to their search results. Customizing all of your pages’ highlighted data is a great way for your articles, events, reviews, and addresses stand out from other search results.

For a full list of data types supported by Google’s Data Highlighter, check out their info page, here. Questions or comments about the article, Google Data highlighter, or Local SEO? Let us know in the comments section below!

Jamie Bates