Originally published in Search Engine Watch (August 2012)
When search engines begin making fundamental platform changes, a somewhat consistent causal chain ensues:
- The first phase: This is normally marked by experimentation and discourse as innovators and professionals with vested interest dabble in the space and discuss their findings (in places like Search Engine Watch).
- The second phase: The platform shift begins to diffuse throughout the market and early experimentation shifts to productization, allowing less-technical users to dabble more directly.
- The third phase: We see the second iteration of products and it’s at this point in time that there are some early commercial attempts, which will serve as the precursor to a new marketplace.
When it comes to semantic SEO, the industry currently resides somewhere between phase two and three: there is a lot of discourse, several beta products, and even a couple commercial attempts.
It’s the perfect time to take inventory of the emerging ecosystem.
A WebMediaBrands blog for media professionals interested in the semantic web. The blog does a good job keeping tabs on early commercial efforts in the space as well as providing ongoing coverage and is a good way to keep tabs on Schema.org as well as early commercial efforts.
A joint-initiative from Google, Bing, and Yahoo to maintain a central repository for schemas. In addition to the index of schemas, the site contains a variety of educational materials that explain how to apply them. Schema.org also maintains a blog that is a must-read for folks with a vested interest in the space.
Another collaborative initiative that is more tailored to web programmers. The site offers educational resources to help better understand how to apply semantic markup as well as a variety of supplemental tools to test markup applications.
A Wiki that is collaboratively maintained by a community of developers working in the semantic web space. The site contains an index of tools that have been developed by a blend of academic and commercial entities. The resource is definitely more focused on the broader discourse around the “semantic web” as opposed to “semantic search” and possibly a bit academic for the non-technical professional.
Apart from the tools associated with the resources listed above, there are several additional tools worth noting:
Google’s Structured Data Dashboard
At the end of July, Google announced the release of its Structured Data Dashboard to provide Webmasters with insight into the semantic performance of their websites. Specifically, the dashboard provides users with a site-level analysis, shown here:
It also allows users to drill-down by Type of structured data (e.g., LocalBusiness, hreview, etc.) as well as by Page, so they can get a sense for how Google is interpreting their semantic markup.
Rich Snippets Testing Tool
The Structured Data Dashboard builds upon Google’s first offering, the Rich Snippets Testing Tool, which allows users to input a URL and see how the page would theoretically appear in the search results.
Early Commercial Initiatives
WordLift is a WordPress plugin that analyzes text and automatically abstracts entities, which the user can either apply or disregard. Based on the user’s input, the plugin will apply semantic markup to the Webpage. It should be noted that the 2.0 version of the plugin is still in beta.
In 2007, Reuters (now Thomson Reuters) acquired venture-backed ClearForest, which has since evolved into Calais. Calais offers a free web service called OpenCalais, which uses natural language processing (NLP) to analyze a document and automatically find entities within it. The free service allows users to submit up to 50,000 daily transactions at a rate of four transactions per second. High-volume customers can license a commercial-grade version of the service to extend both the daily cap as well as the transactions-per-second.
In the publishing ecosystem, there are several companies that have been focused on leveraging semantic technologies to improve web publishing (e.g., Zemanta, Parse.ly) who are uniquely positioned to add a layer of markup functionality within their platform offerings. There are also several search-focused companies that provide content optimization tools (e.g., SEOmoz, Scribe) who are likely to include semantic search offerings moving forward.
Are there any efforts that should be included on the list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.