Schema.org recently announced a new form of Schema with support from leading search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo and Yandex. This new markup has been named ‘Actions’, and I’ll now go on to explain the ways it can be used to help search engines better understand the numerous different interactions that can take place on your website.
What is schema markup?
Schema.org is a shared markup vocabulary for HTML pages, consisting of numerous ‘schemas’. Schema.org has been developed via collaboration between the planets top search engines in an attempt to improve the display of search results, by making it easier for search engines to understand the information presented on web pages. Search engines are becoming increasingly reliant on this markup improving their search results, so it’s important that webmasters start taking advantage of the many options offered by the schema.org movement.
Schema for User Actions
The latest introduction to the schema vocabulary is known as ‘actions’, which focuses on actionable items on a website. This is a rather significant development, as all the existing schema.org markup is tailored around describing things like people, organisations, and buildings. With this announcement, schema.org is expanding to include Actions, Potential Actions, and Entry Points. According to schema.org, this will help websites “to describe the actions they enable and how these actions can be invoked.”
It has been suggested that schema ‘Actions‘ will allow webmasters to communicate the start and end time of various actions, the desired outcome, result, location, and instrument used for the action. This markup could therefore be used to communicate the time it takes someone to perform a task, like fit a spare tire, bake a chocolate cake, or watch a video, and what the action and result of the action should be.
Here is a segment of the new ‘Actions’ vocabulary:
- actionStatus: Indicates the current status of the Action.
- agent: The direct performer or driver of the action (animate or inanimate). e.g. *Ben* wrote a book.
- endTime: When the Action was performed: end time. This is for actions that span a period of time. e.g. Ben wrote a book from January to *December*.
- instrument: The object that helped the agent perform the action. e.g. Ben wrote a book with *a pencil*.
- location: The location of the event, organisation or action.
- object: The object upon the action is carried out, whose state is kept intact or changed. e.g. Ben read *a book*.
- participant: Other co-agents that participated in the action indirectly. e.g. Ben wrote a book with *Sean*.
- result: The result produced in the action. e.g. Ben wrote *a book*.
- startTime: When the Action was performed: start time. This is for actions that span a period of time. e.g. Ben wrote a book from *January* to December.
- target: Indicates a target EntryPoint for an Action. e.g. Ben downloaded a book on *Amazon*.
Schema ‘Actions‘ can now be connected to Schema ‘Things‘. An example in the official documentation released by schema.org, uses the concept of a movie. Webmasters can now markup the movies that they host as ‘things‘, and can designate a ‘watch’ action to these movies. These actions could have an ‘entry point‘, which would typically be an application they use like YouTube or Netflix.
How does it work?
Luckily, Barry Schwartz, of Search engine roundtable managed to catch up with Bing on the matter last week, so I’d better leave this explanation to Bing, who stated that:
“The Action vocabulary is intended to be used primarily for describing actions that have taken place in the past [past actions] or could take place in the future [potential actions]. Let’s assume Barry shared an MSN article on Facebook yesterday. This is an example of a past action. Facebook might use schema.org to describe the action by indicating that Jason is the subject (agent) of the action, the action verb is sharing, and the object of the action is an MSN article. Now let’s say MSN wanted to expose the ability for applications to programmatically share an article on their website. This would be an example of a potential action. MSN might use schema.org to describe the potential action by indicating the action verb is ‘sharing’ and that you can perform this action by calling a specific URL.”
You can read Barry’s full interview with Bing on the matter here.
How Can You Use It?
Interestingly, Gmail (Google Mail) are already supporting Schema.org Action markup, which presents a fantastic opportunity for anyone working in email marketing. You may well have already noticed airlines using ‘Go to’Actions‘ in their email marketing. Go-To Actions can be used to provide a direct link to the page where the action can be performed. Gmail renders a Go-To Action in an email as a button in the subject line. Clicking the button redirects the user to the page specified by in the action definition. For example, a number of airlines are now using ‘actions’ within their emails to allow users to go straight to their ‘check in’ page without even opening the email itself:
Google are also allowing email marketers the opportunity to markup ‘review actions’ using schema.org actions vocabulary, which could prove to be really useful for certain companies. I often encounter retail clients who find consumer ratings and reviews to be among their most valuable assets, but they have previously proved difficult to collect. The new Review Action offers Gmail users a simple one-click opportunity to provide a rating and a text review of any product or service, which will need to be taken into account by email marketers attempting to collect reviews for products and services.
Want to find out more?
If you would like to know more regarding the new schema.org markup and how it could potentially be used to improve the visibility of your website within the search results then please get in touch.