Semantic Web: providing defined structure to content and improving your search results

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  • June 22, 2011
Steven Shaw

Steven Shaw

Digital Director

The Semantic Web is a new technology/specification that attempts to read into the meaning of content on the web, providing more useful and relevant search results, and creating a specific content model which fits your business needs.

Google, Bing and Yahoo are already beginning to support the Semantic Web in their applications, most notably the Search Indexes. Using vocabularies such as schema.org; search engines index your website, looking for Semantic tags which allows them to understand the meaning of the content on the web page.

The term ‘Semantic Web’ is often used more specifically to refer to formats and technologies such as Resource Description Framework (RDF), RDF Schema (RDFS) and the Web Ontology Language (OWL). These provide a formal description of concepts, terms, and relationships within a given knowledge domain.

A simplified example of this is the micro format RDFa in use for presenting address data, this is currently in use by Google Places in finding locations to add to its database. Here’s a quick example for a furniture stockist we developed recently:

As you can see from the above code snippet, each line of HTML contains extra information and definitions of the data it contains, such as property="v:postal-code" which defines the postcode, you can also see the longitude and latitude wrapped up in there. Google and other associated applications can now find these sections of data, extract the relevant information and use it where required. So it’s becoming increasingly important to add this Semantic markup to ensure your content is as clear as it can be.

Amongst the promises of the Semantic Web, is the ability to share and re-use data on a global scale. Having universal formats will make it easier to publish data that everyone can benefit from. The benefits of Semantic Web are also aimed at the applications and non-human interfaces that need to learn and absorb the information that humans do on a daily basis, from simply reading the content on a page.

So how do we apply this new format in the work we do and the websites we build? Branded3 use the micro formats where appropriate in day-to-day builds, this can be from bespoke builds to those powered by a CMS such as WordPress. In order to provide the wider scope and features of Semantic Web, Branded3 have been working with Webnodes CMS.

Webnodes CMS is an enterprise quality ASP.NET CMS that has been developed from the ground-up using a unique semantic content technology. Webnodes separate the content, presentation and assets all into an ORM (Object Relational Mapping) structure. This separation gives the system the ability to present and re-use all the content with its appropriate mark-up and information, all of which can be made available via its API system.

By defining a clear vocabulary around your business for use within Webnodes, means you can empower more of your staff members to add, edit and develop on the site without needing to learn new skills as they understand how the content is structured with familiar terms.

As well as this, the Semantic model can be easily altered, so if your business objectives change, you can adapt the model to reflect this. Providing better social media visibility; there are plenty of benefits to implementing Semantic tags within your site.

The high-cost and effort of creating Semantic Web solutions is likely to put many people off, but as its successful results are already being discovered across the web; it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a vital component for an effective web presence.

Overall, it seems like the Semantic Web is something that will grow from strength-to-strength as it gathers more definitions and more web tools, and as its methodology is adopted by more applications.

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