Rich Data for Content Marketing and Social Media

jigsaw man
How to pull all the pieces of your content together

A quick run-down on how to use rich data for greater content marketing and social media success.

There’s been an awful lot of talk this year about data – big data, rich data, structured data, semantic data, open graph data,  etc etc.

But what does it all mean for you?

If the talk of all this data is starting to make your head spin, just wait until you try to put it altogether.

Basically what it means is that:

  • You mark all of your content up once so that it
  • can be used in unlimited ways
  • by unlimited applications
  • on unlimited devices
  • -Create once, use multiple times.

It in effect turns your content into part of a giant database.  Obviously if you have good content in a database you want people to easily find and share it, so it really helps if you mark it up correctly. That’s what all this new data mark-up is for.

More importantly it makes all of the pieces of your content jigsaw easy to associate with you. This of course is a huge boost if you are trying to build a profile and position yourself as an industry thought leader.

Apart from the ability to reuse and re-purpose your content, it also has huge implications for organic search engine traffic and social media sharing.

In this post...

This article is quiet long so here's the guide


Why Does My Share Not Use the Right Image?

For example, have you ever tried to share something on social media and found that the wrong image gets posted, or the wrong description or title? Sometimes it’s just a generic title.

That’s because the content has not been marked up correctly data wise.  Using rich data you can not only correct this, but you can also specify different images and descriptions for different social media channels.

Rich data, semantic data and structured data are all variations of the same principle. It may not matter which one you use, as long as you use one of them.

Facebook Post

One of the great benefits of this is that the words, descriptions and titles you use in these data segments are what will be seen and used by the search engines and social media.

Here's how one of my pages looks in Facebook.

If I go to twitter I can use some additional mark-up called Twittercards, to add extra information and images to the tweet.

That means structured data is a great opportunity for search engine optimisation and customer targeting.

IE: use the words that your potential customers are using and will respond to. use the words that people are searching for and that you want to get found for.

And as I said, you can vary these for each social media channel, so you get multiple bites at the SEO cherry.

Twitter card

Here's how it looks on Twitter. Note the title contains extra information, as well as a pic and more info about the author: me. This is all controlled with data markup.

There’s a lot more to it than this of course, more than can be covered in a single blog post.

But what you should know is that you can use structured data mark-up to tell people where you are, who you are, how to contact you, what type of content it is (product, service, article, blog post, video etc), how well people rated it and a whole lot more.


Who the Hell Are You?

You may already be familiar with Google’s “authorship” mark-up, which is just one example of using structured data. It’s Google’s way of not only ensuring you are a real person, but also allowing you to own, build and promote your profile.

If you’ve seen the little pictures of people in the search results, that’s structured mark-up and data in action and just one of the ways it can be used.

 Google Author Data


So How Do I Implement Structured Data?

This is where it can drive you nuts. While the geeks among us are salivating over semantic data and earnestly urging all of us to implement it on our websites, you should know that there are some teething problems.

Most of these are being ignored by the evangelists and it’s only when you start to actually implement them on your own website that you start pulling your hair out because things don’t seem to work.

There are several reasons for this:

  • 1: Not all data mark-up tags are in use
  • 2: Not all data tags are available to everybody
  •  3: Not all data tags have been universally adopted by the big players
  • 4: Some will conflict with others

For example, Google and Facebook are using different mark-up, and Google is being contrary in which ones it does actually use. (Facebook and Google disagreeing? Who’d have thought? Lol)

Twitter uses different ones again, but at least they are clear and consistent about how they use it.

However, don’t let the big players’ dummy spats stop you from implementing structured data, it has wider benefits than just appeasing the big boys.


Your Essential Guide

To take advantage of structured data at  the very least you should implement the following tags and markup:

Full Social Media Tags Template:

Click here or image for full code.

Rich data markup code


Plus Get a Little Irish in You

Probably wouldn’t hurt to also have Dublin Core meta data in there as well. Of course you should already have this if your web designer or agency built your site properly. Failing that your SEO consultant should have also done it at the very least. Unfortunately experience has taught me that this is often not the case.

Click here or image for full code.

Rich data markup code

Important Note 

The above is what it will look like when read by the search engines and social applications. Your code will look slightly different as you or your developer will put in a "call" in the relevant spaces to automatically call the correct title, url and descriptions etc.


How Easy is it to Implement  Rich Data?

It’s relatively easy, but it’s not without issues as I've mentioned above.

Firstly you should know that it’s a once only task. That is, once you've added the tags to your site templates, the correct information will automatically be populated.

Most modern CMS allow you to easily edit the templates so it shouldn't be a problem, however I've seen plenty of CMS that make editing templates a real pain.

If you use Wordpress, there are various plugins that will do most if it for you.  

Secondly, be prepared for a bit if trial and error testing, that’s what the testing tools below are for.  May drive you mad at first, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes easy.


Test Your Data Markup

Fortunately there are tools to let you easily test if you have correctly implemented your structured data. Plus you can find further information at each site on how to set up your data for each of these social media channels.

Twitter Validation Tool

Before your card info shows on Twitter, you must first have your domain approved. Fortunately, it's an easy process. After you implement your cards, simply enter your sample URL into the validation tool. After checking your mark-up, select the "Submit for Approval" button.

Facebook Debugger
You don't need prior approval for your meta information to show on Facebook, but the debugging tool they offer gives you a wealth of information about all your tags and can also analyse your Twitter tags.

Google Structured Data Testing Tool
Webmasters traditionally use the structured data testing tool to test authorship mark-up and preview how snippets will appear in search results, but you can also use see what other types of meta data Google is able to extract from each page.

In addition, if you login to Google Webmaster Tools you can see which of you pages has structured data. Google also provides a helpful “data highlighter” to help you get started.

Pinterest Rich Pins Validator

Pinterest requires an approval process to enable Rich Pin functionality. Use the Rich Pin Validator tool to test your data mark-up and apply for approval at the same time.


One Tool to Rule Them All

Knowem  provides a great tool that will do all of the above in one go. However when looking at the results you should know that it does check for a few additional tags that aren't available to everybody yet, and it also has some issues dealing with Google+.

Nevertheless it is still a great tool to start analysing your rich data.

Just paste in your url and it does the rest.Knowem social tool


Summing Up

As you can see there’s a bit too it all, however it’s not that complicated, although you do have to be systematic about implementing it. I’ve only covered the essentials as they relate to social media and content marketing here. There are other tags you can use for shopping (ecommerce) and events and more.

Data mark-up, or content mark-up, is only going to become more important over the next few years, so it is essential that you start to get a handle on it now, if you haven’t already.


PS You Don't Have to Do it All at Once

If the above looks too daunting, then just tackle one set of tags at a time. EG: Facebook first, then Twittercards, then Google and so on.

They all work independently of one another so you don't have to do all of them at once.


Update: Important Warning

As mentioned in the post Google and Facebook don't always play nice with each other.

At present there are conflicts between the Facebook OG code and Google's use of meta data. If you use the Facebook code then Google+ won't work with it, and Linkedin also seems to have some problems with it.

If you remove the Facebook OG code then sharing on G+, Linkedin and other sites will work ok. However, sharing on Facebook may or may not share the correct images and descriptions.

My advice for now would be to forgo the Facebook OG code until this conflict is resolved.


Further Reading...

I’ve discussed the implications of structured data and correct mark-up before. For more information see

Dinosaurs, Structured Data and the NBN – Are You Ready?

NBN Will Bypass the Web

Titles Can Kill or Convert – What are Yours Doing?

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