Working with HTML code has always added stress for those trying to work on a website and work on optimization without the help of an expert. Beginners often have a difficult time with coding because it simply isn’t the language that they speak; however this doesn’t make adding structured data markups to a site any less important. Fortunately, Google has taken measures to help beginners avoid going into the HTML code in order to add in this rich snippet/structured data markup. As of last week on December 12, Google announced a new tool called the Data Highlighter tool.

How the Data Highlighter Tool Works

As discussed above, the main appeal of the new tool is the idea that you do not have to go into the HTML code to add structured data to your site. The Highlighter is essentially a tool where you just point-and-click on the words or phrases where you want to add this structured data and then “tag” them with the appropriate information. You then just click submit and Google will begin improving search results with the data you’ve provided. There is no need to know HTML, so it makes it quite easy for webmasters. A few other pieces of information regarding the tool include:

  • The tool will learn from the markups you added to your content. If you are consistent with your tags, the tool will begin to suggest tags for you in the future. This will happen after about 5 or 10 manually tagged pages.
  • It’s currently only available for event-based data.
  • It’s currently only available in English; although Google says that the tool is going to expand in the near future.

Marking up your content will help ensure that Google has all of the data needed to improve the search results and eventually give you a higher CTR on all of your snippets. Below is a video Google shared to help introduce webmasters to the tool:

To get started trying the Data Highlighter tool, simply visit the Webmaster Tools, click on the “optimization” link in your left-hand sidebar, and then click “Data Highlighter.”

What If Your Site Already Uses HTML?

Although the tool may seem great for beginners, many of the more advanced websites have had to stop and scratch their heads. For those who already have HTML based structured data markup on their sites, it makes sense to ask the question: If you use HTML and choose to use this tool, which will Google choose?

The question has been up for debate on Search Engine Roundtable, but the answer still seems to be up in the air. John Mueller seemed to think that providing both types of data to Google would get confusing (and we all know how Google bots hate confusion), and many agree that those with HTML markup code already should just leave the tool alone. It’s for beginners, that can’t be argued, but it’s relevance for advanced webmasters is still to be determined.

If you’ve used the new tool, let us know your thoughts about usability, success, and whether or not you see this as a positive step for Google.