Schema Actions

Gyi Tsakalakis
April 19, 2014

In the web's transition from strings to things, it won't just be entities that become important, but how these entities interact. Schema actions support is part of the very beginning of understanding these interactions.

Schema.org recently announced the addition of actions:

Today, we are excited to start the next chapter of schema.org and structured data on the Web by introducing vocabulary that enables websites to describe the actions they enable and how these actions can be invoked.

Over at Search Engine Land, Barry Schwartz connects with a Bing spokesperson to get answers about how actions might be used by search engines:

(Q) Can you explain this a bit better in terms of use cases?

(A) 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.

(Q) How may Bing use this in the search results and is it being used now?

(A) Bing currently uses a draft version of the Actions vocabulary to power the recently released App Linking service. You can learn more about that via the Bing Dev Center and associated MSDN documentation. In addition to App Linking, there are a number of ways in which we might use the vocabulary to power new experiences in Bing and other Microsoft products. Unfortunately there are no definitive plans we can share at this time.

Note that Bing uses other schema.org vocabularies to power its rich web result captions as well. More information on that product is available in the Bing Webmaster Tools.

(Q) What are the goals here for webmasters?

(A) The primary goal of schema.org has always been to provide webmasters with a common vocabulary for use in describing their data. The new Actions vocabulary, especially the terms associated with potential actions, extends this goal to include describing services as well. By providing these descriptions, search engines like Bing and other applications that consume them can leverage the associated information to expose the data and services in a relevant and useful way.

As you probably know by now, the foundation information used by search engines to understand the world is undergoing a fundamental change.

Put simply, the machines are learning about things and their relationships to one another.

Schema actions are one way that webmasters can help tell the machines about actions performed by and on things on a page.

It might not be immediately obvious as to how this might apply to marketing a law practice online. Here are some possible ideas.

Generally, search engines want to deliver results that help their users accomplish their information retrieval tasks.

So, a user searches for information about a legal issue or specific lawyer, the engine wants to retrieve the "best" results for that query.

Obviously, there are a lot of considerations in determining what the "best" result is. However, people know some of the factors that we might consider.

These might include things like mutual friends, years of experience, professional recognition, etc.

And the search engines are trying to learn these things too.

So, for example, let's take a very simplistic look at the situation where Larry Lawyer wins a professional award.

Search engines of the future will be able to understand this piece of information and incorporate it into delivering results.

And to help search engines understand this information, Larry Lawyer might consider adding this information to his site with the Schema action for win action:

The act of achieving victory in a competitive activity.
https://schema.org/WinAction

Now this should begin to make some sense.

Other foreseeable relevant actions in this context might include:

  • endorses
  • reviews
  • rates
  • refers
  • awards

And so forth...

To prepare for this change, I encourage you to check out the documentation:

https://www.w3.org/wiki/images/1/10/PotentialActionsApril11.pdf

https://schema.org/Action

https://schema.org/EntryPoint

Or send it to your webmaster.

If you have questions or ideas about how schema actions might be used by lawyers, please feel free to share below.

Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
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