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Practical use of Microdata in Joomla! 3 and 2.5
With the latest updates in Joomla 3, many improvements have been introduced regarding Microdata (sometimes also called Rich Snippets or Structured Data). Some recent articles in the Community Magazine already explained the technical backgrounds of the implementation and the workflow for developers. However, many still struggle to understand where they can see this and how they can benefit from the SEO advantages that microdata give on a practical level.
Let’s first look at the current status of Joomla! 3.3. Before this, in Joomla 3.2 the JMicrodata library has been introduced, which allowed developers to implement microdata in the HTML output of their extensions. Then in Joomla 3.3 microdata actually found their way in the Joomla core output. At this time, this is limited to the output of the articles (com_content) and the contact persons (com_contact). The microdata syntax is hardcoded in the HTML, and there are no ways to configure this in either Global Configuration or on a article or menu level (probably switches will become available to toggle this on or off later).
This means that if your Joomla website just uses clean, unmodified core output (like in the core templates, e.g Protostar), microdata syntax will be shown in articles and contact-persons.
A sample output from an article is the following:
<div class="item-page" itemtype="http://schema.org/Article" itemscope="">
<div class="page-header">Article heading here....</div>
<dd class="createdby" itemtype="http://schema.org/Person" itemscope="" itemprop="author">Author here...</dd>
<div class="content_rating" itemtype="http://schema.org/AggregateRating" itemscope="" itemprop="aggregateRating">Rating here...</div>
<span itemprop="articleBody">Article body text here....</span>
This includes stuff like article rating, which will display in Google search results, like in this example:
Also, if you monitor your site in a Google Webmaster Tools account, you will found that under Search Appearance >> Structured Data the new markup is discovered, as you can see in the main image of this article.
As you can see, Google recognizes that your content is now structured as an Article of the Blog category (Probably more options will become available in future, like Review or Recipe).
Microdata does not show up?
Now on many sites, you will fail to find microdata. Most likely this is because your template uses template overrides. Just check the folder for your template to see if it contains overrides in the following location:
Probably the default.php file then still uses the PHP code as it was before Joomla 3.3. If this is the case, it will contain the ‘old’ code to be outputted. If you created the override yourself, the solution is to recreate it from the updated core (in this case components\com_content\views\article\tmpl\default.php), and then reapply the changes in the override. For example, I sometimes just create an override to change H2 article headings into H1. By recreating my override, the microdata appeared.
However if you use commercial templates, these overrides may be too complicated, and you will have to wait for the template providers to update. Most providers will probably be very busy now, so watch out for their updates. If your provider does not provide updates, or if your subscription is expired I’m afraid you’re a bit stuck...
The future for microdata in Joomla
There are many more locations where it would be nice to have microdata. One example is the breadcrumbs module. With microdata enabled the breadcrumb path will be shown in the Google search results. As this is actually quite simple to implement I would not be surprised if it would appear in Joomla very soon, but you can also achieve this with a simple override, or a plugin.
Most probably there will be many more options and possibilities in the near future. This earlier article in the Community Magazine may show something for the future.
I need microdata now
If you cannot wait for Joomla to offer microdata in the core, or if you are simply still on Joomla! 2.5, you can still make use of microdata:
- Create template overrides
- Install plugins
- Use JCE to include them in your articles
- Just type them straight in your article
Let’s check these possibilities one at a time.
1. Template overrides
Sometimes you can use template overrides to include microdata. It requires you to look up the exact code that is needed and then incorporate this in your template’s html folder. The breadcrumbs module is probably the easiest location to do so, check out this tutorial on how to achieve this.
Similarly, you can attempt to try this for other modules or core components as well.
2. Install plugins
An easier solution is probably to check the JED for extensions. There are already dozens of plugins for microdata inclusion. They are easy to use and offer lots of functionality. Some nice examples available for breadcrumbs and the voting system, and there are plenty more.
3. Use JCE
Many of you will use JCE as your editor, and what many will not know is that there is a microdata plugin that you can install into JCE, which helps you to create microdata formatted content. It allows you to use a WYSIWIG template to enter microdata of any kind avilable, and it’s really simple to use, as this tutorial will show you.
4. Just type it into your editor
Once you start studying the code, you will quickly see the logic behind microdata, and nothing has to stop you from actually typing it straight into your HTML, or use a sample bit of code. One particular piece of code that I often use is the code for an address. I often include this in a custom HTML module in a footer location. Just use this code as a sample:
<div itemscope itemtype="http://schema.org/PostalAddress">
<span itemprop="name">Your business here</span><br>
<span itemprop="streetAddress">Your address here</span><br>
<span itemprop="addressLocality">Your city here</span>,
<span itemprop="addressRegion">Your State here</span>
<span itemprop="postalCode">Your postal code here</span><br>
<span itemprop="addressCountry">Your country here</span>
Also you can generate your code using a generator like this one: www.feedthebot.com/tools/address
With all these solutions, keep a close eye on the latest developments. Your own overrides or installed plugins may become superfluous once Joomla offers full Microdata support.