Using Google’s Data Highlighter Tool

For a while now in Google webmaster tools there has been an option under the 'optimization' tab called 'Data Highlighter'. This is their new attempt at an alternative to structured data (or another way to add it without changing the structure of your pages).

It is essentially a wizard interface to get Google to understand your pages better than they do right now.

It is pretty simple to use. First log in to Google's webmaster tools. Click on the optimization tab and then Data Highlighter.

First you get to watch a quick youtube video about the whole process and why it is there, then you just click the button and start tagging.

This works because certain types of information on a website are usually displayed in a similar way. On a blog, all posts usually have the same layout. So Google looks at your pages and groups them into sets.

For example, I tried on this site and it proposed 47+ pages that it saw as similar. It then asked me to highlight parts of the page and tag them, such as the title, author, publish date and featured image.

It's not infallible though. It pulled out a blog category page with multiple heading tags and images and got confused. I think there is maybe something more I can do to explain how a category page shows multiple articles, because html5 article tags don't seem to be understood.

After getting confused it asked me to do a few more example pages so it could understand more.

After confirming it created a set called 'articles', it doesn't get easier than that.

Available sets are: articles, events, local businesses, movies, products, restaurants, software applications and tv episodes.

I'm not sure I would want to rely on this as a rule and it obviously only gives information to Google whilst isolating other search engines. It might be easy but not necessarily the best option. I had a play but will be sticking to coded structual data so any engine can understand.