I often contribute to StackExchange websites, mainly to the Webmasters StackExchange as SEO is the main topic there.

I plan to go over all of my (successful) answers on the Stack Exchange website and dive deeper in my blog.

Table of Content

  1. Difference between rel="me" or itemprop="sameAs" for authorship?
  2. Why not have both?
  3. Why is scope so complex?

Jason Chisel asked the following question on the Webmasters StackExchange:

What is the difference between rel="me" or itemprop="sameAs" for establishing authorship of web content?

The source of Jason's confusion comes with the design of the two methods:

  • rel="me": The relationship attribute for <link> and <a> help establish relationships between a hyperlink. For authorship, rel="me", rel="author" and rel="publisher" can be used to reference external platforms. rel="me" is more generic and used as a 'catch-all' for online profiles.
  • itemprop="sameAs" href="example.com/yourprofile": The itemprop attribute helps contextualise markup to provide context and semantic meaning in markup. The sameAs itemprop can be used in multiple itemtypes, by default in WebPage but best utilised within the Organization itemtype.

It doesn't help Jason's case when there is a little double-speak for industry best practices stemming from this answer:

rel=”me” Defines The Person

While the rel=”author” attribute is new markup, rel=”me” is not. In fact, for a number of years now Google has encouraged its use. It should be used in links that point from a social networking profile back to your website and vice-versa. This tells Google that the same name and bio information on separate websites is actually the same person.

All the while, the official Google Developer Help Documentation discusses how to specify your social profiles to Google:

Use markup on your official website to add your social profile information to the Google Knowledge panel in some searches. Knowledge panels can prominently display your social profile information. [...]

Note: As long as you use the same schema.org types as the example, you can also use microdata or RDFa markup formats instead of JSON-LD. For example, in microdata, visible links can be marked up by in a structured data SPAN, like this:

So, you can see where Jason can get a little reserved about which way to go.

My answer to Jason was very simple: Why not have both?

You can reference Schema.org/Organization to understand what sameAs is intended for:

URL of a reference Web page that unambiguously indicates the item's identity. E.g. the URL of the item's Wikipedia page, Freebase page, or official website. [sameAs, URL, Organization]

However, I was careful to point out that you must understand scope with Microdata. The sameAs under the Organization item type refers to a corporate identity.

If you were to include itemprop="sameAs" without declaring an Organization in scope, then the default scope would be for http://schema.org/WebPage.

The sameAs value for WebPage refers to pages that are similar for that exact page - which would only be 'About Us', 'Our Organisation' type of pages. A blog post, product page or similar pages would be inappropriate for this.

Why is scope so complex

The reason why scope is so complex for Microdata lies in the original intent for its conception.

Microdata exists to specify specific regions on your webpage and clarify its purpose, intent and meaning.

Take a website like Crunchbase. They often feature external websites and companies listed on their pages - in fact, that is the purpose of the website.

So how would you tell search engine's that a Facebook link belongs to an external company, not your own, before Microdata existed?

This is extremely problematic especially on list pages where you have multiple entities, extenral links and now way to contextualise this information.

Microdata and Schema was created specifically for this use case: if your website only contains links to your properties, then robots could 'do the math' and assume these properties belong to the WebPage entity - but why make them do the math?

Simplify and clarify the process by utilising scope and Microdata to your website so that you can add precision to your authorship.