Thursday, May 22, 2014

Microformats... Wha

Leveraging Microformats

Search engines do a good job identifying what the overall content of a web page is about. But you may have parts of a web page that contain very specific types of content, like product reviews, an embedded video, or even a food recipe. Search engines can stand to benefit from a little help in understanding the semantic focus of these bits of content, and fortunately, we can give them some assistance. One universal code format that will help us do this is microformat.  Microformats give us a special syntax to use to help search engines identify very specific types of content on your pages.

This not only helps search engines identify these pieces of content, it also helps them identify very specific attributes of your content. For example some recipe text. We can look at this quickly, and identify it as a food recipe. But for a search engine, the short sentences and many line breaks are a bit awkward, and they can't possibly understand what each line really means. By augmenting the code behind this recipe text using the microformat for recipes, you have the opportunity to explicitly tell search engines exactly what this content is.

You can see that there are properties for ingredients, prep and cook times, and just about anything else that you could think of for a recipe. If you think about this from the search engine's perspective, knowing not just that this is definitely a food recipe, but also knowing all of this metadata around the recipe, will help it to return this content to users that are looking for it. If someone is searching for a particular chef's recipes, or has an abundance of apples, and needs something to do with them, the search engines will have a much deeper semantic understanding of what this content truly is, and they can return it in the search results for an array of relevant search queries.

Head over to and browse the various types of content that have supported microformats. Recipes are just one of many. You could use micro-formatting to describe a book, with things like title, author, publishing date, and number of pages, or you could use micro-formatting to identify an upcoming event by its name, location, dates, or even pricing. If you have a brick-and-mortar business, or you're doing ecommerce sales, make sure that you're using micro- formats for your local business content or your product content.

As a general rule, anytime you can specifically identify content for search engines, you probably should. Explore the different formats to see what may be relevant for the different types of content on your site, and get started sharing all that great information with the search engines and your visitors alike.

Steve Steinberger

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