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Microformats… What on Earth?

2nd August 2011

Many SEO’s and developers will be familiar with or will have heard the term ‘Microformat’, but what exactly is a Mircoformat and can they help improve a websites SEO?

Put simply, a Microformat is a method of semantic mark-up, which uses existing HTML/XHTML tags to convey metadata in a way that helps describe information to search engines in a more specific manner. Microformats use existing HTML code, which is of great benefit to developers as there is no need to learn a new programming language.

Microformats are still relatively new to the digital world. The big question currently on our minds is how will Microformats affect SEO?

In 2009, Google announced that it was launching what it calls ‘rich snippets.’ Rich snippets are Google’s way of displaying useful information within your site, right in the search result itself. Rich snippets are proven to increase CTR, and thus have a positive effect on your site traffic.

Below is an image showing two search results for a Thai green mango salad:

Mango Salad

Which one would you click on?

Exactly, the top search result benefits from rich snippets, which show reviews, user scores, and cooking times. Although both results are for the exact same page, users are much more likely to be attracted to – and therefore click on – the top result.

Microformats also help with sites such as LinkedIn as they help differentiate between people with the same name. There are over 25 professionals with the name Adam Holt; by adding Microformats we can make our Adam’s Google search result stand out by adding more personal details; like where he lives and what his profession is.

Microformats are still very much in the development stage and have yet to make a significant impact within search engines but at first glance it would appear that there are two main benefits to be utilised…

Microformats will not only help search engine spiders better understand a site’s content, judge its relevance to a specific search and therefore index it accordingly. Through rich snippets, microformats will also enhance a site’s search result appearance, resulting in a more eye catching and informative search result that will visually encourage more people to click through to the main site.

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