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21 Aug 2009

Using Microformats to Improve Local SEO

August 21, 2009Local Search

Microformats are gaining popularity, and if you’re not using them, you should be. Google’s introduction of Rich Snippets in May 2009 is just another indication that microformats will continue to gain popularity. And as more sites make use of this structured content, small businesses can capitalize on the use of microformats to help feed relevant information about their business to other websites by using microformats. 

What Are Microformats?

According to a microformats expert, microformats create structure for "content about people, organizations, companies and places." This is mostly in regard to contact information like name, address, telephone number, and email address. Microformats use class values to specify this information, and this allows spiders to extract meaning from that information. Although it’s a little more work since you have to add these class values to the information, the benefit is that machines like Google’s robots are able to easily extract very specific meaning from your content. For example, the picture below shows the search results for a local restaurant search. The rich snippet (extracted by the Googlebot from various microformat data) is circled in red.

The Benefits of Using Microformats?

There are many benefits of using microformats. The most direct application is for improving local search marketing.  Benefits include:

  1. Helps users and spiders discover and parse information about you, and your business or organization
  2. Improves local search marketing efforts for local businesses interested in business directory listings in local search engines like Google Local, Bing Local, Yahoo Local, Yelp, Urban Spoon and others.
  3. Improves the visibility of business reviews in relation to user searches for you, and your business or organization
  4. Improves the visibility of local events in relation to user searches for you, and your business or organization
  5. Contributes to the creation of the semantic web. As more people implement microformats, the more they’ll get used to help machines create relevant structure and meaning from the content and information we provide on websites.

How to Implement Microformats

The best way to implement microformats is to start using them to parse information about yourself on your website. Start with your contact page and create an hcard for your contact information. Next, implement microformats for any reviews or events listed on your website. Then, if you’re really excited about microformats, implement them whenever you mention another person, place, organization, or business on your website.

Don’t worry; if you don’t know much code, there are many microformat tools that can help generate the necessary code; all you have to do is copy and past it into your web page. Here are the specifics.

  1. hcard creator – Use hcard format for people, businesses, places, and organizations.
  2. hreview creator – Use hreview format for reviews.
  3. hcalendar creator – Use hcalendar for events.

The last thing to do is make sure to tell Google you want to be included in its grand microformats experiement. 

Websites and Services Using Microformats

Many websites, social networks and other services are making use of microformats. Here are just a few:

  1. Digg utilizes hcard format for profiles.
  2. Eventful supports hcalendar for its events and hcard for its venues.
  3. Facebook suports hcard for its profiles.
  4. Twitter supports hcard and XFN.
  5. Google maps supports hcard.
  6. Yahoo local supports hcard, hreview and hcalendar.

Convinced yet? Confused? Microformats are just one of the many improvements that can be made to your website to improve your local search marketing.  If you need help implementing this strategy, or just want to discuss your options for local search marketing, please contact us.