Microformats in SEO: how to improve CTR in SERP

microformatsThere was an important event for Search Engine Optimization in May, 2009: Google announced about supporting of extended descriptions for Web pages with the help of microdata, microformats and RDFonits blog for webmasters. So, we will speak about microformats and using of them on practice. I will try to answer such questions: what are microformats? Why are microformats useful for SEO specialists? What tools are used to create and validate microformats? Which features should you consider while using microformats?

Table of contents:

1). What are microformats?

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2). What benefit can microformats bring to SEO?

3). Types of microformats:

• hCard

• hReview
• hRecipe
• hCalendar
• hProduct

4). Conclusion

 

What are microformats?

Microformats are (X) HTML pages markup formats which help search robot to understand what a text fragment is about, and also help users to understand what to expect from a siteat a stage of SERP viewing.

You may mark data on your site in aspecial way to make it more understandable both for people and for robots. Search engines also use information marked with microformats for creating vivid descriptions in SERP:

There are a lot of types of microformats, but we will speak only about those microformats which are already supported by search engines.

There is a mass of elementary microformats known to everyone beside compound microformats such as hCard, hReview etc. For example, the tag attribute “nofollow” is widely used to indicate search engines not to consider marked link while page indexation.

At the moment Google supports next microformats:

1.hCard – format for marking people, organizations, places, etc.

2. hReview – format for marking products, events, services etc.

3. hRecipe – format for marking culinary recipes

4. hCalendar – format for compilation of calendars, events descriptions.

5. hProduct – format for marking data about goods (brand, price, photos, etc.)

 

What benefit can microformats bring to SEO?

A webmaster receives at least a notable CTR (click-through rate) increasing from the implementation of microformats, what is weighty benefit.

Reasons of CTR increasing:

• A web site which uses microformats looks bright and stands out from other sites in SERP.

• If a user understands at once that one of the sites on SERP contains information he wants to find, then he will definitely visit this site first of all, regardless of whether the site is the first or the fifth in SERP:

Useful and visually notable data is added to pages description with help of microformat hCalendar in this example.

There are some more reasons why microformats are useful besides the possibility to create beautiful snippets:

• Microformats are very convenient and the maybe the friendliest data presentation formatsfor search engines.

• There are many ways to synchronize data presented in microformats between a site and various applications (eg, Operator extension for Firefox or the H2VX tool for data import to an electronic address book). We can predict that it will be more such ways in future.

HCard microformat

hCard is probably the most popular microformat at the moment. It is used for description of contact information like data about people or organizations.

So-called properties (fn, url, tel, geo etc.) are descriptive elements for this microformat. With their help it is possible to specify names, phones, addresses, posts etc.

Here’s a sample of hCard, made with the help of simple hCard-generator:

You can explore with help of Rich Snippets Testing Tool from Googlehow a page that uses microformats (any, not only hCard) looks like:

You may check the validity of a code using hCard-validator:

However, you should be careful while using this validator, because sometimes it can make mistakes.

There is a large amount of tools for data export (and for sure in future more and more similar tools will be created), for example, Yahoo Pipes:

hReviewmicroformat
Microformat hReview is used for automatic marking of reviews posted on a site:

It is important to note that the microformat hReview usually includes also data marked with help of other formats. For example, in a review author name is designated with the help of hCard, and the object of the review is marked with the help of hCalendar, hProductor, hCard (depending on type of data).

hRecipe microformat

Microformat hRecipe is used to represent recipes located on a site. This format is notable first of all because of adding vivid dishes images, which search engines can use in SERP:

Certainly, there are some more useful elements (as ingredient, amount, name, etc.) for markingof food ingredients, a preparation time, quantity of required products, etc.

This microformat has one important feature: ideally, only one recipe should appear on the page for correct processing by search engines.

hCalendarmicroformat

hCalendar is a microformat which is used to describe different events and related data such as location, timing and so on:


It is important to know that Google shows only those eventsin SERPs which will take place in the future. Past events are not displayed.

hProduct microformat

HProduct microformat is used to mark information about goods (price, availability, brand, model, etc.). Only in November, 2010, Google began to experiment with displaying of such information in SERPs:

Pay attention to a close interlacing of microformats hReview and hProduct in the given example.

Conclusion

I`dlike to underline the idea that microformats are, in fact, the future of the Web, and not only in terms of improving CTR.Experts predict that in future more and more applications will be able to receive data marked with the help of various microformats from web pages. Search engines will increasingly use such data for indexing, content analysis and displaying in SERPs. So,
webmasters who still do not use microformats today risk to lag behind their competitors tomorrow.

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