Microformats: For better SEO and the Semantic Web

by Matthew James Taylor on 24 May 2009

Microformats: for better SEO and the semantic web

I have known about microformats for quite a while but until recently I was not aware just how useful they can be. Microformats are particular patterns in XHTML that can be used repeatedly to represent common types of information. Marking up information in a standardised HTML format allows the details to be crawled and understood by a computer. This is what the semantic web is all about. A good example of where microformats can be used is with someone's contact details - this can be represented by using the hCard microformat.

I have often wondered if microformats could help make a website more optimised for search engines - after all, one part of SEO is making your website crawler/computer friendly. If microformats could help improve the crawlability of a page then it would seem like a good idea to include them wherever possible.

I couldn't find much information about this on the web so I asked the question on Stack Overflow (my favourite tech forum) to see what other web designers thought: Does Google ‘understand’ microformats and will it help my SEO? It seems I jumped the gun slightly because only a month later Google announced support for microformats in their general search engine with their new Rich Snippets feature. This is great news for the semantic web. At this stage they are only supporting the hCard and hReview formats but it's safe to say that support will be extended in the future to include many others.

Today I have been busily updating my blog so it uses the hAtom microformat. This is a draft format for blogs that is still being worked on, but I'm happy to put it into action and test it out. It's pretty clear to me now that microformats will become increasingly important on the web as we demand more from the internet and search engines. The semantic web is the future and I want to be a part of it! =)

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Matthew James Taylor