Microformats for SEO

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Unless you scour the Web relentlessly for the "latest and greatest" solution to seamless design and cutting edge SEO practices, you may not have yet come across the term microformats. "Designed for humans first and machines second," according to the official site, microformats "are a set of simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards."  The purpose of using microformats (or at least as I understand it) is to convey as much semantic meaning as possible through the use of common standards. For example, if you tag blog posts then you are using one set of microformats (for categorization on sites such as technorati or del.icio.us). If you use the popular rel="nofollow" attribute when including a link to another's site then you are using another one of several microformat open standards.

Why bother with microformats? Well for one, it's a standards based approach and everybody appreciates a good standard, right? More importantly, microformats may very well be the future of how search engines treat the content on your pages in the coming years. If search engines were to recognize the value in microformats and account for their inherent metadata, the Web (and search results pages) would be a much different place. The reason is because accurate and appropriate metadata is one of the keys to tying all of the World's available content together. See where I'm going with this? More opportunities to "explain" your content to the search engines will result in more accurate results for end-users. And who's going to argue against that?

Using microformats enables websites to provide detailed information to search engines which in turn can be used to refine the data those services provide the wider Web population. The current problem as I see it however is that while their is a push for a common "dictionary" of these standards, most designers and SEO's still don't use them and search engines really don't account for them yet - that is a big "yet" though. Adoption is strong and all signs are pointing to the fact that search engines will begin interpreting and understanding the relationships between sites, the people behind them and the ideas that spawned them soon - some argue very soon.

 

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