hcard Microformats - An Essential Part of Your Local Search Strategy

By Jennifer Black, Local.com

As increasing numbers of local businesses are moving to the Web to promote their products and services, the challenge for each company remains the same: how do customers find my business online?

Web marketers laud various search engine optimization strategies.  Finding ways to build the right set of buzzwords required to help your business stand apart when it comes to relevant local searches is a great start.  But sometimes, the answer can be simple.  Take the example of hCard Microformats combined with search engine optimization techniques.

Major search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Local.com support hCard formats, so making hCard Microformats should be a key component of your SEO strategy.

The hCard Microformat is basically a standard method of marking up your HTML coding, semantically, to tip off local search engines, search applications, and mobile devices about a page on your site where dedicated text exists for specific business information.  This typically includes contact information: name, address, phone number, email, directions and other data that can usually be found in a data directory.

Placing this contact information in an hCard Microformat is fast becoming a common practice as a method local search engines use especially when spidering local websites to deliver highly relevant local business search results. The hCard Microformat makes it as clear as possible for a local search engine to ascertain the local website's business contact information.
Local businesses, using local search to finds local customers, are employing hCard Microformatting as one method of optimizing for organic search results.  This especially holds true for franchise businesses with multiple locations in a concentrated geographical area.  A local franchise can use hCard Microformatting to provide better relevance to a local search.

Here are some additional tips from Local.com for optimizing your website/webpage for local search results.  Local.com is an industry-leading local search engine and network that delivers the most relevant local search results:

  1. Use Optimized Title Tags - For example, 'Business Name + Service Type, City, Province/State' | Keyword 1, Keyword 2, Keyword 3 etc., ‚àö√ë‚Äö√¢¬ß  For example, Flower Power, Irvine, California | Great selection of Fresh Flowers | Fast Flower Arrangements.
  2. Effective Use of Header1 and Header 2 Tags - Header tags should succinctly reflect the complete full business name and describe the type of service.  For example, "From Hair to Eternity, Irvine, California" is a good example of a header tag.  Be sure to use the full business address in an easy to use hCard Microformat.  hCard assists local search engines with separate address information - like   business name, street address, city, and zip codes. Use local phone numbers to build trust from your customers, and from local search engines. This is ideal for businesses with one location, but multiple phone numbers. It's a good idea to always include a local phone number on each landing page for your business website.  Simply use the format (714) 832-8916.
  3. Embed Local Maps on your Landing Page - Use local maps from Google, Yahoo!, or Mapquest on your landing page to provide customers with an easy and interactive way to find your business online. But don't assume the addition of Google Maps or Mapquest will help customers find your business online.  Use a brief set of directions from the North, South, East and West for potential customers seeking your products or services. Using Google Maps, for example, also contributes towards a higher ranking in the Google local ten-pack listings.
  4. Describe Services Offered By Your Business and Your Hours of Operation - Services can differ from business location to business location.  And hours of operation can also vary wildly.  To help your local search customers choose your business location for their needs, add descriptions of services provided and your hours of operation to your body content.
  5. Add a Local Address and Phone Number to Your Meta Tag Descriptions -   To track and see how effective your local search efforts are, use a secondary phone line/phone number and place it in your meta tags.  This will let you know if your customers call you after finding you upon completing a local search request.  If you don't have an extra phone line, add one via Skype or some other VoIP phone service that makes phone numbers clickable.
  6. Add Keywords in Your URL - Include keywords in your business's URL.  Separate them by using hyphens and only use your most important keywords without your business name.  This works best when you don't have a well-recognized brand.

Most of the major search engines have either official or unofficial support for hCard Microformats.  Local.com supports this type of formatting.  Yahoo! Local also supports hCard Microformats.  Google has also added hCard Microformatting into their search results.

Some local search engines make errors when interpreting address information from web pages.  They try to automatically associate websites with business listings in their databases. So, hCard Microformatting would be very useful for local engines, should the signal be more available to them.

Aside from local search optimization, another great reason to employ hCard Microformatting is for the direct benefit of a local search engine's users.  This is the local search equivalent of the "bookmark this page" link. Adding the hCard formatting to your address and contact information on your page makes it easier for users to click and save the data to their online address books and for other mobile applications.  Adding a page isn't hard to do.  It should be done as a "best practice" until the hCard Microformat is more formally recognized by all local search engines.

About the Author: Jennifer Black is vice president of marketing for Local.com, a top U.S. website and local search network attracting approximately 17 million visitors each month seeking information about local businesses, products, services and travel destinations.  Reach Jennifer at (jblack@local.com or to reach Local.com call (888) 857-6722).