Draft Microformats – the Future Looks Structured

This is an old, albeit interesting post. For a more up to date guide to Schema and Rich Snippets, take a look at our Guide to Rich Snippets here.

Microformats have been around for a while and there’s plenty of evidence that search engines wish to continue supporting the emergence of these standards in an effort to better dissect the web’s information. In fact, some known search engineers are directly involved with Microformat development.

Making sure there’s enough support for webmasters and SEO’s, Google have gone so far as to give  tools to test Microformat implementations on webpages and there’s definitely a feeling from all of the search engines that structured data is part of their future.

What direction are Microformats taking us in? Here’s a selection of Microformats old and new that have useful applications, today.

My favourite (approved) Microformats

Based on Microformats.org’s specifications page, here’s a list of all current, stable Microformats:

- hCalendar (creator)

A simple, open, distributed calendaring and events format, using a 1:1 representation of standard iCalendar. Good for sites that describe events, with a markup for start time, end time, location and many other options.

- hCard – (hCard creator)

A simple, open, distributed format for representing people, companies, organizations, and places. I use this particular format to markup the contact details on my jobs pages, based on a guide to using hCard I wrote.

- rel-license

An open format for indicating content licenses which is embeddable in HTML or XHTML, Atom, RSS, and arbitrary XML. This is the standard for which we’re advised to markup Creative Commons attribution. Want to attribute a Flickr image correctly? You could do a lot worse than use ImageCodr, a tool that will choose your licence and mark up the attribution perfectly. Nice.

- rel-nofollow

By adding rel=”nofollow” to a hyperlink, a page indicates that the destination of that hyperlink SHOULD NOT be afforded any additional weight or ranking by user agents which perform link analysis upon web pages (e.g. search engines). You might be interested to see that Matt Cutts was a concept contributor for this standard.

- rel-tag

By adding rel=”tag” to a hyperlink, a page indicates that the destination of that hyperlink is an author-designated “tag” (or keyword/subject) for the current page. Note that a tag may just refer to a major portion of the current page (i.e. a blog post). Yahoo announced support for this on June 11th 2009.

- VoteLinks

“Indexing and tracking applications treat all links as endorsements, or expressions of support. This is a problem, as we need to link to those we disagree with as well, to discuss why.”

By including the attributes: rev=”vote-for” or rev=”vote-against” we can indicate in the hyperlink whether we agree with the sentiment in the linked to post, or not. Cool.

- XFN - XFN creator

XFN is a simple way to represent human relationships using hyperlinks. WordPress (allows? – I haven’t checked for a while) you to indicate your relationship to the linked to site in your blog roll. Are you a friend, colleague, family? That’s what XFN does.

Draft Microformats – the future looks structured

These Microformats are draft status, essentially meaning, use them, but they might change. That’s not a problem as most front end developers would likely agree. Microformats are reasonably easy to implement if you understand them, so what’s the risk in getting there early? I’ve included the ones that caught my eye, and the one’s I’ll probably use somewhere sometime soon.

- Geo

For marking up longitude and latitude. Tripit has a very good example of this – check the source in your contacts list.

- hAudio

Adding a link to a music file, say, an MP3 in your web page is great for people, but not so much for search engines. Use this markup to define details such as artist, production date, duration and thumbnail image. Could be very useful if you’re optimising for Google Music.

- hRecipe

Who’d have thought recipes would get their own Microformat? No longer are the subtleties of a pinch of salt or a miggins of lark’s tongue a mystery to search engine crawlers. Recipes have a markup, so will this mean recipe search wilget smarter?

- rel-Home

Rel-home indicates a hyperlink to your site homepage. One for testing, perhaps a search engine engineer might use this to determine the level of relevance passed by a specific type of anchor text?

- hResume

hResume is a microformat for publishing resumes and CVs, developed by jobs board provider Madgex, it’s reported to be in use by Guardian Jobs CV matching functionality. I know from my own experience that CV parsing has historically been a challenge, so all standards to describe candidates, their experience, work history, location and qualifications are most welcome.

There’s no doubt about it, Microformat standards are expanding their reach rapidly. With search engines looking for ever more meaningful data in webpages, I’m glad the Microformats team is here. On page SEO is about to get a lot more interesting…



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7 thoughts on “Draft Microformats – the Future Looks Structured

  1. Wendy says:

    thanks for the nice read.

    I’ve already started putting supported microformats on pages I work with. The results you get are pretty neat, if you do it right.

  2. Darryl says:

    Seems like a good idea, with the wealth of data available and the maturity that search engines are reaching microformat markup should give more searchable results. That being said it all depends on if these are widely enough adopted and embraced, I’m sure there will be people trying to take advantage of these microformats for their own means too, whether this will affect the quality of results remains to be seen.

  3. Ted Goas says:

    What are the actual SEO benefits of some of these microformats? I’ve heard search bots have an easier time understanding the meaning of content marked up in microformats, making it easier to accurately index a page. Anything else, though?

  4. Andy Mabbett says:

    You missed hSpecies, for the names of living things (it’s already in use on Wikipedia): http://microformats.org/wiki/species-strawman-01

  5. Andy Mabbett says:

    No sooner did I say the above, than the BBC are now using the ‘Species’ microformat on their Wildlife Finder; for example, see:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/species/Banded_Mongoose

  6. Andy,

    Great spot! Mind if I blog about that? (with a hat tip to you ofcourse). Thanks!!

  7. Andy Mabbett says:

    Of course not – be my guest. I’m the author of that microformat, so let me know if I can help. Contact details on my website.

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