When we look to the future of the internet and how SEO is evolving, what can we expect to find on the agenda in the not so distant future with regards to website mark up?
Well, no one can truly predict the future but by looking at recent past developments we can certainly find a general trend that we are all starting to follow. In my first post as an seo consultant at SEOGadget I will be looking into the use of HTML 5 and (Richards favourite) Micro Formats.
HTML5 – What’s New?
Ok let’s start off with HTML 5 and the introduction of new elements and attributes which not only make a webmasters job a lot easier and more flexible, but more importantly provide a greater context about the content contained on a web page.
For example here are some of these new HTML 5 elements:
Although W3C standards are a set of generic website guidelines which do not necessarily influence SEO directly, the mark up can to some extent be understood by search engines e.g. they expect to see a website header, navigation, content area and some kind of footer. Back at the start of 2009 Dave Harry wrote a great post on page segmentation concepts and how search engines are able to identify common elements on page to determine a framework for a website.
As a result of HTML 5, areas of a web page can now be more easily defined which in turn will provide a solid framework of a page to search engines. In doing so will at the same time provide more specific detail of the content contained on a given web page, which search engines can then use to their advantage in their algorithms.
The Launch of Rich Snippets (Micro Formats, Micro Data and RDFa)
The developments in Micro Formats (as well as Micro Data and RDFa) are also part of an evolutionary chain to provide even greater detail about specific pieces of content on a web page. When Google launched rich snippets back in 2009, support for some micro formats was introduced and as a result these have gradually been incorporated within some types of search queries.
Here are some Micro Formats which are currently supported to some extent by Google:
- hReview-aggregate – This property provides a generic average rating based on the data within individual hreview listings. Attributes include rating, count, and summary.
- hReview – Describes individual review listings with attributes including rating, reviewer, dtreviewed (ISO date format) and description.
- hProduct – Describes an individual product with attributes including fn (name), brand, category, price, description and photo.
- hCalendar – Describes an event including attributes location, dtend (ISO date format) and duration (ISO date duration).
- hRecipe – Describes a specific recipe with attributes including ingredient, instructions, duration and photo.
- hCard – Describes contact/profile information with attributes including fn (name), email, logo, photo, and url.
These micro formats can all influence the information presented on search results. For example a combination of hreview-aggregate, hreview and hrproduct (which could typically be used to describe a product on an ecommerce website), can produce a listing with rating information pulled in:
An example listing of hcalendar incorporated within a web page:
An example of a search result including hrecipe and hreview-aggregate:
An example of a search result incorporating hcard:
Although these are the only Micro formats that we have seen influence search results to date, there is still a number of attributes which although supported do not provide a direct impact on the display of search results and are currently under-going testing.
For example if we take the hproduct property, we have the ability to add attributes such as category, price and photo which currently do not bear any impact on the display of product page search results (although hproduct can be incorporated alongside hreview to display the price), but the attributes themselves are supported by Google.
Could this be an early indicator from Google that micro formats will be playing a more influential role in the development of search listings?
As the idea of micro formats is to provide even greater detail about specific content contained on a web page (as a set of standards), you can clearly see why search engines such as Google have jumped in and developed their search results to display this data. By encouraging webmasters to include micro formats, Google will be able to understand more about the content contained within a website, and could use this information to further judge the relevance of a website to different search queries and provide an insight into developing new potential products.
A recent article on readwriteweb.com – ‘Google’s Semantic Web Push: Rich Snippets Usage Growing‘ also indicates the growing popularity of rich snippets and how Google is trying to encourage web masters to introduce this on their websites.
If we then combine this with news that micro formats 2.0 discussions are already under way to simplify the integration, could this amplify Google’s quest for a greater understanding of website content.
The Evolution of Content is King
In a “Content is King” SEO world how can Google look to evolve this one key strategy to create even more relevant results for its users?
Google have reached out directly to the guys behind the internet, website developers/designers/owners and encouraged the use of even simpler coding with HTML5. A great article at Techcrunch on Google’s HTML5Rocks explains how Google is one of the major players pushing the development of HTML5.
The integration of rich snippets and support for Micro Formats, Micro Data and RDFa is another step to encourage webmasters for the change in mark up by displaying more informative search listings in their rankings.
When you combine the two and look behind the scenes Google have been very clever in gradually integrating a format which will ultimately provide them with a lot more knowledge on the structure and content of websites. This will undoubtedly become an influential factor within the rankings, and future services provided by Google.
The developments in website mark up and rich snippets go a long way in providing a greater insight into the future evolution, not only in SEO but the internet as a whole.