I was pleased to see that Google Maps team announced support of the hCard microformat today in map search results. This will make the export of address/contact info easier for users, and pave the way for perhaps greater integration between the map results and other applications. If you have a browser with a Microformat plugin feature, you can easily export listing information for use in Outlook or other applications you may have:
Can we hope that Google’s support of Microformats at the front-end of their application might also indicate that they may eventually support Microformats at the back-end? As you may recall, in local SEO tips I posted last year, I recommended that local business webmasters not just include their business address on their site pages, but to do so in the hCard Microformat. I was probably the first to propose doing this for local search optimization, even though there’s been no overt mention from the search engine representatives that this is necessary or desirable. So, why did I recommend doing that?
Well, it doesn’t require much time to do it, and it won’t interfere with the normal indexing or optimization of a site for either local search engines or regular web search engines. It provides a nice feature for those who have set up their browsers to use Microformats for portability of information. The most important reason I suggested it was that I think it could improve the ability of search engines to take and interpret address/contact info from a website in order to list the site in local search results – if enough local webmasters adopted the practice, the search engines would certainly be likely to interpret the format when spidering results (if they haven’t already) in order to help improve quality and reduce chances for error.
In my more recent call for a standard local business profile format, I further recommended that such a protocol should ideally be based on the hCard Microformat. Now, I’ve seen the local listing submission format that Google Maps uses, along with many other sites’ data formats, and they’re all across the board in terms of commonalities. Businesses desiring to provide updated/enhanced data about their locations to all the various online local directories have to output their data in many different flavors, creating a technical maintenance headache and creating barriers to companies with limited time and resources. If one standard were declared companies would flock to it, saving themselves money, and improving local data across many sites, resulting in enhanced user-experiences for consumers.
The Google Maps team’s new deployment of Microformat support is yet another brilliant development in their evolution of local search. I hope they keep going in the direction they’ve been going.
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