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Google Supports Microformats, Rolls Out Rich Snippets

The annual Google Searchology [1] conference held recently revealed some interesting offerings in the search marketing field. Google had introduced personalised search and universal search through the same event in previous years.

Google has stated its support for rich microformats. Yahoo’s Search Monkey has already implemented them. But is still not clear if the search engines read them. Local search results have been rumoured to use microformats but there is no evidence to back this either.

Google has introduced Rich Snippets whereby existing open standards microformats like  hCard [2] , hCalendar [3] and  RDF [4] (Resource Description Framework) assume significance.

Google’s adoption of these standards now gives webmasters an incentive to include microformats on their websites. They can enhance their existing data through use of these open standards without registering with Google. The rich snippets enhance the search results on the SERPs and show more information. To start with reviews from Yelp and user profiles from LinkedIn will be part of this process.

If your company address on your website is enclosed in a hCard microformat, this will appear as part of the enhanced listing on the SERPs for your site result.

If your site has a product launch coming up in say two months from now, you can use a hCalendar format to enable the search engines to display it as a rich snippet. Being an open standard, your calendar can be shared with other users who can import it into their Outlook and Google Calendar apps. This can build backlinks to the calendar on your site.

Sentiment analysis is a unique feature that Google uses to emphasise opinions from user reviews. It can be used as a description enclosed in quotes in the absence of rich snippets. This can be used in conjuction with the newly released Google search options that allows you to slice and dice search results by various options, one of which is Reviews.

Google’s rich snippets is much easier to implement than Yahoo’s SearchMonkey. As a site owner, you have to make the metadata available to Googlebot by placing the microformats on your web pages. To use SearchMonkey, you need to develop an application that will use the microformat data on your site to make it compatible for Yahoo to use on their SERPs.

Another option is the new Google search options is People search. This can be used in sync with Google Profiles to highlight a user’s job title, name and the geographical location of the company. Searchers can distinguish between people having the same name or sharing names with a celebrity.

A site owner cannot control the enhancement of his site listings. He has to make this metadata available in the first place for Google. Also, placement of data in microformats will not ensure enhanced listings for a site in the SERPs.

A site owner can request Google to be considered for the inclusion of rich snippets using this form [5]. This helps the bots to find your content quicker than finding it in a regular crawl.

Both Google and Yahoo have clearly stated that they will not be using microformats for indexing and ranking purposes at this point. It could be considered in future based on its usefulness and popularity.

Ravi Venkatesan is a senior search marketing consultant at Netconcepts [6] and based out of Auckland, New Zealand. He also posts regularly to Online Marketer blog at www.onlinemarketer.co.nz

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