Microformats are a handful of simple technical standards that let you put information on your web page for other computers, as well as humans, to read. By making the same information computer-accessible, you will improve the user experience for your visitors, and even impact the search engine results pages to make your results stand out more. The result will be more traffic, better qualified traffic, and a higher conversion rate.

The concept is simple: it's just like marking certain text as important on your web page by making it bigger or using a bold font, except you can convey more complex information. Used properly, these tools will drive more traffic and more qualified traffic to your web site.

Let's look at two specific examples.

Example 1: Putting a meeting on the calendar

You are attending a trade show and you want to let people know, so they can sign up as well. All you have to do is go to the free hCalendar creator , put it your event information, and paste its HTML code into your web page. Here's how it looks:

When a user visits this page, they might see something like this:

Soon, browsers will be able to add a customized "Add to calendar" link next to this entry. That is possible because the computer now understands the event information.

More impressively, search engines that index this page will also be able to add an "Add to calendar" link right on the search results page! Imagine your web page standing out of the crowd with some customized, personal links for the user!

Example 2: Product Reviews

As another example, let's say your company has a product that you want to market. The product has been reviewed on your web site and in other places, but right now to see the reviews the visitors have to come in to your web site. Not anymore!

With microformats, you could add a little bit of special text to your web page, telling other computers, such as Google and Yahoo's search engines, about these reviews. The search engines can show five stars (or whatever the appropriate visual display is) and a link to the review right in the search engine results page.

Imagine if someone does a keyword search and sees 10 results, but yours is the only one that has product reviews right there in the search engine result page! It's a free and simple way to get more traffic to your web site, and it's likely to be more qualified traffic as well.

Here's how this would look:

And in a browser, it might look like this:


Technical Details

The meeting example above uses a microformat called hCalendar . Try entering one of your events into the free hCalendar Creator tool , and it will give you the right text to paste into your page.

The product review example above uses a microformat called hReview . There is also an hReview Creator , where you can input your product information and it will give you the text to paste into your web page.

Technically, this type of data representation is called XML, and you can view it or edit it in any text editor. The output from the microformat creator tools can simply be copied and pasted into any web page.

What is RDF? What is the Semantic Web? Are they all related?

RDF, which stands for Resource Description Framework , and the Semantic Web  are two terms closely related to microformats. Both are approaches to making web pages more readable by computers, not just humans. The idea is to give computer programs, like the search engines, more information so they can better display your web page to their own users.

So these technologies are all related in the grand sense of making the web more computer-readable.

 

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Originally published Apr 3, 2008 11:15:00 AM, updated July 28 2017

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Website Design