Google Ready To Support Rich Microformats

Hi all,
The annual Google Searchology conference opened up to a select audience with Google revealing their latest offerings in the search space.

In previous years, Google introduced personalised search and universal search through this event. This year is no different with lots of interesting features in the anvil.

Let us start off by looking at Google’s support for rich microformats. Yahoo has already implemented them. But it is still a point of debate whether search engines read them or not. There is a suspicion that local search results are influenced by microformats but there is no conclusive proof yet.

This introduction of Rich Snippets by Google brings microformats into the limelight. Clearly the hCard, hCalendar and RDF (Resource Description Framework) microformats which are open standards, will play an important role in days to come with webmasters having an incentive to include these formats on their web pages.

This markup enhances the data existing already on the website pages using existing open standards and does not require any registration with Google. The search results will be enhanced by inclusion of rich snippet that shows more information including reviews from sites like Yelp (reviews) and LinkedIn (users) to start with.

If the address on a website is placed in a microformat using the hCard, this is a clear signal to the search engines and it can ultimately end up as part of an enhanced listing visible just below your site result.

If a site has a schedule for the upcoming month with product launches etc, a hCalendar format can help the search engines display it as a rich snippet. Being an open standard, the calendar can be shared easily by users and imported into their Outlook or Google Calendar applications. This can also result in links pointing back to the calendar on your site.

Google uses a feature called sentiment analysis to single out review information from sites and list that as the description in the absence of any rich snippets. This particular feature works in tandem with the newly released Search Options where you can choose to view results by Reviews. The sentiment analysis results are enclosed in quotes.

With the evolution of Google Profiles, the People Search is embellished by highlighting a person’s job title, company and location to help searchers differentiate between people having the same name or sharing the same name with a celebrity.

Google’s rich snippets are very similar to Yahoo’s SearchMonkey though there is an underlying difference in functionality. The site owner has to only make the metadata available on her website for Google to display it. With SearchMonkey, you have to develop an application that will use the metadata on your site to be available for Yahoo to display on its results.

A site owner cannot control the enhancement of her site listings. Google will extract the metadata on a site provided the site owner makes it available.

Placement of data in microformats does not automatically mean that a site will see enhanced listings in the search results. As a site owner you can also request Google to be considered for inclusion of rich snippets using this form. This helps in having your content looked at more quickly than being found in a regular Google crawl.

Both Google and Yahoo have indicated that at this point of time, they are not using microformats for indexing and ranking purposes. If this feature turns out to be both useful and popular, then it could be considered in future.

Stay tuned for more interesting features that came out of this year’s Google Searchology meet as discussed on this Netconcepts blog.