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Google endorses microformats

© May 2009 Anthony Lawrence

Google has announced support for Rich Snippets. This is information you add to your web pages using "microformats" to help Google understand specific data. For example, Google understands vcard tags. I think it's likely that they understood those long before this announcement, but now they have also added hreview for reviews and say that they intend to extend this idea.

I think it's great, but not everyone is so enthusiastic. Some think that spammers will abuse this or that it will only benefit large sites. While that all could be true, I don't see any reason NOT to make use of this - anything that helps Google understand your pages better has to help you no matter what anyone else is doing.

I've started doing this on pages here. I've updated recent reviews and added microformat tags to the Linux and Unix Consultants page. You can "View Source" there and look for "vcard" to see how this is done. For an example of using hReview, look at the source for Take Control of the Mac Command Line with Terminal. You'll see these tags in the source:

<div class="hReview">
<div class="item">

Those tell Google that this is a review. Later on, I tag the title with a "fn" tag. Notice that these are done "inline".

<p><i><span class="fn">
Take Control of the Mac Command Line with Terminal</span></i> 
is the answer.
<div class="summary">Joe Kissell leads you step by step from
knowing absolutely nothing to having confident control of Mac OS
X Terminal and the bash shell.   If you have been fearful of the
OS X command line, this is where you want to start.</div></p>

I use a few more tags to identify the reviewer, the date, and a rating:

<p><span class="reviewer">Tony Lawrence</span> 
<span class="dtreviewed">2009/05/04</span> 
Rating:  <span class="rating">4.5</span></p>

Note that you don't need to use DIV or SPAN - you can add these class identifiers to any tag, so if your data is already structured (for example with UL/LI tags), you can use those.

This is simple enough, but unfortunately, some of the examples Google provides are inaccurate and potentially confusing. I'd pay more attention to Microformats.org pages for guidance.

I'd like to see Google add a "tutorial" format with similar fields to "hreview" but the rating would run from "1.0" (Basic) to "5.0" (Advanced).

Got something to add? Send me email.

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-> Google endorses microformats

Inexpensive and informative Apple related e-books:

Photos for Mac: A Take Control Crash Course

Take Control of Pages

Take Control of iCloud

Digital Sharing Crash Course

Take Control of OS X Server

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