Microformats, RDFa and the semantic web

One of the big problems on the web is that there is no semantic meaning to any of the information on it. What this means is that the code in your website describes how to display the information (bold, underlined, italics, left-aligned, right-aligned, etc) but it doesn't explain what it actually means.

That's fine for humans. When you're reading a website, you can understand what is about because you understand English. But computers, and search engines don't.

For example, if you have a list of products on your website, a computer will find it difficult to know which text is the product name, and which text is the description. It won't know which image is an image of the product and which image is just the manufacturer logo. It would find it difficult to know which price is the RRP and which is your discounted price. You can understand all of this perfectly by the way it is presented on the screen, but computers, and search engines, don't understand the context.

The goal of providing this semantic meaning to each of the pieces of information on websites has been discussed by the IT community for several years and unfortunately, several competing solutions have arisen.

Google has announced that it is going to start supporting 2 of these formats (one known as RDFa and the other is known as Microformats) and other search engines are indicating that they will follow suit.

So what does this mean for you?

Well, by providing this extra code on your website, search engines and other tools can understand the data on your website better. This means that you may receive extra links to the data on your website, you make appear on specialist comparison services or any number of extra tools.

It's still early days for this technology so it's very difficult to predict all of the benefits or to quantify any of them. But it does mean that those who start using these technologies early may start to see some of those benefits earlier than their competitors.

OpenGlobal can provide these formats for our standard website management clients as standard. There's no real reason for not using these technologies, there's no extra cost to them, it's just a bit of extra hidden data on some pages of your website.

Contact us to find out about introducing this (and other lesser known technologies) to your website.

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