HCards, Microformats and Address Data does it Matter for SEO

A few weeks  ago @etnainteractive asked me a question on twitter about HCards and Microformats, and do they matter for SEO. I’m going to explain what they are for those of you who don’t know what thay is. I’m also going to be taking a bigger look at address data and SEO implications.Ok HCards are supposed to be the web page equivilant of VCards for email. They are supposed to provide properly tagged information that can be read by spiders, crawlers, browsers, toolbars or a myriad of other devices. If you go to the official HCard Microformat wiki website and try to learn about HCards, your head will explode … really. It’s so complex, non intuitive, and written up in the stratosphere, only a PHD and patent attorney could love it … really. Thankfully I’m here to cut through the BS and give it to you straight, because it’s really simple. Here’s an example of a name and address with the proper HCard formatting tags:

John Henry Smith
Big Wig Corporation LLC
123 Main Street
Mountain View
, CA, 94043
United States
650-555-1212

Doesn’t look that different does it … the real magic is behind the code

<div id="hcard-John-Henry-Smith" class="vcard"><span class="given-name">John</span> <span class="additional-name">Henry</span> <span class="family-name">Smith</span>
Big Wig Corporation LLC<a class="email" href="mailto:jhsmith@gmail.com"> </a></div>
<div class="vcard"><a class="email" href="mailto:jhsmith@gmail.com">jhsmith@gmail.com</a></div>
<div id="hcard-John-Henry-Smith" class="vcard">
<div class="adr">
<div class="street-address">123 Main Street<span class="locality">
Mountain View</span>, <span class="region">CA</span>, <span class="postal-code">94043</span>
<span class="country-name">United States</span></div>
</div>
<div class="tel">650-555-1212</div>
</div>

You can see each of the elements has a class applied to it like “street-address”, “tel”, “given-name” and it all sits inside of a big “vcard” div class. These names are standardized, you can’t make up your own as you go along. Stick with the standard names and anyone who builds an HCard reader into any of their tools will able to parse your data. If you want to see a full list of all the HCard tags I suggest using the HCard tool to build a sample and copying those tags.

Onto part two and the real question, does this help your SEO efforts. After looking at different data I wasn’t able to see any ranking boost I could even loosely connect to the implementation of HCard usage.

That said I don’t think HCards are something you should ignore either. If you are working on any local address driven project implementing HCard tags is something I would put on the long term project list or on the “to do” list next time you touch the programming. At some point there will be enough critical mass and search engines will start to give it some small amount of weight and it’s better you be prepared and ahead of the curve, than playing catchup when that happens.

The next logical question is what are some ways I can use address data to get a boost in my rankings, if I don’t have my address on my website should I put it there, and what about the address on website registration information.

Going back to the 2006 Google Librarian Newsletter where they talk give hints to Librarians on how to know whether a website is trustworthy, they hint around the concept of address, telephone and other physical real world “markers”.

If you have a verified Google Profile, you’ll know one of the methods they use to verify is phone number. I have multiple phone numbers, they have been around for years and Google knows about them, but the only one they would verify me on was my home number, which happens to be in Google’s database with my home address. The same is true for a verified Google Knol profile. Faking an address won’t work anymore, they know a real address from a fake one.

If you’re going to put an address on a website, I’d suggest putting only one per page and put it in a normal format (name, street address, city, state, zip) no mystery meat formats from designers who are experimenting with visual nonconfomity. If you have more than one location put the main address on all the pages and give each address their own page. I’ve seen much better local one box results when you do. This applies to companies with a handful of locations, have a lot of locations and it’s a different set of rules.

Lastly let’s talk about private registration information. I know there are a lot of valid and legitimate reasons for having registration information hidden, but I’ve seen a lot of indications google doesn’t like it. Perhaps I should clarify that, it’s not that google doesn’t like it hiden it’s that they do like when the domain registration information matches the information on the website. Can’t show you any examples but go look for yourself on big KWD local searches, it’s not a 100% thing but it is a  preferance. You can spend hours, days,weeks, and months protesting and debating how “wrong” google is about it or you can adapt, overcome and give them what they want. The choice is up to you.

So let’s wrap this up into a few actionable points:

  • Put only one address on a page if possible
  • For multiple locations give each location thier own address
  • Try to match domain registration address information with on site information
  • Make hCard formatting a rainy day project in the near future

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