In a perfect world, search engines would have human-like intelligence. You could ask them a question, and they would actually provide results with the perfect answer. They could look at a website, and understand exactly how the images related to the words, or what every element on every webpage is.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Search engines have to guess about a lot of things. After all, that’s why SEO is such a big business – because search engines need us humans to tell them what they’re looking at… and sometimes aren’t smart enough to tell if some of us sneakier humans are trying to trick them.

So we all add our metadata to the head of our websites, add keywords to our pages and posts, and all that. But that isn’t all you can do, you know.

Well, there are lots of other things you can do to give the search engines a better chance at finding your website. Not all of them are good. Some might get your website blacklisted forever.

I most definitely don’t suggest using those sorts of SEO tactics.

But lucky for you, there are these things called microformats that are completely on the up-and-up… they’re even recommended by Google.

The surprisingly human world of microformats

Essentially, microformats are simply attributes that you add to your existing HTML. Most of them are simply additional classes that you put in the elements surrounding whatever it is that you want to identify… like the ingredients in a recipe, or the location of an event.

Wikipedia has some pretty good articles explaining the different formats you can use, and has two lists about all their microformats specifications, if you want to read more about them.

Okay… so why should I care?

Not long ago, Google announced their new Recipe View… which – you guessed it – makes a big use of microformats to determine what sites have recipes on them.

So now, for food bloggers like me? Yeah… microformats have suddenly become very important. (So much so, that I developed a WordPress plugin and a web application that help other food bloggers format their recipes with microformats.)

But don’t think you’re off the hook if you don’t write about recipes. Google also currently uses microformats in their Reviews, People, Products, Events, and other searches… and future specialized searches they roll out will surely involve microformats as well.

But that’s not all! There’s also microdata (instead of microformats) if you use HTML5 on your website… so stay tuned, because there will surely be another post about that coming soon.

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