John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?  Competitive Web & SEO
July 1st, 2009 by john andrews

Structured Data, Microformats, and SEO

The other day I suggested that Google was way ahead of SEOs. After receiving a few emails asking me “what do you mean?” and “What are they working on that we don’t already address?” I decided to step back and ask Social Media to do the leg work on this one. I am not an SEO Tools vendor, so it is very hard for me to justify publishing insights into competitive search engine optimization. The only rewards for doing that seem to be free speaking gigs at Pubcon and SMX, kudos from up-and-coming SEO peers, and high follower counts (which I’m not monetizing).

I’l let the writers and promoters in the SEO community create the “Ten Ways to SEO with Structured Data” and “10 Myths about Microformats and SEO” and “How to Rocket Your Sales and Boost Your Traffic with Microformats” posts. I’m an SEO. I’m busy implementing. So I’ll just report the following:

  • Search engines have invested a great deal of effort into structured data (including micro formats), including naturally structured content (parsing and understanding our natural content) and artificially structured data (such as those addressed by webmaster guidelines or requirements, or emerging standards)
  • Like it or not, your published content is and has for some time been parsed according to rules of structure, some of which has been used to assign relevance scores and adjust search engine inclusion as well as ranking
  • Many SEO bloggers still reveal through their writing that they don’t understand how Google considers web sites like blogs, directories, and portals differently than say brochure sites or forums. I doubt they are in a position to speak with authority when they suggest that certain aspects of content impact/improve/detract from search optimization. Careful what you trust when you read your daily SEO feed. Just because they are your friends does not mean they are correct with their SEO presumptions.
  • Google is not the only game in town, and certainly not the most committed dependent upon structured data. Bing is of all things a major structured data play, as was Wolfram’s engine. is in financial trouble, but not because it didn’t do a good job structuring its data. Following the new rules for making your data accessible to search engines is not necessarily a high road to profits, and may be just the opposite.

The more you structure your data, the easier you are to disintermediate. BUT, the less search referred traffic you get in this search-engine-controlled marketplace, the less likely you are to survive. Sensing the icy cold sting of the double-edged sword? Of course you are…

In tough economic times, those with the power exercise it. Google’s virtual monopoly of the search box, Microsoft’s virtual monopoly of the desktop, and the Yahoo! emerging virtual monopoly on the crossover of tabloid press and social media? Every one of them needs your participation. Every aspect of that participation can be commoditized if it can be structured. Webmasters have responded to nickel rewards for years now with Google’s AdSense program, so why shouldn’t these players expect you to respond to promises of search traffic?

Go forth into Social Media and start talking about the future of SEO in light of the present status of search engines and audience participation:

Q: Does structured data improve SEO outcomes?

Q: Do micro formats enhance local? Do microformats improve SEO?
Q: Do sitemaps and webmaster consoles and content guidelines really help webmasters get indexed and rank, or is that a myth supported by incomplete, misguided, or sloppy SEO reporting?

If you try to actually investigate for yourself, and work at it beyond the basics, you just may find yourself enjoying actual, honest SEO work.

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John Andrews is a mobile web professional and competitive search engine optimzer (SEO). He's been quietly earning top rank for websites since 1997. About John




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