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Understanding Google My Business & Local Search

Google Announces Full Support for Microformats in Local

The Lat-Long Blog has announced that Google is now supporting rich snippets as a mechanism for identifying the specific location that a webpage is referring to:

From a local search perspective, part of this effort means looking for all the great web pages that reference a particular place. The Internet is teeming with useful information about local places and points of interest, and we do our best to deliver relevant search results that help shed light on locations all across the globe.

Today, we’re announcing that your use of Rich Snippets can help people find the web pages you’ve created that may reference a specific place or location. By using structured HTML formats like hCardto markup the business or organization described on your page, you make it easier for search engines like Google to properly classify your site, recognize and understand that its content is about a particular place, and make it discoverable to users on Place pages.

From Google’s Rich Snippets for Local Search page:

Beyond improving the presentation of your pages in search results, rich snippets also help users find your website when it references a local place. By using structured markup to describe a business or organization mentioned on your page, you not only improve the Web by making it easier to recognize references to specific places but also help Google surface your site in local search results.

Here’s how you can optimize your site for local search results:

  1. Use structured markup to help Google identify the places mentioned on your site. If your site contains reviews or other information about businesses and organizations, then the structured markup helps precisely correlate your pages with the place mentioned.
  2. Tell us about your content so that we know who you are and what content you have to offer if additional opportunities arise.

Google’s decision to support a more structured approach to presenting local data on the web has been a long time coming. Chris Silver Smith first recommended hCard as a best practice for Local SEO in October 2007 shortly after Yahoo announced support for the standard. Google announced a more general support in their index for Microformats (Rich Snippets) in partnership with large review sites like Yelp in May of 2009.

This announcement is interesting on several levels. It appears that Google is ready to scrape and include in Places index location information that is marked up in hCard or a similar formats. While it appears from the announcement that they will also be generally scraping other information like reviews that are properly marked up, it is not clear that it will flow directly into the index. They noted that sites that are using review markeup to use Google’s form to tell them about your content so that they know who you are and “what content you have to offer if additional opportunities arise“. (Bold mine) One presumes that this will allow Google to pick and choose which sites to scrape to include in Places. It might also open up Places to smaller sites to show their data in Places that have been unable to get Google to accept their data previously.

From a local best practice point of view it confirms what many Local SEO’s have been saying for some time: Be sure to encode your address in hCard format. But the implications are really more important for news and blog sites as these now have a better way of indicating to Google that a particular article is about a particular place and to feel confident that the information would flow correctly within Google.