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Markup your website so machines can read it
2013-11-08: Websites are great for humans, but not so great for machines.
Why should we care?
Imagine speaking to your phone and asking for the best pepperoni pizza in town, delivered to you .. and it arriving.
Imagine asking your computer to book you in with a local chiropracter while you take a shower. When you come back, you're booked in, your diary is updated.
Futuristic? We're really not far off. Actually, we're so close that every business needs to get prepared.
Anyone with a smart phone has the capability to dictate to their phone and have it automatically converted to text.
You'll be able to buy Google Glass next year (voice-command glasses with a head-up display to 'augment' reality).
Lots of people use Trip Advisor, Google ratings, Yelp & so on to rate experiences.
Google is certainly capable of delivering answers. The latest update to Google's search software aims to handle human phrases better. So now instead of bending our search phrase to suit Google: "cheap car insurance stockport" we can get good results using normal, speech-like search phrases such as "find me the cheapest car insurance locally" (Google is obviously getting ready for when speaking to your computer becomes normal). Your smartphone knows where you are. Other Google services are tracking your habits. Google Plus knows your age. Google Checkout knows your bank details. So it's not much of a jump for Google to sort out your car insurance.
All that's really missing is .. it's not easy for Google to understand the meaning of the data contained on a website.
Basically, everyone else is ready except you.
For instance, if you own a restaurant, you probably have a menu on your website. Google can't be sure about that, it just sees text, not the meaning of the text. But if we put some markers around the menu to tell Google "here's the menu", then Google can be sure and it can collect, compare and display menus whenever someone feels like eating out.
Most businesses have common data that can be marked up this way. Opening hours. Location. Phone number. Photograph of your frontage.
Now, it's all very early days for this, but it's going to be huge and it seems to be creeping up on us silently. To benefit, your website will need to be marked up. For instance, here's the markup currently available for a florist.
I've been implementing this markup across websites I'm currently involved with, and .. like I say it's early days, but I'm pretty sure it helps with local search. It could just be that Google likes it when I tickle a website, but location markup is very well defined in Schema.org and it seems to me that adding location markup has helped my clients get high in location search.
So my message is simple .. look what's happening, and get your website marked up with Schema tags before your competitors do.

By John Allsopp
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