As more and more broad queries deliver localized results, local search optimization has become an integral part of small business SEO. Previously I outlined how to find websites to fuel your local SEO efforts, but this month I want to outline how your own website can fuel your local SEO with the help of semantic markup.

What Is Semantic Markup?

Semantic markup is a means of helping search engines, browsers, and apps better identify what a block of information in a document is by providing a machine readable language that can better define the content.

Currently some of the most frequently used formats are microdata, microformats, and RDFa. Each is structured slightly different, but fortunately all are supported by Google and you can use whichever format works best for you.

While semantic markup can be used for numerous applications, including recipes and events. It's benefit for local search mostly lies in the ability to clearly define an address on a page and to identify reviews.

Make Your Mark on the Map

Since semantic markup can clearly define a business and it's location, a great place to start applying the markup is to your business address within your website. By adding markup to your address you solidify the business location to the search engines and any browsers or apps that rely on this local information. Google offers examples of microdata, microformats, and RDFa business markup in Webmaster Tools Help.

Below is an example of the Search Engine People address using the HTML5 microdata specification:

<div itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Organization">
<span itemprop="name">Search Engine People</span>
<span itemprop="address" itemscope itemtype="http://data-vocabulary.org/Address">
<span itemprop="street-address">100 Westney Road South Unit 200, Building E</span>
<span itemprop="locality">Ajax</span>,
<span itemprop="region">ON</span>
<span itemprop="country-name">Canada</span>
<span itemprop="postal-code">L1S 7H3</span>

As you can see in the code, each span in the microdata format identifies the content as something specific, be it the business name, street address, locality, postal code or the like. By specifying that this is an address, you help the search engines and other apps that rely on this data to clearly classify this as an address, and not just a random string of words and numbers.

Let Them Know What The People Are Saying

While there has been some debate about whether or not it's good or bad to markup your testimonials and reviews on your website, it has been a practice I have been implementing for clients for over a year now and have not seen any negative repercussions from it. By marking up your testimonials and reviews you create an opportunity for Google or another local vertical to index reviews from your website. As with anything with Google, there are no guarantees that your reviews will be picked up and applied to your Places listing, however they will at least be clearly classified as such allowing Google or any other site or app that wants that data to properly utilize it as needed.

While the long term benefits and overall applications of microformats, microdata, and RDFa are still to be determined, we know that Google and other services are looking at this data and use it to classify information within a page. Furthermore, we know that Google is already utilizing this data for rich snippets in their search results. The usage of these kinds of markup may not be widely adopted by internet marketers and web designers, but that doesn't mean that it's not being utilized from an information retrieval perspective.