hRecipe Formatting - Recipes and the Semantic Web
Taken as a whole, a recipe is an inherently structured data type; it necessarily contains concepts such as ingredients, amounts, steps, and durations. Consequently, recipes are an ideal data type with which to bind semantics and data together in order to create recipes easily readable by both humans and computers.
The mechanisms for doing so are microformats: simple, open data formats built upon existing and widely adopted standards. Microformats enable the representation of semantic information within a web page; in simplest terms, the HTML markup now includes the data as well as the meaning of the data. And with this meaning, information can be leveraged in ways never conceived by the author of the data.
Recipes built using Meal Planner Pro's forms are based on a microformat called hRecipe. For example, instead of:
hRecipe would encode it as
While the encoding of recipe data might at first seem like a purely technical matter, in fact, utilizing hRecipe provides significant advantages to you the publisher and to end users:
Consider a user looking for a recipe for Vietnamese spring rolls. Any decent recipe site can handle that. But with hRecipe, the site could offer suggestions for other Vietnamese dishes, or other appetizers, or even other recipes that use similar ingredients. And it can easily do so precisely because the concept of Vietnamese as a cuisine, and shrimp as an ingredient, is understood by the site. The ability to offer superior navigation and menu planning suggestions is thus enabled by the microformat in a way not easily possible for a "plaintext" version of the very same recipe.
With the semantic encoding of microformats, more interesting monetization avenues open up in a way not possible with plaintext recipes. Consider being able to click an "Order All Ingredients" button that places an order on Safeway.com or AmazonFresh. How? Because the site knows all the ingredients and the amounts necessary to make that dish.
Improved page rank and click-throughs
Consider the challenge Google faces. It must scan, try to understand, and classify every web site on the planet. Like any entity, Google appreciates help, and encoding sites with microformats is a huge help to Google. Instead of crawling a site and trying to figure out whether the page contains a recipe, a microformat provides that information to Google "predigested"; Google doesn't have to infer the meaning of the data because the meaning has been directly encoded into the site data. Consequently, Google knows (as opposed to infers) not just that it is a recipe, but that it is a low-cal chicken breast recipe because information like calorie counts are encoded on the page in a standard way. Classification by crawlers becomes both faster and more accurate. Better yet, Google shows its appreciation by ranking and displaying microformatted data preferentially because the data is already semantically encoded; this is all part of Google "Rich Snippets" initiative. And because it has more definitive information to render, it can display search results in a more attractive and useful way.