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SEO and HTML5

July 2nd, 2014 by Erick Beck

We switched all of our sites over to HTML5 over the last two years. During the transition I saw many advantages of HTML5. Its new tags gave greater structure to the page and cut the related style sheets by more than half. I suspect now that it was also having an impact on our search results.

Google says outright that they like structured data. While they are primarily referring to microformats and other specifically structured code, I can’t help but think the added structure within HTML5 pages has to be picked up. Tags such as <nav>, <article>, and <footer> all have specific structural meanings which are relevant to what Google itself says is important.

Navigation is considered a central element, and now we can explicitly state the links that we consider navigation. While we often used <div class="nav" to mark navigation, and I’m sure Google was able to pick up on that, having an actual tag doing the job insures that our intent is properly interpreted.

Similarly, the <article> tag allows us to tell search engines exactly what content we consider the main focus of the page. Along with the accompanying <aside> tag that lets us mark content sections as supplemental information, we now have much greater control over the structural meaning of our pages. This would be especially important on something like WordPress-based news site where there are multiple articles on the same page.

Link bleed is the concept of having “too many” links on your page, such that the overall link value that you get is diluted or even reduces your page rank. In previous versions of HTML this could further be exacerbated by the large number of common links in the pages’ header and footer section. The new <header> and <footer> tags, though, allow search engines to clearly see the purpose of these sections and discount the links contained within them.

In theory this all sounds good, but I won’t pretend to be an SEO professional. I have not set up any A-B testing to empirically see whether or how much influence these things actually make on organic return listings.

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