Is HTML5 Good for SEO?

Is HTML5 Good for SEO?This is a question that has been answered in a number of different places. Unfortunately, the answers in some instances have not been good ones. In fact, they’ve either been way too optimistic and/or presumptuous — or else just downright wrong.

Also, when we use the term “HTML5″, what exactly are we referring to? HTML5 covers a number of different features and technologies, some of which have nothing to do with SEO. So, generally speaking, when people ask this question, they’re usually referring to HTML5′s new semantic elements. So, I’ll primarily focus on those here.

What Do Other Sources Say?

As mentioned, a number of blog posts have tried to answer this question. Here are a few examples:

To put it quite bluntly: They’re wrong. No, they’re not 100% wrong; I would never say that about any article. But there are things stated in those pieces that are somewhat misleading and presumptuous. Not to mention that a few of them have some blatant errors. The reason I point these ones out specifically is because they come up early in search results for HTML5 and SEO.

Of course, the somewhat shady nature of those sites should tip most people off to their less than authoritative voice on this subject.

Will HTML5 Help Your Content Rank Higher?

Using HTML5 semantic elements in your pages today will not give your content higher search engine rankings. And I would venture to guess that the semantic elements will never have an effect on page rankings. In fact, it’s almost ridiculous to think this would be the case.

Even if there were eventually some small benefit added to Google’s ranking algorithm for the semantic tags, the difference would be so small that it probably wouldn’t matter. Although we don’t know, and probably will never know, how Google ranks pages, we do know that two of the most important factors are relevancy of content and quality backlinks. And that should never change. Trivial use of semantic tags should never affect SEO rankings, and they certainly don’t do so as of this writing.

Although there may be some more up-to-date sources on this subject, here are a few relevant Google Webmaster Central posts that address this or related issues:

The answers to each post are provided by Google employee John Mu, so unlike some of the overly-optimistic posts cited in the previous section, these are worthy of consideration.

You might also be interested in reading this article on HTML5 Doctor for further info on this subject.

HTML5 Can Help Categorize Content

At this point, the only HTML5 technologies that can provide any SEO-related benefits are HTML5 Microdata or schema.org vocabularies (which are based on Microdata).

But even in this case, Microdata will not boost your SEO ranking; it will simply make specific parts of your content have more semantic value, making it easier for search results pages to compartmentalize and display your content to users. You can get more details on this subject on this schema.org FAQ. This concept is similar to Google’s rich snippets, but schema.org seems to be a more powerful replacement for rich snippets.

Conclusion

Don’t get too excited about any potential SEO benefits to using new semantic tags in HTML5. The fact is, a website built with HTML tables that has relevant content and quality backlinks will easily outrank any site structured with HTML5 semantics that has poor content and few backlinks.

So be realistic about HTML5′s benefits. Semantic tags are not a magic bullet for higher Google rankings, and probably never will be.

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31 Responses

  1. Francesco:

    I think it must be stressed that HTML5 is not bad for SEO either.

    I know you say nothing of the sort, here,but sometimes when people see “Is it good? No, it’s not.” think “bad” automatically.

  2. Scott Vivian:

    Is it weird the first thing I did, when I saw those links to “wrong” articles, is check if you added nofollow?

    I think one of the most important concerns for HTML5 is how Google treats multiple H1 tags on a page, since it’s one of the few tags that they actually pay attention to. An old Webmaster Tools video – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIn5qJKU8VM – says it doesn’t really matter. That was probably before HTML5 came to the fore but I think it still applies.

    • Haha, no it’s not weird at all. I would have done the same thing! :) I actually almost put a note in the article to say I was adding nofollow.

      And yes, as far as I know, Google has no problem with multiple H1s.

  3. Nice post,

    HTML5 is good for design, usability and user experience. But SEO benefits are not powerful to increase rankings.

  4. Well said. In fact, I think as a general rule you can say this:

    “Any trivial change to your HTML will not affect your rankings”

    …for the simple reason that if that would be the case, everyone would do it, and it would no longer differentiate pages. Quality of content matters, backlinks matter, keyword research matters, and social networks increasingly matter.

  5. Halloween81:

    In basically HTML 5 is not proposed for SEO benefits. Its real objective is we should create web technology for humans and not for machines (or for any damned google crawler). It is a step further toward standardization of universal coding. Now a day’s every technology is becoming more and more human centric. You may never know when google change his policy to cope with global coding standards, just because human is not made for google, but google is there for humans.
    Also as per one of above comment HTML5 is not bad for SEO either. So it’s better to start moving further instead of overlooking future of web.

  6. Surely one minor (all be it important) impact of using HTML5 could have on SEO is increased page-speed through better thought out, leaner, HTML mark-up?

    Using a new schema effectively forces the coder in to checking that they are using the “correct” tag for each element, slowing down the build process and making them think about what they are doing instead of using the same old copy-and-paste code from an old project.

    So it may not have a direct impact on page ranking or SEO performance but it has an indirect effect of making us as an industry think about what we are doing and why we are doing it.

  7. I agree. Slapping HTML5 semantic elements in a page with disregard to *the whole content* won’t do much good anywhere.

    But I have to say that using semantic elements *the right way* will most likely help you with SEO. Let me elaborate.

    A webpage that follows standard rules, even HTML5′s, *the right way*, it means it’s better crawled. A plus. Not a minus.

    As a counter argument you’re basically saying that all websites are born equal. It’s only half true. Backlinks and content also aren’t much of a silver bullet.No matter how well connected they are, webpages will only be helped by backlinks and content so far. The difference is made in credibility. As in “providing exactly what advertising”.

    Google gains by offering ads. But to make users want these ads you have to provide *exactly what they look for*. So Google tries to minimize user frustration. That’s the silver bullet.

    So, indeed, HTML5 done right probably won’t help much if you don’t sell what you advertise on your page. But if you are true, it will slowly gain you points in the community ’till the point of where it would make a difference against those building sites with tables for design, because of accessibility and user experience you provide. Thus following standards, even HTML5′s, will help your SEO magic.

  8. HTML 5 is having many new semantic elements like microdata tags which will optimize any website (especially sites which uses heavy flash elements )and makes it a favorable bet for the search engine bots to easily parse and index your site so that it will come up in the search results. HTML 5 also renders usability, design flexibility and strong markups . And all these factors will indirectly help in increasing your site rankings. Anyway, whether you go by HTML 4 or 5, It doesn’t matter most if you have a well optimized website with quality back links and have achieved the SEO target.

  9. I work in this area, but hadn’t even considered this. wont Google just change the algorithm?

  10. akku:

    I dont think HTML5 will bing too much changes.

  11. HTML5 will optimize website performance with some features and i think that this will be affect on page authority in terms of faster page loading and smaller bounce rate.

  12. I think wither you use HTML5 or HTML4 that doesn’t really make a huge difference in SEO. What matters is quality contents, updates and most importantly the quality of the backlinks from where they are coming from.

    So Moral of the story is Quality and unique contents and backlinks are important doesn’t matter either you use HTML5 or HTML4

  13. I’ve never seen so conjecture as there is with SEO and now with HTML5 it was yet another area of debate.

    Thanks so much for getting John Mu to clear this up.

  14. Well i don’t think that semantic HTML and HTML5 will effect the ranking.

    Ranking of website is totally depend upon combination of page title, description, keywords,content, Quality of Back links and Social networking sites.
    We can’t blame HTML5 is direct impact on SEO performance.

    Thanks

  15. Jon:

    Many HTML5 elements and especially Microdata are designed to enable machines to better understand the content you are marking up. Now of course the very presence of these attributes wont do anythign for your SEO – that would be Naive, but my belief is that content that is specifically marked as being of a certain type – for example, a schema.org microdata ‘tagged’ Product – will obviously enable Google/Yahoo/Bing to better understand and therefore place your page into it’s search results where appropriate – this is fantastic for genuine decent content. I think the problem comes because SEO is seen as some sort of magic, and comapnies offering it often don’t do much more than try to hack web pages in such a way that Google believes they are more important than they are. In that respect HTML5 and Microdata both now and in the future won’t be much better than what we’ve had for years – however, in the growing world of the internet, where search is the centre of everything, it is clear that content marked up in a more semantic way should be ‘easier’ to index reliably.

    Basically – more semantic meaning is a good thing for everyone – you just can’t sell it as *The* SEO solution.

  16. I believe it’ll ultimately help SEO, we may just not be there yet. As for this “And I would venture to guess that the semantic elements will never have an effect on page rankings. In fact, it’s almost ridiculous to think this would be the case.”, I disagree. I’d argue that heading or paragraphs tags, and their standards-compliant use, benefits the digestion of a page by Google.

  17. I personally feel that a website built on HTML5 Technology and good css3 with amazing content while following strict semantics will in fact make your site increase in rankings. I am already experimenting with it as an SEO/SEM professional and I am seeing the difference. Just saying…

  18. Isn’t having good semantics = more relevancy if the search engine knows more about your site? You said it yourself, we don’t know the search engine’s algorithm, but then you say that semantics don’t affect a site’s rank. I thought without semantics, your site can’t be relevant to anything, especially since links are worth less after the recent Google algorithm update.

  19. I just wanted to know whether it affects Google Rankings (especially not good for SEO) or not and I got a little clarification that it not. Thanks for sharing the post.

  20. HTML5 tags are purely aesthetic for developers.

    <footer></footer> looks better than <div class="footer"></div>

  21. adi:

    yet more guesses and hearsay.. i particularly like the use of the terms ‘probably’ and ‘guess’ in the article. Unfortunately the SEO world (and particularly the SEO bloggers) write twoddle for the sake of it. They argue amongst themselves and the sad truth is no one actually knows what goes on… yet they all claim they do. Its a joke and a farce and the industry is a mess. This is why (as an SEO consultant of ten years) i steer clear of seminars, blogs, articles, SEO moz junkies, and anything else. If you work in technical SEO, steer clear of this drivel and carry on doing what you do. If it works.. good, carry on, if it doesnt, try something else.

    • If it works.. good, carry on, if it doesnt, try something else.

      Exactly. And that’s what I’m saying in this article. The reason I use ‘probably’ and suchlike terms is because nobody but Google can really know for sure. So I’m saying, since there is zero evidence that HTML5 helps SEO, then you shouldn’t think it does. If there’s anything to suggest that’s otherwise, then I’ll gladly update this post.

      Nonetheless, thanks for your thoughts, we definitely shouldn’t be too dogmatic about SEO factors.

  22. HTML5 introduces elements and attributes that reflect typical usage on modern websites will prove very helpful for SEO.

  23. HTML5 is very good for SEO and easy to build mobile site.

  24. One thing about HTML 5 is that it’s easier to edit and significantly reduces the use of “div” tags.

  25. I think the benefits of HTML5 semantic code are that they
    1. Make it easier for search engines and web programmers quickly comprehend the layout of the page by scanning the code
    2. Make it much easier for the blind to hear the page.

  26. thank you for sharing this information
    i think html just help us to categorize our content better and this point , can help search engine optimization !

  27. What impotant html tag for SEO?

  28. First we must understand web search engine quality stracture. If you apply this roles will be perfect. HTLM5 will support us easy and speed if we are putting easy information on page. I we using many plugins and javascrips, picture, will add more code. This effect will be our pages slow opening and your seo keyword lost between page code result not effect to seo.

  29. First we must understand web search engine quality stracture. If you apply this roles will be perfect. HTLM5 will support us easy and speed if we are putting easy information on page. I we using many plugins and javascrips, picture, will add more code. This effect will be our pages slow opening and your seo keyword lost between page code result not effect to seo.

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