HTML5 is already here and it is changing the SEO world forever.
HTML 5 basically follows the way the web evolved in the last years and includes many useful tags and elements. It develops more towards a semantic approach to content, with specific tag which mark the kind of content is going to be displayed. It might seem as its developers where aiming to create a PHP kind of programming language but it is still an XML-based markup language.
The major development from HTML5 is a bunch of new tags with outline the semantic content of a page section. It is quite of a revolutionary change, considering now search engine will be finally able to understand the actual content of a page.
It’s easy to see how letting sites mark individual blocks of their page with meaningful information would assist in the segmentation of a page. Search engines would be able to know instantly what is what and decide how to treat it.
Here is a short list of a few new tags and the way the should be implemented on page:
<article> tag – The new <article> tag is probably the best addition from a SEO point of view. The <article> tag allows to mark separate entries in an online publication, such as a blog or a magazine. It will reduce the need to use <div> tags, hence making the code cleaner and easier to be understood both from humans and search engines. Search engines will put more importance on the text inside the <article> tag as compared to the contents on the other parts of the page.
<section> tag – The new <section> tag can be used to identify separate sections on a page, chapter, book. Each section can have its separate HTML heading. As with the <article> tag, it can be presumed that search engines will pay more attention to the contents of separate sections. For instance, if the words of a search string are found in one section, this implies higher relevance as compared to when these words are found all across the page or in separate sections.
<header> tag – The new <header> tag (which is different from the head element) is meant to give developers much more flexibility in term of heading categorization. The <header> tag is very similar to the <H1> tag but the difference is that it can contain a whole different set of header tags (h1,h2….) or whole paragraphs of text, hard-coded links (and this is really precious for SEO), and any other kind of info you feel relevant to include.
<footer> tag - Both the footer and header tag can be used several times in a pge, which means the do not have to belong necessarily to the standard header and footer of the page. For instance it can be used to define recurrent elements on a page (think of a blog post) with specific header and footer.
<nav> tag – The new <nav> tag can be used to identify a collection of links to other pages. It is quite important when it comes to define page rank distribution through links on a page. We often have to struggle a bit in order to distribute page rank through link, this should be make life a bit easier.
Beside these tags there a whole bunch of new ones which might require further explanation. For instance, <audio>, <video> or <dialogue> tags are also part of the HTML 5 standard and they will allow to further separate the content into the adequate categories. As you can see the main point of this update is making HTML closer to a human level of understanding, besides the obvious consequences with SEO.
How it works: HTML4 tags vs HTML5 semantic tags
Currently with HTML4, mark-up coders are working with document structures like this:
[links or navigation]</div>
<div id=”leftnav”>[navigation links]</div>
<div id=”footer”>[footer links]</div>
With this kind of markup, search engine will exactly know what goes in each section of the page, treating links in a different way for instance. It’s a big step forward in optimization especially from a more strict SEO point of view: we could finally know on which bases search engines might rank links depending on their position on the page. It allows also a better control on links value across the page.
There’s still a lot to be covered about the new features of HTML5 and how they affect the main SEO practices. I guess the update is to be considered a fairly good step forward, increasing both chances of correct optimization and ease of life for developers and programmers.