HTML5 – How SEO-Friendly Is It?

HTML5 continues to evolve as the next web standard for site content and functionality morphing out of today’s 10+ year old HTML4.01.  The majority of modern browsers such as Firefox, Safari, IE, and Chrome, already provide some support for HTML5, and these browsers continue to add new HTML5 features to their latest versions.

HTML5 has numerous technical enhancements and improved features for programmers, but it’s important for online marketers to understand why HTML5 matters to SEO efforts and some of its drawbacks.  To start, here’s a summary of HTML5’s features and benefits in basic terms.

New Semantic Tags and Geolocation Microdata Elements:

  • HTML5 offers new elements for better site structure (i.e. article tags, header tags, nav tags).
  • Geolocation Microdata takes ordinary types of content such as companies events, ratings/reviews, people and products and enables search engines to understand and index them.
  • SEO benefits = Webpages will experience faster download time, and webpages will be indexed and searched more efficiently due to cleaner code . The microdata helps label data and thus helps webmasters generate Rich Snippets which make it easier for Google to better recognize and present information from a webpage.

New Media Elements:

  • HTML5 provides a new standard for multi-media content without requiring a third-party plugin. For example, there hasn’t been a standard for playing audio or showing a video on a web page until HTML5.  Audio and videos are usually played through a third-party plugin (such as flash) however not all browsers share the same plugins.  With HTML5, videos can be built directly into supporting browsers, which enables ultra-fast video downloads.
  • SEO benefits = HTML5 videos more searchable and indexable to search engines.  In HTML5, the video is browser-based and incredibly fast.  For slower internet connections, there’s no buffering since the file is downloaded and played in HTML5.

Canvas Element:

  • Using JavaScript, this is a new pixel-based graphic area to build drawings on a web page such as dynamic visuals, graphics, charts, etc. 
  • SEO benefits = Offers superior stability because Canvas is included in the browser vs. a plugin.

Local Client-Side Storage:

  • Cookies are not the right solution for storing large volumes of data since they’re forwarded on by every request to a server, making it sluggish and unproductive.  In HTML5, the data is used only when it’s asked for, and it’s not passed on by every server request. HTML5 uses JavaScript to store and access the data.  This storage function is most beneficial for email and web apps.
  • SEO benefits = Store large amounts of data without affecting the website’s performance.

Form Elements:

  • More functionality and variety has been added to forms (i.e. calendar, date, time, email, url, search).
  • SEO benefit = new form options enable enhanced functionality and design on mobile devices

Although HTML5 continues to evolve, there are some existing drawbacks.  For example, HTML5 will not appear in Google’s instant preview, and when viewed, the preview space will be completely blank.  As a result, developers should ensure that their site pages do not completely consist of HTML5 content.

Also, new iDevices such as the iPhone and iPad support HTML5 but they still aren’t compatible with Adobe Flash.  Adobe has released Wallaby, a converter that turns Adobe Flash into HTML5.  Wallaby is still in early release and it’s limited in the Flash features that can be converted.

In the meantime, HTML5 is helping fuel a more powerful SEO experience by focusing on website download speed, geo-location, graphics, and storage.  Not only are web developers embracing HTML5’s flexibility and intuitive coding elements, but SEO’s can leverage this technology to improve functionality and the overall site experience for users on various devices and across different browers. Just keep in mind that it’s not 100% SEO friendly…yet.

Contributed by: Susan Gordon, Director of Client Services, Milestone Internet Marketing

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