With such an increase in HTML5 sites over the last few months and all the conversations around Flash / HTML5 / Apple and IE9 it’s been hard to get past the hype and understand how HTML5 will affect us in the real world.
As the last post mentioned HTML5 is still a work in progress for W3C and the various browser developers but what about Google and the other search engines? One of the major concerns of front end developers is the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) of any new website – will the search engines read the content correctly? Will it get ranked well for relevant keywords? A good front end developer and designer will take these elements into consideration when building a new site.
Something that I’ve been thinking about when coding this site into HTML5 was how will Google read the new code – will it see it as semantic markup and rank it accordingly? Or just see all those extra H1 tags as spam?
Well, it seems that Google isn’t yet set up to read HTML5, as it’s a work in progress and not yet a very popular coding technique they don’t seem to be reading it any differently to standard HTML websites. I found a couple of interesting quote on this site: www.seroundtable.com
In general, our crawlers are used to not being able to parse all HTML markup – be it from broken HTML, embedded XML content or from the new HTML5 tags. Our general strategy is to wait to see how content is marked up on the web in practice and to adapt to that. If we find that more and more content uses HTML5 markup, that this markup can give us additional information, and that it doesn’t cause problems if webmasters incorrectly use it (which is always a problem in the beginning), then over time we’ll attempt to work that into our algorithms. With that in mind, I definitely wouldn’t want to stand in the way of your implementing parts of your site with HTML5, but I also wouldn’t expect to see special treatment of your content due to the HTML5 markup at the moment. HTML5 is still very much a work in progress, so it’s great to see bleeding-edge sites making use of the new possibilities
Personally, I would recommend using HTML5 where you think that it already makes sense, perhaps reverting to HTML4 if you can determine that the browser won’t support the elements of HTML5 that you use properly. While this will not result in an advantage for your content in our search results, it generally wouldn’t be disadvantageous either.
So, does that answer the question? Not really but it’s a start! I think that as HTML5 grows in popularity and we get closer to a full specification from W3C the search engines will take more notice. I also think that a properly coded, semantic and accessible website will always have an advantage over a poorly coded site when it comes to SEO. There will always be hacks, changes in algorithms and spam techniques to improve SEO but for consistent ranking and low maintenence it’s best to create a site properly in the first place – whether you’re using HTML5 or not.