Lift SEO with HTML5

The demand for web content is constantly evolving.  People want to interact with websites rather than surf an endless collection of static text and images.  Technologies like Flash and Silverlight were developed to help fulfill the growing demand in delivering interactive content.  HTML5 is an effort to catch up with these evolving standards.  Third-party applications are no longer required to watch a video or listen to an audio clip.  A case in point: Microsoft has shifted their cross-developmental framework strategy for SilverLight and inherently embraced the standards of HTML5.

The adoption of HTML5 is advancing rapidly.  Buzz surrounding the language’s 5th major revision is ongoing and widespread.  It’s being used to create interactive content, improve web semantics, and strengthen user engagement.  Leading these efforts are big players like YouTube and Apple.  And with the release of Internet Explorer 9, all major web browsers now support most HTML5 features.

So how can online marketers take advantage of HTML5?  How can it be used to your lift SEO results?

Online marketers can leverage HTML5 for SEO by creating new forms of content like interactive versions of print catalogs (copy heavy) or enhanced rich media presentations.  Interactive content can be used to drive link-building campaigns, generate brand awareness, or even improve an online shopping experience.  Another SEO benefit of HTML5 is improved website crawlability.  Updating HTML structural elements, although not directly related to search engine rankings, can improve crawl efficiency and lead to indexation benefits.

Actionable Insight #1 – Improve Page Segmentation and Crawlability
Websites are structured with HTML, so computers can interpret and display the content in a standardized format across many different devices (desktop machines, mobile phones, tablets, e-readers) and software configurations (web browsers, operating systems).  HTML5 provides an opportunity to make this process more efficient for these device platforms and search engines.  From an SEO perspective, increased search engine efficiency leads to faster and deeper crawl paths.  This is particularly important for large and complex websites.

Improved tags in HTML5 more accurately describe the various elements on a webpage.  Using these tags can help search engine crawlers parse the page more efficiently. These new tags reinforce webpage content by using more specific semantics for elements including the header, footer, and navigation.  Until now, search engines were forced to dissect and evaluate webpages by generic identifiers like div tags.  Note that I am not degrading their capabilities in regard to page segmentation.  They do a fantastic job.  But there is always room for improvement, and we should embrace any opportunity to enrich crawler productivity and capitalize on our limited amount crawl equity.

Examples of new HTML5 tags include:

  • <header> defines the header
  • <footer> defines the footer
  • <nav> defines the navigation
  • <article> defines the main content
  • <section> identifies a general segment or division
  • <aside> identifies supplemental content

Actionable Insight #2 – Deliver Exclusive Content and Features
Delivering compelling content helps fuel link-building campaigns and can be used as a tactic for competitive differentiation in the congested online marketing space. Providing new content and features for visitors often results in simultaneous SEO benefits.  Search engines continuously evaluate online demand for various forms of content and update their results accordingly.   Leveraging HTML5 for content can help marketers achieve an enhanced and distinct level of brand exclusivity for visitors and search engines alike.

Arguably the most influential HTML5 addition is the video tag.  The impact that video is making on web marketing is extraordinary.  Although the web is already saturated with videos, the new tag will help cleanse the multimedia elements by introducing a standardized delivery mechanism.  It’s reported that more than 50% of web videos already use HTML5.  If you’re concerned about visitors using older browsers that don’t support HTML5, Adobe already released a solution.

Drap and drop and geolocation are two more additions to the HTML5 suite.  Thinking specifically about eCommerce websites and online retailers, envision visitors simply dragging products into their shopping carts.  Then using the geolocation feature to automatically estimate shipping costs or recommend nearby store locations.  These additions would be great for usability and would defiantly increase the wow-factor in otherwise lackluster eCommerce websites.

My favorite example of HTML5 at work is Google’s interactive experiment The Wilderness Downtown where a variety of technologies are integrated to provide a personalized and just-plain-cool web experience.  Simply enter your childhood address and enjoy a choreographed show of the neighborhood you grew up in.  All made possible with HTML5.

The possibilities are endless.  I hope the previous examples illustrate the potential in creating exclusive content and features using HTML5.  So while search engines tweak their algorithms to mirror online demand for interactive content, online marketers can supply this content in the most efficient method available.  That method is HTML5.