HTML 5 and SEO – when, what and how?

HTML 5 and SEO – when, what and how?

20th July 2010

Almost everyone is touting HTML5 as the flash killer and a new horizon for web development. I wanted to take a slightly closer look at the HTML structure and possible implementations to see the effect on SEO.

When is it coming out?

Initial predictions were late 2010 however the first public working draft deadline was missed by 8 months and it is currently still in the working draft stage at the present time. Ian Hickson now expects the specification to reach candidate recommendation by 2012. It is expected that many parts of the specification are stable and may be implemented in products well before then though so best be ready for the inevitable questions.

What major changes are there?

HTML5 introduces a number of new elements and attributes that will allow developers to be more verbose about the layout of the page. Present day HTML relies on multiple <div> and <span> tags that are styled through CSS. HTML5 allows for more verbose markup for navigation (<nav>), multimedia (<audio> and <video>) as well as allowing new APIs such as <canvas> elements to allow 2D drawing. For those into microformats HTML5 will incorporate Microdata as a simple way to embed semantic markup into HTML documents.

What will it mean from an SEO perspective?

The more intuitive markup will help show the crawlers which are menu based links and which ones are from the content of the page. Google already has technology to identify this and with the reasonable surfer model in practise this will be a less significant change in my opinion.
Far more significant in my opinion will be Google javascript crawling ability will have to get a whole lot better.

Let’s go through an example. Look at the source of , an application that they use the web database API in HTML5 to store the tweets and then display them in the screen below. See any tweets in the html code? The pre rendered html only contains “<li>None loaded up yet :-(</li>”.

This would be the same as an AJAX web developer using the onload event to inject the content into predefined html tags in HTML 4. While Google claims to crawl AJAX is flaky at best in my opinion.

So where does this leave HTML5 and SEO?

Personally I think HTML5 will allow developers and designers to create a next generation of awesome applications within the web sphere. This level of creativity has been thwarted until now by the accessibility and crawlability issues inherent in Adobe Flash.

SEOs will need to understand the different APIs and be able to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using them from a search engines’ perspective.

More resources

For more information have a look at the list below:


Written By
Louis Venter is the founding director and CEO of MediaVision, a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) company specialising in all areas of search. His particular interests are organic search marketing, paid search marketing, conversion strategy and online PR.
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