The importance of semantic HTML for SEO

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It’s tough staying competitive online.

Businesses and website owners are looking to get ahead in the search engine game for more traffic. Keywords, user experience, and content are all king, of course, but few business owners know semantic HTML is another one of the secrets to success.

You don’t have to be a developer to understand semantic HTML. Learn how this markup language can rev your SEO from zero to sixty with a few small changes.

What is semantic HTML and proper markup?

Semantic HTML sounds scary and complicated, but it’s quite simple. The word ”semantic” means “giving meaning through language.” Semantic HTML does just that.

Semantic HTML, or semantic markup, is code that gives meaning to a webpage.

Users often see the CSS, or styling and design, of a website. The CSS is code that forms the beautiful, external “skin” of a website.

HTML is the bones of your website. It makes a structure for your site and adds information to your site that search engines can read.

The benefits of semantic HTML for SEO

Semantic HTML is critical for showing search engines how your site works.

Remember, Google doesn’t have eyes! Search engines rely on the information in your HTML to know what’s on your site. In turn, the search engines process information from your site and know when to deliver it to users. This is achieved by providing snippets of code to the search engines which can show up in search results or inside apps for phones, all of which can give you more visibility and increase your overall footprint in a search engine's “database.”

This means you can use semantic HTML on your site to make search engines categorize your content more accurately. That translates into more organic search traffic and more time in the spotlight.

When you are really paying attention to the technical side of SEO, not just text and more keywords, your site will become structurally easier for search engines to parse, and that is a big plus for SEO.

Nifty, eh?

How to set up semantic HTML for SEO

While you don’t have to be a developer to understand semantic HTML, it’s best to implement proper markup with a developer.

There are several semantic HTML elements you can use to make your site pop. Here are some of them.

Header tags

H1 - H6 tags structure content on a page and tell search engines that there’s a hierarchy to your content. The H1 header is the largest, and should be the biggest idea; H6 is the smallest size and should be used for minute ideas.

For example, your H1 header might say, “Cutest dogs in the world,” with H2 tags for different dog breeds, and H3 tags explaining the pros and cons of each breed.

You won’t always need to go down to an H6 tag, but it’s available if you need it.

Lists

Who doesn’t love a good list?

You can set up two types of lists with semantic HTML. Unordered lists (<ul>) display as bullet points. Ordered lists (<ol>) display as numbered points. They each display under the <li> tag and break up content into easily digestible formats that readers love.

Sections

<Section> tags are used to define the various areas of a webpage. Sections are primarily used to group content and every section can have its own set of header tags. This allows you to define multiple h1 tags on a single page (which was previously not considered a best practice).

Articles

Let’s say you have a blog on your company website. Even if you use proper header tags and lists, there are other semantic HTML elements to consider.

The <article> tag tells search engines that a piece of content is specifically intended to be read as a blog. This is a great way to communicate with search engines if you want your blog content to get a little extra love.

The bottom line

Like all things, your SEO strategy needs to be diversified. You can’t put all of your eggs into one basket and let keywords do your heavy lifting. Understand and use semantic HTML on your site to see a boost in your SEO.

Not sure if your SEO is up to snuff? You can get a free website assessment with this tool to see if you’re using semantic HTML to your full advantage.