If you’ve had your ear to the ground over the last few months, you’ve probably heard/read about HTML5, the latest HTML language available for website development. As of September 2011, a study found that about 34% of sites had converted to HTML5 . However, even though the number of websites using HTML5 is growing, it is still not fully supported by all Internet browsers and Google is of the mindset that it can’t hurt (but won’t necessarily help) your SEO. So what is a site owner to do?
I came across this great post by Kerry Dean on Search Engine Land a few weeks ago that does a great job of explaining the reality of the HTML5 situation and its implications for SEO. I thought I would share a few of his points here:
1. “HTML5 will someday make everything better. But that someday is not here just yet.”
This goes back to the fact that Internet browsers don’t fully support every feature of HTML5. For instance, Safari does support HTML5 video, but not Geolocation API. If you own a local site that relies on local traffic to keep your door open, the ability to identify a user’s position is incredibly important. You might lose that ability if you convert to HMTL5 right now.
2. “HTML5 will do wonders for your website’s ability to drive organic search traffic.”
HTML5 makes it much easier for site owners to organize and identify content components, which helps the search spiders crawl and find valuable information. For instance, < article > (in HTML5) signifies to the search spiders that this piece of content can stand on its own. You could define a blog post or article on your site with < article >, telling the search engines it is more valuable than something written in the < footer >. These new tags allow the search engines to more easily determine the importance and relevance of content on your website.
HTML5 also makes it possible for the search engines to “read” images/animations, something they haven’t been able to do before. For sites that rely heavily on flash, HTML5 can make a huge difference to their SEO.
3. “HTML5 has the ability to transform how users interact with websites.”
HTML5 allows for easier audio and video streaming, so sites that a media heavy (like social networking sites, where over 50% have already moved to HTML5) could see a lot of benefit in converting.
4. “I would recommend HTML5 for other reasons, but not strictly for SEO…”
I definitely agree with Kerry on this one. Google admitted that they weren’t giving any special considerations to sites that were created in HTML5, so there is no rush to convert your site just yet. If you were thinking about redesigning your site in the near future anyway, HTML5 might be worth looking into. However, I wouldn’t recommend redesigning your entire site to HTML5 just because you can if you can’t justify the cost.