Ever since the rise of the major search engines, web designers and developers have tried their very hardest with issues of how to increase their website visability and placement on a search engines results page. In the past, many websites have been created using flash (not supported by the majority or mobile/tablet devices), video and audio files, however due to webcrawlers inability to index such content, these such sites have received poor search engine rankins – this however could all be changed by using HTML5.
With the major search engines (Google, Bing, etc.) unwilling to reveal their ranking algorithms — protecting them from “black hat” search engine optimizers attempting to game the system — “white hat” search engine experts must play a constant guessing game to determine which tactics will be most effective.
The introduction of HTML5 has simplified many tasks, but adds another layer of complexity in this area.
For many years, web designers and developers have used plug-ins such as Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight to add audio, video and graphics content to their projects. These plug-ins have enabled professionals to create glossy, eye-catching designs that have attracted visitors and won numerous awards.
However, these sites have traditionally suffered from poor search engine ranking due to webcrawler’s inability to index this type of content. Great strides were being made in this area just prior to the death of Flash, but to a large degree, investment in the area of plugin indexing has now ceased altogether.
HTML5 allows for indexing multimedia content, such as menus, audio and video, with new markup tags. The content within these tags can improve a site’s search engine ranking. Indeed an HTML5 site consistently ranks higher than the equivalent site built with a plugin; however there is some question as to HTML5′s suitability for all tasks.
Google frequently tells us to build a site for the user, with ‘natural’ content. We may need to wait for HTML6 for that to be possible.
In late 2010, John Mueller of Google remarked that HTML5 is “still very much a work in progress” and that the company is still working on ways to index HTML5 content. However, the company is making a sincere effort to incorporate the indexing of HTML5 content into its newest generation of web crawlers.
While Google’s relationship with HTML5 standards remains in flux, and while Google remains the focus of most SEO efforts, HTML5′s introduction of new content and ways of describing that content is unlikely to offer any real SERP benefits.
However, the merits of allowing more content to be indexed with less effort is not in dispute, and with HTML5 rapidly becoming the new standard for web design it is just a matter of time before HTML5 sites outrank xHTML sites. Webdesigners should be planning for that future today.