The release of HTML5 is still quite a long way off with W3C announcing that May 2011 will be the final call for the specification and a final release expected by 2014. When HTML5 is finally released it will replace HTML 4.01 as the standard on the web and will feature many new elements and discontinue a number of older and outdated elements still current in HTML 4.01.
The good news for web developers is that HTML5 will be backward compatible with HTML4, so you won’t need to code your website from scratch to meet the new standards. Here we will take a look at some of the new elements featured in HTML5 and the possible impact and benefits they could have on SEO.
The article element can be used to represent a self-contained composition in a document that is independently distributable or reusable, e.g. in syndication.
In other words, if you own a blog and have written a cracking piece of content for it, you’ll want to make use of the article element as Google will no doubt attach greater weight to syndicated content, much as they do now with blog posts. Of course the article element isn’t just limited to blog posts, and could also be used for newspaper articles, forum posts, user generated content, etc. On the flip side, web pages that are low on content may well see a negative effect in their SERPs positions as HTML5 comes into wide spread use.
You could also find yourself splitting your homepage into sections. It’s important to note that the section element is not a container element and should not be used to style your page layout. In much the same way as the article element, the section element is a way for search engines to quickly identify the important information on your website and developers and SEOs to identify the page copy that really matters.
or example; the nav element will not be necessary where there are links in the page footer. The nav element will help search engines to formally identify the navigation links on a web page. This will help search engines to identify the most important pages on your website, but also to give navigation link less weight compared to a contextual link.
The header element is used to define a grouping of elements that make up the heading or navigational aids of a website. This will usually consist of a hgroup or h1 – h6 element but it’s not a pre-requisite.
The header element can also be used to wrap a search form, any branding or logos, or a section element’s table of contents. When compared to the article and section elements, the content within a header element will likely have less weight in the eyes of search engines.
At face value the footer element looks simple enough, however it’s usage in development are not as clean cut. Typically, a footer contains information about its section, such as the author and copyright data, and links to relevant documents and its parent page. However, the footer element doesn’t necessarily have to appear at the bottom of a page.
For instance, if you have a ‘back’ button at the top and bottom of a long article, the footer element could be used to represent the articles ancestor sectioning content or sectioning root element. In much the same way at the header element, it is thought that the content in a footer element will hold less weight in the eyes of search engines.
The aside element can be used to section content on the page that could be considered as separate from that of the main page content. For example advertisements such as skyscraper banners, groups of navigational elements or pull quotes would be wrapped in the aside tags. It is still unclear how the aside element will be interpreted in the eyes of a search engine.
W3C actually state in their documentation that it could be used to contain advertisements, in which case search engines would no doubt completely ignore the content. However, if used for pull quotes, the aside element could be used to add emphasis to the main page content.