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What are the SEO rules for HTML 5?

I am doing a re-design for a client whose site currently has very high and successful rankings across all search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing, AOL, etc.)

My client is very weary about change, but the problem is that his site is very old and outdated (table layout, and very basic, first-level HTML4).

Currently, to define the content-type metadata, the site uses the older:

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8">

But I would like to change the entire layout of the code structure. Example; using the new HTML5-compliant <meta charset="utf-8">

Additionally, I would also like to change the DOCTYPE, from a plain-ol' HTML4 doctype to HTML5's <!DOCTYPE html>

And I have heard that engine crawlers and SEO-masters are very particular about "space-coding" and semantics. Logically, I do not see how his site is so high ranked with the messy and outdated code that is being used, and I want to know if updating the code structure would mess with his sites rankings?

(P.S. I came here to ask this question, but I'm originally from StackOverflow, and I didn't really think that this would be a fit question for SO, but if this is the wrong place too, please suggest a different one).

Any help would be much appreciated! :-)

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What do you mean by "space-coding"? Aside... If you have an SO account, why don't you use the same on Webmasters? –  w3d Jan 4 '13 at 19:19
    
Didn't know you could do that... I logged in with the same email though... –  user21171 Jan 4 '13 at 20:27
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marked as duplicate by DisgruntledGoat, John Conde Jan 8 '13 at 0:58

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

1 Answer

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Not sure what "space-coding" means, but there's no reason to think changing from HTML4 to HTML5 would affect your ranking except to perhaps make Google's work easier through the use of additional semantic tags.

The goal of search engines in ranking sites is to help deliver relevant/useful content to searchers. They're not in the business of arbitrarily penalizing or rewarding sites for factors that don't contribute to that goal. So Google isn't going to drop your ranking just because you clean up a table-based layout to use CSS instead, just like they won't drop your ranking just because you changed your background color from blue to red.

Lastly, <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8"> is still perfectly compliant in HTML5. <meta charset=utf-8> is just a shorthand added in HTML5 because a lot of webmasters were writing the http-equiv tag incorrectly. You can still use http-equiv to specify/override HTTP headers.

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Wow, thank you! That's good to know. This solved it. –  user21171 Jan 4 '13 at 20:29
    
...and by the same token, Google isn't necessarily going to increase your ranking just because you clean up a table-based layout to use CSS instead. –  w3d Jan 4 '13 at 20:50
    
@w3d, not necessarily, but it'll likely help with content architecture. –  Baumr Jan 4 '13 at 21:19
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