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Does the <span> element have any SEO side-effects? Are there any semantic preferences between the following two or parsing differences between search engines?

Clean <h1>:

<h1>Search Optimised Heading</h1>

vs <span> in <h1>:

<h1>Search <span class="someColour">Optimised</span> Heading</h1>
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I think there is no difference between your two examples,too. – user8883 Jul 10 '11 at 9:36
up vote 4 down vote accepted

There should be no difference. The <span> element has no semantic meaning whatsoever.

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There is no difference between your two examples. However, if your differently-coloured word is an important keyword, you may consider using the <em> or <strong> tag to suggest emphasis. CSS can take care of the styling:

h1 em {
  font-style: normal;
  color: #123456;

Emphasis usually boosts SEO a little, although I don't know how much difference it makes when inside a header. Regardless, it makes for some simpler and more semantic HTML which is always a bonus.

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+1 for em suggestion. – pate Dec 23 '10 at 11:49

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