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I am using un ordered lists to display product's specs data, also using valid microformats data structure for products.

I am an author of WordPress plugin (created for product specifications and user reviews) 1 of my client said the html tables are better for SEO, i am not a SEO expert so i am asking this question here, please provide me with your expert opinions which one is better for both visitors and SEO.

I am attaching original question here too for deep understanding also with a link to live product page.

Client: Hello Anjum, I saw that you are using the ul, li type of lists to list the attributes. From an SEO perspective, it is far better to use a table instead of such lists. This allows the search engines like Google to easily fetch the table and rank the articles higher. Many popular smartphone spec websites like GSMArena, PhoneArena, etc. using tables to implement the specs. So, wouldn’t it be great if you turn the ul, li to a table format? I have already experimented with this and believe me, the tables perform way better than these standard lists. So, please share your views on this.

Me (Anjum): Can you please provide me an example of such scenario, the tables are hard to render correctly in mobile devices but if there is an SEO issue then i’ll try to replace lists with tables.

Client: As per many SEO experts and websites, Google uses the table data on a webpage to fetch the details for a search query related to that and show them in the rich snippets. Apart from that, for representing a tabular data like Specs, a table is much better than just some lists that tells nothing to search engines than it is a list. A table row which is sectioned in two columns where the first element is styled with bold or such styles, tells Google that the first column contains attributes while the second one is the value (check GSM Arena). So, they can show the results in search results much effectively while a normal list doesn’t tell anything more than it is a list of something (no one uses lists for specs except a very small percent).

Almost all of the popular spec websites like GSMArena, Gadgets.NDTV. com, Device Specifications, etc. using tables instead of lists. So, do we really need to take the hard path? Switching to the tables will surely be a great idea for securing any possible SEO benefits (which many SEO experts confirmed) as well as to make the plugin future proof. I highly recommend it.

I tried to rank with the default list format using all the possible methods, but still, most of the articles even not getting indexed. And the indexed articles are not getting ranked (I have a lot experience in ranking websites. and still, I failed.) And I saw many websites (even smaller ones) outranking my articles.

I also have a couple more SEO suggestions to give you as an SEO expert. I really like your plugin and I am ready to give suggestions if you need. Another suggestion is that to remove the ” – ” in section titles. When a user searches the term “Samsung Galaxy S8 Specs”, it is much better if the article contains a section with the same headline than “Samsung Galaxy S8 – Specs”. Also, there is an indexability issue which I found on the gallery items after the first one.

Me (Anjum): The product already using valid microformats structured data for google and other search engines understanding, try to search for a mobile specs on google you’ll see gsm arena’s rich snippet in the top of results, now copy those attributes values and open that page, you’ll see those values in the top section of page and interestingly all those features are wrap in the list items.

I think the search engines are don’t much care about your sites structure when the contents are already provided in microformats, i am not a SEO expert may be i am wrong, i’ll try to get some opinions from SEO experts before changing the structure.

  • You have an eloquent client. In my experience search engines almost never care about the HTML markup for rankings. The few exceptions to that would be <title> and <meta> tags. Now that Google is rendering pages, it doesn't even appear to care about <h1> tags anymore, Google weights text based on how prominent it appears on the page to the user, regardless of tags used. That being said, it is hard to argue with somebody who says they tried something and it seemed to work for them. – Stephen Ostermiller Nov 30 '17 at 10:51
  • @StephenOstermiller You are right, it's what i said to my client as you may read our conversation above, as i said above to my client i need a solid reason to use old html tables instead of lists. – Anjum Nov 30 '17 at 12:12
  • It is hard to have solid reasons in SEO. The client's reason of "I tried to rakn with the default list format" would be good enough for me to honor the client's wishes in this case. Its not enough to convince me that they are right, or to recommend their advice to others though. – Stephen Ostermiller Nov 30 '17 at 12:27
  • There are two things I see here that are at issue. First, list vs. table has nothing to do with ranking and whether a page is indexed. Where it does have value is potentially within the knowledge graph. In this case your client is perfectly correct in that tables are a signal and are easier to understand in some cases. However, this is content dependent because a list is also a signal and be easily understood as well. It depends upon the content and which is better for the content. That said, you are right about tables on mobile, however, there is a CSS solution for this that should work. – closetnoc Nov 30 '17 at 17:22
  • @closetnoc the data is displaying well in lists for users there is noting any problem on desktops and mobiles, you may visit the demo page. – Anjum Dec 1 '17 at 13:53
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There is no advantage of using unordered lists vs tables for SEO purposes, as far as my research has led me to believe.


On the other hand, since you are using list items to simulate table rows, I fail to see the logic behind this decision.

If the reasoning behind your decision is because "the tables are hard to render correctly in mobile devices," why not just use <div> elements and cut out the unordered list entirely?

Anyways, this is entirely subjective, but I would personally incorporate a Bootstrap-style approach, rather than using <table> or <ul>:

<div class="row">
    <div class="col-xs-3">
        <strong>Device Type</strong>
    </div>
    <div class="col-xs-9">
        <span>Smart Phone</span>
    </div>
</div>
<div class="row">
    <div class="col-xs-3">
        <strong>Model</strong>
    </div>
    <div class="col-xs-9">
        <span>H870, H870DS</span>
    </div>
</div>

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