What are the rules of engagement with respect to SEO in HTML 5?

Examples of things we have been mulling over with no conclusion:

  • Are you penalised for not using <head> and <body> tags?

  • Do links in <nav> blocks get prioritised for follows?

  • With <aside> (no bside though), <section>, <summary> and <details> which ones carry the most weight for content, one-liner descriptions and keyword tags are there search engine implications?

  • If you use CSS to put a <footer> element at the top and a <header> element at the bottom (not that you would but it may be construed as such by an incomplete spider implementation)?

  • Does the use of placeholder attributes on <input> show you are more user focused?

At the minute we are haphazardly pinning the content on the donkey with regard to tag usage but would be interesting to know if anyone has any insight into the "correct" tags to use with regards to SEO.


3 Answers 3


Give HTML5 some time to mature and gain wide acceptance and you might have some specific guidelines for SEO, but I don't think it will differ much from what's currently considered good practice. Either way, I think it's a little too early.

In general, if it's good for your users, it will be good for SEO. Make your site accessible and usable. Use a good linking strategy and good anchor text, target the right keywords, etc.

While it's not HTML5, you might be interested in microformats and RDFa, which Google and Yahoo both support (Bing isn't there yet). Note, however, that while Google and Yahoo both support structured data formats, using them doesn't necessarily mean that you'll rank better. At this point, it seems more like a way to manipulate the appearance of your search engine listing.

  • 1
    Good answer, in general there has been almost nothing written about SEO for HTML5 because it isn't 100 released yet and is just a working document. Commented Jul 21, 2010 at 19:48
  • Yeah, I have high hopes for HTML5, primarily because it makes it easier to do things "right". I personally doubt that there will be much change for people who are already using well-structured HTML, but tagging nav elements, header, and footer will definitely help search engines understand the semantics of your site.
    – JasonBirch
    Commented Jul 21, 2010 at 20:06
  • With HTML5, you also want to look at microdata. It's currently an Editor's Draft, but worth reading and following. dev.w3.org/html5/md Commented Jul 31, 2010 at 11:35

To speculate (because I think that's all you can do on this question without rigorous testing in an essentially uncontrollable environment) I personally doubt that there are yet ANY ranking factors associated with HTML5, for the same reason that Google doesn't assign quality points for valid HTML. There aren't enough sites using these structured elements yet for them to provide any material value in the search engines' crawl and ranking.


The main thing I would keep in mind at the moment is that if your pages rely on meta-tags, you will want to test and monitor their acceptance regularly. For instance, for Google Webmaster Tools, if you want to verify ownership via meta-tag, you will have to place it in a "head" element (there are other ways to verify ownership, so generally that's not a problem -- but if you need to rely on meta-tag-based verification, then that's something to keep in mind). The same may apply to other meta-tags such as the "robots" meta tag to control indexing of your pages: since the acceptance outside of a "head" section may vary from search engine to search engine, that's something I'd recommend monitoring regularly (or perhaps it's just easier to use a traditional "head" section for the moment if you need to be absolutely certain).

For the rest, as others have mentioned, I wouldn't assume that it would be treated in a special way at the moment. These things are still in flux... once they settle down and it's found that treating them in a different way significantly improves the ability to understand content on a page, then you might start seeing changes in the handling of those elements.

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