The significance of semantic HTML elements has been the subject of countless debates among SEO experts and web developers. As websites get more sophisticated, the importance of structuring content with semantic tags has become more obvious. But does Google really believe that semantic HTML components are revolutionising search engine optimization, or is their significance overstated?
During a recent SEO Office Hours session, Google’s John Mueller answered a question about the potential influence of the <article> semantic HTML element on Google’s search results. Although he offered a straightforward answer, it left room for more in-depth analyses of the wider impacts of adopting semantic HTML elements.
Let’s delve into the insights gleaned from Google to unravel the truth behind the semantics!
The query posed to Mueller specifically inquired about whether the <article> HTML element influences Google’s search rankings and whether it’s beneficial to enclose product listing content within such an element.
The question read: “Does using an <article> HTML tag have an impact on Google? Is it better to put the content of a product listing page in an <article> tag?”
Mueller’s direct response indicated that the <article> HTML element doesn’t hold a significant effect on Google Search rankings. He emphasised that this observation extends to various other HTML tags. However, focusing solely on SEO when considering the use of HTML elements could be limiting, as there are broader considerations like accessibility and semantic structure that come into play.
Mueller confirmed that some HTML elements were used for “semantic reasons” only. While “semantic” normally refers to a word’s meaning, in computing, it refers to a code’s intended use. Semantic HTML elements help developers and search engines understand their respective roles by communicating the code’s intention. As an illustration of semantic purpose, <header> defines the introductory information of a page or section, <nav> is used for navigation links, <main> is used for the main content (also called the body) of a page, <article> is for the independent content of the page or site, <section> is used to group nearby content of a similar theme, <aside> defines content that’s less important and the <footer> element indicates that its content relates to the footer portion of the webpage.
Image Source: Semrush
Mueller explained that the <article> element performs a semantic function by indicating that the information included within its tags is the page’s primary content. Pages are divided up by search engines into areas like the footer, major text, and navigation. Martin Splitt from Google has previously mentioned this idea in podcasts. In order to support automated systems in understanding the structure and content divisions of a page, Splitt stressed the importance of using semantic headings and layout trees.
Mueller further stressed that contrary to popular belief, the article> element has no real effect on search engine optimisation (SEO) rankings. In fact, it serves as a tool to divide up webpages and inform Google about the particular section and subject of the content. It helps with the overall structure of the content on a webpage.
According to Mozilla Developer’s documentation, the article> element also increases web page usability. It, therefore, encourages its use in order to boost accessibility and help search engines understand the structure of a page.
What does Google think at this point? Is the impact of semantic HTML components real or exaggerated? Although the <article> element has little direct impact on search engine results, it is critical for improving the user experience, facilitating accessibility, and organising content. Despite the fact that semantic HTML is not a quick remedy, its influence on user engagement and search engines’ reading comprehension is clear.
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