Google's View of HTML5 In Terms Of SEO & Crawling

Oct 18, 2010 • 7:54 am | comments (16) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization
 

HTML5 is a brand new (well, not so new) form of HTML that is growing in popularity every day. All the modern browsers tend to support rendering HTML5 with no problems. It is widely the optimal choice for smart phone browsers and more and more sites are adopting it.

But what about GoogleBot? Can Google crawl HTML5? Does Google pick up any additional factors from HTML5 to give your site a boost in the search results? Can it hurt your SEO efforts?

Googler, JohnMu, answered some of these questions in two different Google Webmaster Help threads.

My take aways are (1) Google currently won't give special consideration to those that use HTML5 and (2) it might not be worth even going there, if you are doing it for SEO reasons. To me, it seems John is implying to shy away from it, but he knows how awesome HTML5 can be for users, but how awesome for crawlers?

Let me quote John's two posts, they are similar:

In general, our crawlers are used to not being able to parse all HTML markup - be it from broken HTML, embedded XML content or from the new HTML5 tags. Our general strategy is to wait to see how content is marked up on the web in practice and to adapt to that. If we find that more and more content uses HTML5 markup, that this markup can give us additional information, and that it doesn't cause problems if webmasters incorrectly use it (which is always a problem in the beginning), then over time we'll attempt to work that into our algorithms. With that in mind, I definitely wouldn't want to stand in the way of your implementing parts of your site with HTML5, but I also wouldn't expect to see special treatment of your content due to the HTML5 markup at the moment. HTML5 is still very much a work in progress, so it's great to see bleeding-edge sites making use of the new possibilities :)

In general, we work hard to understand as much of the web as possible, but I have a feeling that HTML5 markup is not yet as widely in use (and in use correctly) that it would make sense for us to use it as a means of understanding content better. As HTML5 gains in popularity and as we recognize specific markup elements that provide value to our indexing system, this is likely to change, but at the moment I would not assume that you would have an advantage by using HTML5 instead of older variants.

Returning different content to search engine crawlers as you would to similar users would be considered cloaking and against our Webmaster Guidelines. I would not recommend treating search engine crawlers different than you would similar users.

Personally, I would recommend using HTML5 where you think that it already makes sense, perhaps reverting to HTML4 if you can determine that the browser won't support the elements of HTML5 that you use properly. While this will not result in an advantage for your content in our search results, it generally wouldn't be disadvantageous either.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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Comments:

Robert

10/18/2010 12:23 pm

Correct me if I'm way off the mark here, but isn't this like Google saying they can now crawl Flash? They can (have been able to for quite some time) just they're doing a rather poor job of it. So to make their life easier (and to see optimal results) just don't use it where crawling may be required? Much of a muchness. :) Think Google Bot and I may be the only ones rooting for a plain text internet.

Barry Schwartz

10/18/2010 12:31 pm

Ha. Wont argue with you.

Ian Lunn

10/18/2010 12:44 pm

What about using multiple H1's per document in HTML5? That from an SEO perspective is detrimental. John mentions that HTML5 is not widely in use correctly but how can it be when a developer can't use multiple H1's because the crawler will penalise for it.

John Mueller

10/18/2010 01:06 pm

HTML5 is a bit different than Flash, since the content itself can be read normally from the page. FWIW most of Google's newer pages are HTML5 as well, and they are crawled and indexed fine (eg the new Google Earth landing page). If you want to stay ahead of the trends, learning & practicing with HTML5 is a great idea.

Juan Gracia

10/18/2010 01:56 pm

good post! I think Google will benefit short time use of HTML 5

Matt Inertia

10/18/2010 02:08 pm

>> What about using multiple H1's per document in HTML5? That from an SEO perspective is detrimental. >> John mentions that HTML5 is not widely in use correctly but how can it be when a developer can't use multiple H1's because the crawler will penalise for it. You wont get penalised for using multiple H1s unless, ever.

Liam

10/18/2010 04:01 pm

it really makes me scared/laugh/pissed off at how little people who work in SEO actually know about their industry at large. "HTML5 is a bit different than Flash" html5 has absolutely no relation to flash what so ever in the slightest, I can't make this distinct enough. It's not a replacement, it's not even a competitor. HTML5 is just the next version of the Hypertext Markup Language with a collection of browser API's thrown in. this is why most web designers hate SEO people, you are all clueless and you revel in it.

Stuart

10/18/2010 07:24 pm

Liam did you stop to think that maybe John's comment about Flash and HTML5 might have been an understatement done for effect? And we are no more clueless than web designers who miss the point.

Antony

10/19/2010 08:10 am

"All the modern browsers tend to support rendering HTML5 with no problems" Unfortunately that statement simply isn't true. As at least 70-80% of the web can't view HTML 5 why does the web world seem so keen to push ahead with it?? I know android/iphone etc but seriously - our clients won't pay for 2 versions of a website or one that looks rubbish on their PCs. We need to wait for much better IE9 << 9!! adoption first.

AJ

10/19/2010 02:37 pm

"As at least 70-80% of the web can't view HTML 5 why does the web world seem so keen to push ahead with it?? " Non-compliant browsers *cough*IE*cough* can easily be made to correctly parse and display HTML5 with a simple line of Javascript. If designers let IE dictate the progress of the web, we'd all still be using tables.

CdnJake

10/21/2010 03:40 pm

"HTML5 is a bit different than Flash" I think this comment was from an SEO / Googlebot perspective, not from a functionality perspective. Climb out of your little web designer box - this post isn't about functionality/design, it is about SEO and crawling.

Martyn

11/07/2010 10:17 pm

"If designers let IE dictate the progress of the web, we'd all still be using tables." We not using tables anymore???

Anonymous Coder

05/09/2011 07:37 am

IE6 still holds about 11% of the IE market share, and some would argue that using a JavaScript hack isn't the best way to go for usability reasons.

Anonymous

05/09/2011 07:40 am

You're right. HTML5 allows video to be played within the browser without the use of plugins, like flash.

Anonymous Coder

05/09/2011 07:43 am

You'll be able to group H tags with the new HGROUP tag, which the current specification requires it to contain more than one H tag within it. Not sure how SE's will handle this for SEO...

Jonathan

09/07/2011 12:44 pm

This is my concern: As a web developer I am well aware of the influence that Microsoft 'tried' to use to 'push' their none standards compliant browsers on to internet users. 10 years on and web developers are still having to deal with the effects and costs. What I am reading in this thread is what appears to be a similar situation (replace Microsoft with Google). In that Google obviously feels that they have so much influence in how web sites 'must comply to their (rules / guidelines) or suffer the consequences of sites that do not perform well within their search engine. It would seem that reading these posts people are saying that HTML5 will only be viable when 'Google' adopts HTM5 in its crawler and algorithm technologies. Yes it must be a massive undertaking by Google, yes it will involve a lot of work, but hey how much money does Google earn from the internet? I for one would expect them to at least keep up with the technology that earns them so much money. I have read many articles on this particular subject and I can see that Google is quickly becoming the new 'Microsoft' and as a result there are new developments on the horizon that will challenge Google. Lets just hope that when at least one of these new competitors 'clips Google's wings' that they themselves will not become arrogant of any market influence they may develop. I predict that Google will eventually take the place of Microsoft as the 'bain' of web developers world wide and that like such companies before them they will see that the internet will never be an arena for a small group of powerful commercial interrests and fall as Microsoft is continuing to do today. With any luck Google will be the last of these companies who 'pretend' to embrace the 'free' nature of the internet, while hiding their commercial greed (not a founding principle of the internet) and finally the internet will be free to expand to serve those who use it.

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