If you are a webmaster, you have undoubtedly heard about HTML 5—the latest standard in markup for presenting web pages. This standard is still being developed but web developers can take advantage of it today. If your favorite web browser is an older version of Mozilla Firefox, you have probably seen the message that your browser is no longer supported on the famous video sharing website Youtube. This is because Youtube has started using an HTML 5 video player. HTML 5, introduced in 2004, is gradually being introduced in many web applications and experts say that we will probably see this slow phase-in continue over the next few years. So what are the benefits and promises of HTML 5? And, more specifically, how will HTML 5 affect SEO? What makes it an improvement over the current HTML 4 language?

In the area of SEO, HTML 5 makes a search engine crawler’s job more intuitive. HTML 5 introduces some new tags such as <footer> and <article> that identify specific sections on the page by name. This makes a search engine crawler’s job easier because when it runs across one of these tags it knows what the section is for. Take for example the tags <footer> and <article>. A web crawler will look for the important content within the <article> block and place less emphasis on the <footer> section. Not only does it make it more intuitive for a crawler, it also means that less code will have to be read which improves load performance.

HTML 5 allows you to create a rich user experience without the use of Flash. Take Youtube for example. You can start a playlist and click on any thumbnail within that playlist without refreshing the page. You can add videos to personal playlists by either dragging or clicking but all without a page refresh. The playlist bar scrolls left and right in a smooth and seamless fashion. In the past, a website would have to be developed in Flash in order to achieve a similar user experience. The drawback with Flash is that search engine crawlers oftentimes could not read everything because the source code was not in text. Search engine crawlers have no problem reading HTML 5 sites because their markup is in text.

HTML 5 adds multi-tasking capabilities to web browsers through Web Workers. The advantage of a feature such as Web Workers is that several processes can be operating within the context of a web page without locking up the browser. In the past, Javascript was not well-suited for doing heavy computing let alone multi-tasking. Long-running scripts would also time out. Web Workers is similar to classic multi-threaded applications such as those created in Java or C#. Two uses for Web Workers are doing intensive numerical calculations and updating client-side databases. How does Web Workers improve SEO? Here again, it gives a developer greater flexibility in separating content, which is important to search engine crawlers, from code intended for processing tasks.

A popular feature of HTML 5 is the video element. Youtube has implemented the HTML 5 video player as an alternative to the Flash video player used in the past. With HTML 5 you can add videos to your web pages in much the same way that you add pictures in previous versions of HTML. The major advantage is that you don’t have to depend on browser plug-ins from third-party vendors. This makes HTML 5 more compatible with mobile devices which typically have limited memory resources. Here again, the advantage of this video element for SEO is attributed to the fact that you do not have to do as much coding to embed video. Plus the <video> tag makes it more intuitive to a crawler as to what this code is for.

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