What do Semantics and SEO have to do with each other? EVERYTHING!. Let’s define semantics in regards to the web. Semantics is short for Semantic Markup, which is what provides meaning and context to webpages.
Imagine if you had a web page full of outstanding content, but there was no separation of paragraphs, headings, indentations, font spacing, etc. A visitor to a site like this would have no idea what should be a heading, a beginning of a new thought or subject, what was quoted from someone else, you would quickly loose your vistors interest, despite having great content.
Semantic Markup is a bit like providing content separation for web browsers, even if all of the graphical content, styling, and effects were taken out of a website, the readability would remain, it is apparent what is a heading, what is paragraph, what is a list, etc.
According to Google, advatnages of semantic markup are as follows:
- It’s the professional thing to do.
- It’s more accessible.
- It’s more maintainable.
A website that passes validation checks, and uses semantic markup will out perform a website that does not posses these features. Your site will index better, rank better, perform better, and be more accessible.
Anyone can post a blog and succeed.
This is not entirely true. There are great blogging platforms such as WordPress, which make it very easy for non-technical people to add content. The problem is, WordPress is a content management system, not a website creation system.
A Content Management System by its very definition is a tool for adding content, it does not alleviate the author from ensuring that proper HTML semantics are applied. It simply offers a way to quickly add and manage content, and the corresponding semantics.
An example would be to make sure your paragraphs are wrapped in the <p> tags, and make sure your headings are wrapped in <h1>, <h2>, <h3> tags, etc.
The huge problem being overlooked here is accessibility. Yes we want the search engines to correctly index our websites, however, people that are using screen readers, i.e. the blind, depend on our websites having the proper semantic markup, other wise our sites are useless to them.
Case in point, Target Stores settled a 6 million dollar lawsuit because their website was not accessible to the blind. This is because their website was not coded to standards, i.e. using Semantic Markup. You can read more about it here.
You can create a website using some free software on the internet, why would I pay a professional do this for me?
Well, this is isn’t entirely a lie, because you can, however, the software that is available creates sites that are not Semantically correct. This means that websites being created use outdated coding techniques that will cause issues with your website and at some point will make them un-usable..
Some quick tools to find out how your site fairs in the issue of semantics are http://validator.w3.org/ and http://www.w3.org/2003/12/semantic-extractor.html
In addition we highly recommend reading Googles write up on The Semantic Web and their recommendations Here
Remember, there are no quick fixes, and you get what you pay for. If you are using free development software, or quick development software there is a 100% chance your end product will be full of errors, and although it may look okay, it will not perform okay and will cost you money in the long run.
We will pick up the rest of our series, SEO, THE TRUTH, THE MYTHS, and THE LIES on Monday April 1st.