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Ranking Problems? HTML Can Help Improve Your SEO

    Last Updated on February 18, 2024

    A post for Beginners and Click-n-Builders.

    HTML gets a bum rap a lot of the time. It isn’t seen as a programming language, and so many people build websites without touching so much as an <h1> tag. Sad. The beauty of HTML is in its simplicity. The power of HTML is that it can influence your website’s ranking in search engines.

    HTML makes our websites more accessible. Well-structured HTML helps search engines, screen readers and even our eyes process information more easily. Long story short, SEO needs HTML.

    >> Learn More About HTML in 5 Easy Steps right here.

    What is HTML, and Why is HTML Important?

    Born in 1993, “HTML” stands for “Hypertext Markup Language”. HTML code is hidden behind most websites on the Internet. It structures the website the way you see it.

    “The first version of HTML was written by Tim Berners-Lee in 1993. Since then, there have been many different versions of HTML. The most widely used version throughout the 2000’s was HTML 4.01, which became an official standard in December 1999.”

    University of Washington Web Design & Development

    The standard for HTML now is HTML5. HTML5 supports the semantics and multimedia capabilities of today’s websites. These include video and audio playback, drag-and-drop, and interactive forms.

    How Many Websites are Made with HTML? What About WordPress and Drupal?

    There are approximately 200 million live websites out there. About 70 million use a CMS (Content Management System). A CMS is really useful if you want to build a website but have little or no programming experience. It’s also beneficial when working on websites with a group of editors who will be updating the website with content.

    About half of the websites currently in a CMS use WordPress.

    The other websites, about 130 million strong, are static – they don’t use a CMS. They are pure HTML.

    Building websites is still very much in fashion. You can get amazing HTML5 themes and learn HTML5 for free. HTML is alive and well and powers the web thirty years after it started it.

    Here are a few examples of static HTML websites, and some of these are real legacy sites too. The list begins with my current chocolate website and the homepage I started with, in the mid-1990s.

    https://chocolatecheese.de | https://chocolatecheese.de/oldschool
    http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html
    http://www.toad.com
    https://mfts.io
    http://acme.com
    http://www.fluffbucket.co.uk/howto/htmlonlypg.htm
    https://jgthms.com/web-design-in-4-minutes

    I really like these websites despite the salty language:

    https://motherfuckingwebsite.com/
    https://ultimatemotherfuckingwebsite.com

    You can create an HTML document, on the fly, right here too: http://txti.es. That’s pretty cool.

    You can also create an HTML document on your own laptop/desktop in three easy steps.

    1. create a .txt file
    2. place the code below in the .txt file, and
    3. save the .txt file as “webpage.htm” or “webpage.html”

    You’ll see a browser icon on your desktop named “webpage”, and when you click on it you will see your webpage.

    <html>
       <body>
          <h1>My first web page</h1>
          <p>hello! this is my first paragraph in my first web page!</p>
       </body>
    </html>

    How Does HTML Help Improve My SEO?

    A lean source code and the correct use of HTML tags are important quality features in the OnPage optimisation of a website.

    Semantic HTML uses HTML markup to define the semantics or meaning of information in web pages and web applications and not just to enhance its presentation or search. (Learn more about Semantic HTML on W3Schools!)

    A semantic element uniquely describes its meaning to both the browser and the developer. Examples of semantic tags are <header>, <h1>, and <footer>.

    It’s Just Semantics, Bro

    Semantics is important not only for HTML, but also for SEO. Semantics in terms of keywords and search phrases was introduced into Google search with the Hummingbird Updates (2013). This makes search a lot more interesting. Why? We may use words to search, but behind those words are an intent.

    Example: without semantics, searching for “vegan diet and health” would give us search results containing those terms. With semantic search, instead of only scanning pages for keywords, Google looks for pages that cover the topic “vegan diet and health” best.

    6 Simple HTML Tags that Help Your Page’s SEO

    All WordPress and Drupal websites are HTML-based, but not all HTML websites are WordPress or Drupal websites. However, without HTML, websites would be almost impossible.

    These 6 HTML tags are very important for SEO. There are more, but this is a post for beginners, so let’s keep this tight. My friends over at Green Geeks have a post with 15 HTML tags you need for SEO.

    1. Title Tag (SEO Title, Page Title)

    Your page title, or SEO title normally found at the top of your page, is intended for people already on your website. It tells them what your post or page is about. It’s the big, blue, clickable call to action that appears in the organic SERPs. It’s a big deal.

    The enormous importance of the SEO title is because nowhere else does your page’s content need to be concise and precise.

    <title>Digital Communication & Webdesign – for Your Success - Warren Laine-Naida // Online-Marketing, Consulting, Coaching</title>

    2. Meta Description

    Your Meta Description is for people who haven’t yet reached your website. It’s what people see in the search engines. Together with the Meta Description, the Title Tag forms the SERP Snippet, which is listed in the search engine’s results (SERPs). Make sure your primary and secondary keywords appear here too.

    <meta name="description" content="Webdesign, Online Marketing, Consulting, und Coaching in Bremen. I will design and manage your WordPress or Drupal website. SEO consulting. Website workshops." />

    3. Heading Tags (H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6)

    Headings and subtitles are important signals for both users and search engines that reflect the topic and subtopics of a web page. The optimal use of heading tags can also increases the visibility of your page in Google.

    Your headlines are a crucial aspect for the use of your document. Nielsen found in early studies of user reading behaviour that a large proportion of readers (79% according to Nielsen) only skim your content.

    <h2>6 Simple HTML Tags that Help Your Page's SEO</h2>

    4. Alt Text with Images

    For search engines, the alt attribute is important to assign the content of the image. Search engine robots cannot capture and index an image. They need meaningful texts that the crawler can find and utilise. The alt attribute is often used to rank well in Google’s image search too!

    <img src="https://warrenlainenaida.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/warren-laine-naida-digital-consulting.webp" alt="Warren Laine-Naida shown teaching a course"

    5. NoFollow Tags

    From Google’s point of view, the quality of your website is not only measured by its content, but also by the number of links that come from trustworthy sites. But not every backlink is beneficial from an SEO perspective.

    Use NoFollow links to prevent certain links from flowing into your link popularity for the sake of search engine optimisation. Which pages? Terms and Conditions, Log-In, Imprint, and Cookie Policy pages perhaps?

    <a href="https://warrenlainenaida.net/cookies" rel="nofollow">Cookie Policy</a>

    6. Links and Anchor Tags

    More detail here because Anchor tags aren’t used as much as they should. The best way to use them is to create a table of contents for your pages with longer or mixed content. I have one at the top of this page too.

    These are not only useful for UX, but also for Google. If someone is looking for a topic and it appears in your page the anchor tag might get you found.

    Pro Tip: This also works if the anchors are not HTML anchors:

    Go to any page on the internet and simply highlight the text then: „Select Copy link to highlight.“ Example below:

    https://warrenlainenaida.net/nine-ways-to-help-get-your-website-indexed-faster/#:~:text=Here%20are%20some%20tips%20I%20know%20will%20help%20your%20web%20pages%20get%20in%20front%20of%20people%20faster.%20Test%20the%20results%20over%20the%20next%2030%20days%20and%20see%20for%20yourself.

    Back to our “vegan diet and health” example. If your page included various diet and health advice, one of your sections might be “vegan diet and health”.

    Example page “Exploring Various Diets and Your Health”:

    Item 1: <a href=“#vegetarian-diet-and-health“>Vegetarian Diet and Health</a>. 
    Further down, the anchor tag is set: <a name=“vegetarian-diet-and-health“></a>
    
    Item 2: <a href=“#pizza-diet-and-health“>Pizza Diet and Health</a>. 
    Further down, the anchor tag is set: <a name=“pizza-diet-and-health“></a>
    
    Item 3: <a href=“#vegan-diet-and-health“>Vegan Diet and Health</a>. 
    Further down, the anchor tag is set: <a name=“vegan-diet-and-health“></a>

    “Google can insert a “Jump To” (Anchor link) in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Page = Google results page) if it recognises a table of contents. This can improve your click-through rate.”

    Bettina Heuser digitalfahrschule.de (German content)

    A Final SEO HTML Joiner

    These six very small examples show how important HTML is to your SEO efforts. Let’s not poo-poo HTML. It may not be a programming language, but it’s the rock we built the internet upon.

    How can we expect the advanced, state-driven stuff to be built robustly if we’re all failing HTML 101?” Eric Bailey

    A final note: Keep the HTML tags in mind if you plan to relaunch your website too.

    You can retain the content and the structure of your website, but if you change the design, you change the HTML tags. This means the bots need to relearn the structure of any pages that are already indexed. This can cause your ranking to drop.

    “When redesigning, sure – go ahead – make the site pretty. But changing the core HTML can result in ranking changes.” Gary Illyes recommends, “try to use semantically similar HTML when you redesign the site and avoid adding tags where you don’t actually need them.”

    Gary Illyes from the Google Search Relations team

    You can find out more about HTML and SEO in the following two articles:

    Got Questions? Need HTML or SEO Help? Drop Me a Line

    Thanks to vectorjuice on Freepik for the image!