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So, is HTML structure important for SEO 2024

So, is HTML structure important for SEO 2024 when Ellis was talking about HTML structure, he was most likely referring to a few things that SEOs care about:

So, Is Html Structure Important For Seo 2024
So, Is Html Structure Important For Seo 2024
  • The number of H1 tags on the page.
  • Arrangement of H signs.
  • Whether something is a <b> tag  or  a <strong> tag.
  • Using tables vs. CSS for styling.
  • How high the source code text appears. 

These are all things I’ve seen SEOs discussed over the years, and while some of them were important in the good old days of SEO, that’s not how things work anymore.

Before we dive into when HTML is or isn’t important for SEO, we need to make a few caveats. 

100% HTML structure is still important for accessibility. 

However, accessibility  is not a direct ranking factor, so it is a bit outside the scope of this article.

I will note , as others   at

The recently updated Google SEO Starter Guide   specifically mentions title tags and accessibility vs. SEO:

“Arranging titles in semantic order is great for screen readers, but from a Google search perspective, it doesn’t matter if you use them out of order. The web in general is not valid HTML, so Google search rarely relies on the semantic meanings hidden in the HTML specification.”

There is also no magic, perfect number of headings a given page should have. However, if you think this is too much, it probably is.”

But what about the rest of the HTML structure?

The main issue here is our mental model of how  search engines work  . For most people, this model hasn’t changed since the 1990s when search engines were mostly lexical searches. This means finding the document that contains the highest number of mentions of that term. 

These search engines had scoring functions that gave extra weight to the frequency of a term in bold, counted H1 more than H2, etc.

Unfortunately for our mental model, research has moved away from the lexical approach and toward  the semantic approach  .

In semantic search, content is converted into vectors and algorithms like BERT, RankBrain, etc. are used to interpret the “meaning” of the query and the content, not just looking at the words it contains. During the process of converting content to vectors, most of the HTML is lost. 

Not only do vectors come into play here, they’re also displayed. Before search engines could render JavaScript and inspect the DOM, they had to rely on HTML hints – but those days are over.

Just as they can use algorithms like pass-bert to determine the most relevant snippet on a page, they can also use different algorithms to determine the main title — even if it’s not in the <h1> tag. 

Sure, there’s a <h1> tip here – but so is the font size and placement of the content and the actual sentence itself. We’ve all seen too many SEOs mark up a small portion of navigation with H1 even though there’s a huge 30-point text in the middle of the screen that’s just a <span> tag. 

In the old days, search engines would struggle here, but these days, they can often correctly identify that giant <span> tag as the “title” of the page. 

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use proper H tags and nested elements. Remember, accessibility is still important to give search engines a hint. It will be cleaner, easier, more accessible and overall better if you do this. I’m just saying that search engines are not obligated to rely on tags.

Another misconception is multiple H1 tags. This is one of my biggest pet peeves.

With the introduction of HTML5 and various elements, it has become quite normal (and in some accessibility cases required) to have multiple H1 tags on a page. This is not something that will impact your SEO efforts. (Unless you’re keyword stuffing and coding everything as H1, which might remove some spam signals.)

So, what does a search engine do? (I’m going to oversimplify here because I can go into deep information retrieval and I like to do it over a beer anytime

. )

  • They will discover the title tag, the main headings (which may or may not be H1, H2, etc.), and the body copy.
  • They will then run both lexical (e.g.,  BM25  ) and semantic (e.g.,  cosine similarity  ) metrics to determine the relevance of these sections to the query before feeding them all into the machine learning algorithm and classifying them. 

The bottom line is that they probably no longer really care if it’s H1 or H2 – just that their algorithm identified it as the “title” of the page. 

The same goes for bold text, span tags, div’s, etc. It’s all about whether the algorithm (e.g., BERT) says it’s relevant to the query. 

 


So, what is the importance of HTML structure? 

HTML structure can actually make or break your SEO strategy in many cases. For example,  placing   your canonical tag in  <body> instead of . <head>

Likewise, if you put a  <div> tag in  your <head> tag, the Googlebot version of Chrome will assume that you forgot to close the head and start the body and do it for you, potentially moving some of your important SEO tags to the body where they will be ignored. 

You wouldn’t believe how often I see this. It only takes one person accidentally pasting code into the wrong place in Google Tag Manager to take your entire site down. For this reason alone, I tell clients to make sure their SEO tags are all higher than  any other <head> tags.

Other HTML coding techniques can hurt your SEO as well.

For example, if your site includes an event instead of using an attribute tag  <a> search engines won’t  count  that as a link, even though users won’t notice the difference. There are some accessibility issues as well, so please stop doing this. href <span> onclick=

When it comes to images, search engines require  an <img> tag with an  src= attribute. You’d be surprised how many lazy loading plugins omit  src= srcset= which, according to my latest test, works in modern browsers but isn’t treated as an “image” by Google for image classification. 

I don’t think any of these examples were what Ellis meant when he talked about HTML syntax. I think he was referring to the common arguments of overlapping titles, bolding, etc. 

Turkish lire; Dr

Should I be worried about my use of H1s, H2s, etc.?

Yes, always, but not for SEO. Highlight things in a way that is accessible and makes sense to users. Don’t stress about enforcing that  <h1> tag that is designed to look like plain text. 

Should I validate my HTML?

Yes, but not for SEO rankings. Valid HTML is not a ranking factor, but it will help prevent technical issues that affect your SEO  and potentially  reduce your accessibility work. I’m a big fan of the  W3C Validator  . 

Is HTML structure important for SEO?

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It depends. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) If your markup causes items to be inaccessible or unseen, then yes, this is very important. If you were hoping to get a ranking boost by rearranging some titles or bolding some text, it probably won’t happen. 

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