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The Definitive Guide to Semantic Web Markup for Blogs

You’d think that as a result of open-source development practices, blog architectures would be pretty close to perfection in areas like Web standards and maximum SEO impact.

You’d be wrong.

Unbelievably, nearly every WordPress, MovableType, or TypePad theme that I’ve come across in the past year fails a simple test for truly semantic (and Google-recommended) XHTML markup. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that these failures are by no means fatal flaws. At the same time, though, I find it extremely unsettling that an inferior markup structure is prevailing in the face of an absolutely correct way of doing things.

After having this revelation, I thought I’d champion the cause and start changing sites one by one, all the while evangelizing the benefits of perfect markup. Then I realized that there are only 24 hours in the day, and I wanted at least three of those to go towards playing Guitar Hero

So to compromise, I decided to publish the essential guide to semantic Web markup for blogs. Learn it, live it, and benefit from it—it can mean the difference between a good site and one that will blow you away.

Proper XHTML structure for blogs and for Google!

One key principle governs the markup on every page of your site:

Your goal is to describe each page to the search engines through the use of hierarchical XHTML tags (<title>, <h1>, <h2>, <h3> etc.) and to present them in a logical, meaningful order.

Regarding blog architectures, there are five areas that we’re going to focus on, as seen in picture below.

Semantic XHTML image guide

Figure 1. We’re going to cover these 5 areas of semantic XHTML markup.

1. Title your pages the right way!

Page titles are the most important link between pure SEO and your human readers. Although their apparent impact on your site’s pages may appear minimal, their true impact in the search engines is undeniable. As you can see in the image below, Google pulls the contents of your <title> tag and links it as the most prominent piece of information in your search result.

Search engine results page

Figure 2. Your <title> tags are served in the SERPs, so you’d better make them count!

Although some WordPress themes handle page titles gracefully, many are constructed in a way that doesn’t make sense when viewed within the context of the SERPs. For instance, the highly ubiquitous Kubrick theme, which comes pre-installed with WordPress, has page titles that are constructed like so:

Blog name » Post title

With this structure, all of the search engine results for your site’s pages would be prefaced by the title of your blog. This may not seem so bad, but you need to view this from the perspective of the average search engine user—does he or she care what your site’s name is when they’re searching for something that is of interest to them? Absolutely not.

Keep in mind, too, that users scan content rather than reading it (especially true for the SERPs), so you need to provide them with as much value and as little fluff as possible.

Want to fix your titles? Check out my article on how to add dynamic, search engine friendly titles to your WordPress blog.

2. How to code up your logo and tagline

This is the second most common problem that I see in WordPress themes and Web sites in general (I’m even guilty of this one). All too often, site logos are served inside <h1> tags. Countless WordPress themes are guilty of this markup misdemeanor, so odds are extremely good that your site is currently suffering from a bad case of logo egomania. Here’s why it’s a problem.

Besides the <title> tag, the <h1> tag is supposed to tell both Google and users exactly what they can expect to find on the current Web page. In addition, search engines assign a hierarchical rank to the different headline markup tags, and except for the <title>, the <h1> tag is the most powerful piece of information you can serve to the search engines about a particular page.

Let’s look at this very site as an example. For months, I’ve served “Pearsonified” within <h1> tags, so this means that every page of my site appears to be primarily about Pearsonified, and secondarily about whatever topic the page is truly about.

How bass ackwards is that?

The cardinal rule here is that your blog title is not nearly as important as it’s marked up to be (I know, I’m clever), and those <h1> tags ought to be reserved for more specific information about the individual pages of your site.

The solution? Try serving your blog’s title inside a <div> instead.

Oh, and what about your tagline? Ideally, your tagline should be laser-focused on your unique value proposition, the primary subject of your Web site. This is a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do” because my own ridiculous tagline is “Best Damn Blog on the Planet.” The irony here is that if this were actually true, then that wouldn’t be my tagline! Ah well… live and learn.

So, back to you—what to do with that tagline of yours? I recommend serving your laser-focused tagline inside <h1> tags on your home page, and on interior pages, you should serve it inside <h2> or <h3> tags so that it doesn’t appear more important than the actual page/post title.

3. Serve your post titles inside <h1> tags!

If logo egomania is the second most common problem I’ve seen in WordPress themes, then post titles being served inside <h2> tags (or worse) is far and away the biggest markup mistake.

I’ve hinted at it already, but it begs repeating here—the post title is the single most important piece of information you can serve to the search engines about an individual page. Ideally, your post title should give a clear indication of what people can expect to find within the content of a particular Web page, and as a result, it should be featured as prominently as possible within your markup.

Of course, the best way to do this is to serve your post title inside <h1> tags. Oh, and to be completely clear, you should only have one set of <h1> tags on any given Web page, so make them count!

4. Use sub-headlines within posts to your advantage

Breaking up your posts into sub-sections is a great idea both stylistically and also for reader comprehension. The most common way to delineate these sub-sections is through the use of sub-headlines, but the problem is that there are an infinite number of ways you could go about doing this.

Fortunately, many WordPress themes come with pre-formatted styles for sub-headlines, and if you look, you’ll find that <h3> and <h4> tags are the most popular choices. Personally, I’ve been using <h3> tags for well over a year, but I hadn’t ever given it much thought until I decided to write this guide.

Really, if you serve your post title within <h1> tags, then it stands to reason that your sub-headlines ought to be highly-focused, relevant, and served inside <h2> tags. Under this setup, your sub-headlines facilitate your post title in the most powerful way possible while still maintaining the hierarchy of semantic markup.

If you’ve been in the habit of using <h3> tags for sub-headlines, it may be too much trouble to change at this point, and in all honesty, you probably wouldn’t see much difference anyway. The only time I would ever “highly recommend” a change like this is if you were trying to rank for a term that is ridiculously competitive.

Then again, I’m a big fan of doing everything you possibly can to position yourself for future success…

5. Sidebar headlines? A la carte

Unfortunately, the WordPress-recommended sidebar architecture has sidebar headlines served inside <h2> tags. Semantically, this is ridiculous.

Take a look at this site, for instance. My sidebar headlines are “The Latest Articles,” “Must Reads,” and “Improve Your Blog.” While that third headline carries a bit of meaning, the other two are useless, at least as far as search engines are concerned. The bottom line here is that while sidebar items can add some value to a page, they can’t (and shouldn’t) touch the main content area with regard to overall value on a page.

Therefore, you shouldn’t serve sidebar headlines inside high and mighty <h2> tags. Based on everything we’ve covered so far, you should serve them inside <h3> or <h4> tags at the most.

For the record, if your sidebar headlines are tightly focused around your primary subject matter, then serving them inside <h3> tags is a great idea because they will carry as much weight and add as much value as possible. If you’ve got sidebar headlines like mine, though, relegate them to <h4> tags or a comparable element that won’t give them so much weight.

The bottom line

Before I began Celebrity Hack in February of 2007, I was in the habit of “loosely following” semantic markup principles on my sites. I had always met with reasonable success in the search engines, so I had no reason to suspect that things could improve if I tightened my markup belt, so to speak.

Operating in a highly competitive niche like celebrity gossip forced me to take a strict look at things that truly work and afford me a competitive advantage, and as a result, my thoughts on semantic markup have changed entirely.

If you’re truly interested in running your Web site at full throttle, then it will serve you well to understand the principles of semantic markup and apply them as best you can.

This article has been translated into Belorussian—thanks, Patricia!

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192 comments… read them below or add one

Tom April 30, 2007

You know, as much as it should have, your H1 tip never occurred to me. I am guilty of mis-using the h1 tag in the exact way you described.

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Mike April 30, 2007

Wow ! That was worth the time it took to read multiplied by 37 and divided equally by all the extra vistors we’re gonna get, the shake, not stirred, gently.

Thanks for reminding me to remind my staff.

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Douglas Karr April 30, 2007

Chris, this is an incredible post. Thanks so much! I spent the morning modifying my stylesheets.

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Daniel April 30, 2007

Chris, since incorporating your Cutline theme with only very subtle tweaks to the aesthetics — and I have to say that you’ve taken great care in not only the mark-up value of the Blog structure, but also a slick separation of elements within CSS styling.

Meaning, that the elements are aesthetically different enough that it literally forces a publisher to utilize the most proper tags and lists in their pages or posts!

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Matthew Pennell April 30, 2007

I was with you up to point #5, but there I have to cry foul.

Heading tags should appear in your code in order, to signify a hierarchy of content. One h1 (actually you can use more than one, but it’s rarely suitable). Secondary headings with h2, but then, and this is the important bit – headings following the h2 in the content hierarchy are h3, and any sub-headings of the h3 sections are h4.

You cannot just randomly assign an ‘importance’ to the heading and choose a tag based on that arbitrary decision. If you choose to use h4 for your sidebar headings, then _semantically_ what you are saying is “these sections are a sub-section of the previously declared h3, which in turn is a sub-section of the previous h2″.

It will not hurt your SERPs to have an h2:Sidebar, and then use h3s inside the sidebar.

Your own sidebar markup commits the even worse crime of relegating textual content to background-images, however…

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Chris P. April 30, 2007

Matthew,

Your own sidebar markup commits the even worse crime of relegating textual content to background-images, however…

Ordinarily, I’d use image replacement in a situation like that, but because the heading text in my sidebar is so irrelevant, I chose to simply not serve headings there.

I made that layout decision back in October of 2006, though, and I’ve learned quite a bit since then. This site is badly in need of a markup update, and perhaps that will be one of the changes that I make on the new architecture.

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Matt Larson April 30, 2007

Thanks for the article. It is with deep shame (as a SEO consultant) that I admit I’ve overlooked some of this on our affiliate blogs. Now commencing the self-flagellation…

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Manas April 30, 2007

Thanks Chris … :)
Nice article … Implemented them on my blog.

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Gregory Pittman April 30, 2007

Chris,

Great post! I spent the morning tweaking my markup. A couple of questions, the first of which may seem like a rookie question and I’m reasonably certain I know the answer, but I want to make sure my bases are covered.

Search engines are looking for h3 versus h4 tags, etc. Does it matter if they’re styled the same? In other words, does it matter that my h3 and h4 tags are both set to a font size of 1.2em? SEs aren’t looking for appearance, they’re looking for hierarchy, correct?

Second question relates to the title tag. I have my title tag styled as you suggest. The only problem I notice is if I link to someone else’s blog in the post. I wrote a post over the weekend entitled “Blog Suggestion;” a resulting trackback on a blog I link to reads, “Blog Suggestion says . . .” rather than “IsaiahSix says . . .” So readers of the other blog don’t know without doing some research who actually linked. Do you see that as a problem?

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Chris P. April 30, 2007

Gregory — To answer your first question, no, stylistic differences do not matter to search engines. Basically, your use of headline tags is merely assigning an importance to the elements on your page, and you are passing along that information to the search engines. Styles are for your site only.

Regarding your second question, I think the default nature of trackbacks is actually a good thing. The difference in appearance from the normal comment stream can oftentimes incite curiosity that results in a clickthrough to your site, which I see as a good thing.

I wouldn’t worry too much about it, and I certainly don’t think that’s reason enough to mess with your <title> tag.

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Captain Pedantic April 30, 2007

Nice article!

But I think you meant skim. not scan. Check your dictionary. Scan meads “to examine by point-by-point observation or checking” while skim means “to read, study, or examine superficially and rapidly; especially : to glance through (as a book) for the chief ideas or the plot”

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Meg Meyer April 30, 2007

Excellent Article, Chris. As I’m currently in the process of tweaking Cutline for my own site, I’ll be able to add these suggestions, right along.

My main question is: How do I change the header/masthead so that the blog title is an H1 on the main page, and an H2 on interior pages, like single posts, etc? Is this something that can be accomplished with the custom css? Or will I have to code the header manually? Thoughts? Advice?

BTW, I’m really learning a lot about php & semantics, just by working with Cutline & modifying it for my site. Thanks for the great tools!

Meg Meyer
Center of Muse

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Kwotem April 30, 2007

I have been contemplating investing some time rebuilding my own custom theme. You ideas are really very helpful. What a great post.

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Clint April 30, 2007

Don’t forget source ordering… too many people put their TOC and Archive lists at the top of the page with main navigation, which not only jacks with SEO but also those with browsers that don’t support CSS (like my cell phone).

If we think of crawlers as “parsers,” then our strategies for writing good markup can improve ten-fold. Great post.

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dendi April 30, 2007

Great article. I’m new to all this semantic web markup things. So I have one question. Is it necessary to use h1 tags for a posts title in individual pages if we already assign the title tag to show the post title?

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Phil April 30, 2007

You know I was actually going to write this very post myself this evening.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been quite so concise and clear as you, but I just can’t believe that I missed the opportunity.

I am glad that it was done well though! Great article.

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Chris P. April 30, 2007

Dendi — I don’t know that I can state a well-defined case for the necessity of a repetitive <h1>, but I can certainly speak from experience.

When ranking for competitive terms, I’ve seen significant rankings jumps (from outside the top 10 into the top 10) by making sure that post titles are served within <h1> tags.

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fresh-T April 30, 2007

Just started reading this worthwhile article, just wanted to say though, “Get a real guitar mate, the 3-hours would be much better spent”… rock on!

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Jamie Pitts April 30, 2007

This post is most appreciated!

On Memecat, I have been packing my site name, section, and resource name into the H1. I noticed that the whole thing was showing up in Google results, cluttering the relevant info with my site title and section. After all, appearing relevant in search results is more important than identifying the site in the user’s bookmarks.

The descriptions that appear under links in Google results leading to my site are also not ideal. I assume that the H2 or H3 or perhaps the first paragraph of text come into play there, but, annoyingly, it is my navigation text that is displayed.

My first attempt to fix this will be to control the logo with a span and move the H1 to be near the relevant content.

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Scott H April 30, 2007

One more semantic tip I would add is to use a template with elements in a semantically logical order.

For instance, in most cases, the sidebar should come after the content area in the source code.

This is also a very SEO friendly practice since the order of your elements can also affect your adsense earnings – the best paying ads will be served up to the first block of ads appearing in the html.

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random blogger April 30, 2007

I usually like to make my tagline a H6. I figured it was okay to have the sites name in the TITLE as long as it was at the end.

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Adam April 30, 2007

I have to disagree with your H1 tip on the grounds of semantic misuse.

You’re right in saying that having the Post Title within the H1 will give you better search engine rankings, but to use semantics are the excuse for this is incorrect.

The site heading structure is a tree, so it makes semantic sense the the root node of the tree is the site definition (the web site name and/or logo).

The logic being (top to bottom) Pearsonified contains a page entitiled “The Definitive Guide…” which contains a section entitled “Comments”. The relationship between these headings is the semantic element.

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Sarven Capadisli April 30, 2007

“definitive guide..”?

This article hardly touches the boundaries of writing proper semantic markup. The reader (including the article author) should be aware of a few things as a starting point:

* Semantic markup is in concern with using the correct HTML element that best describes the content within.

* There are no semantic improvements as far as using XHTML over HTML.

* Do not tweak your code to cater a specific search engine. Think as if there are no search engines and write up your site in a way that will require minimal amount of maintenance and have the information surpass the external requirements.

* Use only the essential elements in your HTML and remove all code geared for presentation and place them in a stylesheet

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g1smd April 30, 2007

Tick the box marked “Show Outline” at http://validator.w3.org/detailed.html in order to see a bullet-point list of all your heading text – indented to show importance too!

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dave April 30, 2007

Does this conclude your “Definitive Guide to Semantic Web Markup for Blogs” or should we expect more?

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Vincent April 30, 2007

This really clears things up for me, thanks for the info.

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Andy Wibbels April 30, 2007

Good to see someone else obsessed. :-)

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Chris P. April 30, 2007

Dave — There’s so much to detail regarding the intricacies of semantic markup that I could write an entire book on the subject. That said, I have no intentions of doing so, but then again, that could be subject to change :)

Andy — Yep, I’ve got a sprained index finger from refreshing my search stats page at an unhealthy rate.

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Sam April 30, 2007

Niec article Chris. Like many others here, I never thought of the h1 tag in that manner – it seemed intuitive to make the site title the h1 tag on a site detail hierarchy, but when you look at it from a user/search engine’s perspective like you did, its the other way around.

Noted for change on my blog!

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Shane April 30, 2007

Welcome Back Chris. Glad to see you posting again. Dead on advice as always.

Rock on
Shane

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Dave April 30, 2007

I’ll give the post titles a try. Good information.

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Astorg April 30, 2007

As always on this site, a very interesting article. What it boils down to is the apparent conflict between semantics (strictly respecting hierarchy) and SEO. I believe it is actually possible to implement your recommendations while still remaining semantically correct. Here is why:

(1) it makes sense to regard the post/page title as the main object of the content, since content is ranked by page, so giving the post title a is actually consistent with semantics;

(2) it follows from (1) that the blog title, which if this logic is followed can be regarded as important information though not crucial, can rationally be deprecated to ; I had already done this in my new theme, but thanks for pointing out the problem with including logos in a heading tag;

(3) it follows from this that, proving you use an for the blog title, sidebar headings found throughout the blog can coherently be downgraded to (though not, in my view,, since they can then be regarded as sub-headings of the blog title (itself an ;

(4) if, however, as is my case, you have specific sidebars for each post (I have an About this post post-specific sidebar’) then you cannot make it and remain semantically correct.

To implement this I have switched my bottom sidebar headings from to but left the contextual sidebar heading (About this post) at .

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live tv April 30, 2007

Hmmm you really shouldn’t let SEO dictate everything, I mean there are people using css to replace text with header logos and images just for the seo added bonus, but it’s not all about (or least it shouldn’t) the search engine, take some consideration into what the user goes through.

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Tassoman May 1, 2007

Talking about source, you should update your WP version to lastest, due to security risks… More, you could remove information about the software version you’re running to make job harder to script kiddies.

BTW I agree semantic hints you wrote!

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Daniel May 1, 2007

To enter in my conclusions on whether or not this could be considered ‘pure’ practice for semmantic mark-up:

No, I don’t believe it’s the best semmantic mark-up, or as the mark-up structure was intended by the W3C.

Yes, we live in reality where the search engines are disregarding standards as much as some browsers have disregarded web standards over the years.

Conclusion? My own site resides at the top of the rankings, despite my being a niche specialist in a rapidly growing industry. When I researched what theme I really wanted to use — I did settle on Chris’s Cutline for the attractiveness of how it would affect my ability to remain SEO friendly.

So, in this sense, Chris to me is one of a handful of designers/developers out there taking a practical and necessary approach that adds value to any site. In this sense, I have to leave the semmantics to the semmantic thinkers, because my own site is proof of reliability in what he’s discovered and implemented — and, sharing with everyone.

What positives can come from such an understanding of the differences between semmantic mark-up and SEO friendliness, I think should be pointed squarely at the search engines themselves. Why aren’t they following standards? One answer would be that the algorithms need to disregard the mark-up to a point that allows them to be more competitive with each other. Else, every search engine would become the same and produce the exact same results, I hope we could agree.

(Which, in a perfect world where everyone follows standards and not competition — it would be a beautiful thing, but not necessarily innovative or competitive enough to add value.)

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Chris Rowe May 1, 2007

Great article.

Thanks!

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Ian May 1, 2007

Thanks, Chris. I love your Cutline theme (I don’t use it though) and really appreciated this article. I even learned a little PHP getting my individual post pages to call a second header file so I could have different h3 tags around my blog description there.

If any one is interested it’s instead of the usual get_header line.

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Ian May 1, 2007

Um, sorry about that. My code disappeared from my comment. Check out this Wordpress help page.

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tim finin May 1, 2007

I read this post expecting it to be about how to make effective use of RDF in blogs to add explicit semantic information. I was suprised to find it offered some pragmatic advice about how to use the most basic of HTML tags (e.g., TITLE and H1, H2, H3, ..) so as not to confuse search engines.

While the post contains lots of useful advice, it’s clearly not about big-S-big-W Semantic Web or even (IMHO) lowercase semantic web. If anything, its about another SW — SEO Web.

There are several plugins for Wordpress and other blog frameworks that add RDF data to your blog, such as SIOC Exporter for Wordpress as well has various plugins to add SKOS and FOAF data. Many people add additional RDF information in their RSS 1.0 feeds. Blogs make heavy use of folksonomies through their tagging and category systems and some have information embedded in microformats and RDFa. Finally, a number of blogs, e.g., FieldMarking, are experimenting with the notion of “data blogging” — using a blog as a medium to publish a stream of data.

If we generalize a bit to other forms of social media, like Wikis or Flickr, there’s even more going on that clearly falls in the upper or lower case views of the semantic web — Semantic MediaWiki and machine tags spring to mind.

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Tom Morris May 1, 2007

This has nothing to do with the Semantic Web at all. Microformats, RDFa and eRDF, but just using semantic markup in order to – err – get higher search engine rankings is hardly building the Semantic Web.

That doesn’t make it bad, it’s just not the Semantic Web.

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mattur May 1, 2007

Great article – except for the “semantic web” references. As Tom Morris points out, the Semantic Web doesn’t use (X)HTML at all. The Semantic Web uses OWL and RDF:
http://www.w3.org/2001/sw/

“Structural” markup is a better way to describe using appropriate markup in web pages. Using the term “semantic” suggests some relation to the Semantic Web, and as we all know by now, there is *no* relation.

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Geez May 1, 2007

Want to know what Google thinks of XHTML? Validate them.

(If you’re too lazy – there is 100+ “mistakes” obviously made on purpose that Google doesn’t like a lot of quotes for the sake of being XHTML-compliant)

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Tom Morris May 1, 2007

mattur: there are ways to embed RDF data in to HTML using the ‘profile’ attribute to point to a GRDDL transform, or by using XHTML2′s RDFa standard or eRDF. Microformats are also a good way of doing it which are a lot easier for people who aren’t SemWeb geeks to understand. See getsemantic.com for more information.

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Liz May 1, 2007

The H1 tag tip I did when I first sparked up my blog, but I never thought about the sidebar headlines. Thanks, and keep up the great posts!

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Motorcycle Guy May 1, 2007

This is an awesome guide. I’ll definitely agree that rearranging the title helps. I’ll have to look into the H1 and H2 tags it makes perfect sense really.

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Deron May 1, 2007

Chris,

I have a question about the tags. When viewing the source of this particular post, it seems you’ve got your title wrapped in an , not . Is this just something you’re in the process of changing?

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Deron May 1, 2007

Sorry for the first post error….this is what I meant to say. (posted h1 with “”)
Chris,

I have a question about the tags. When viewing the source of this particular post, it seems you’ve got your title wrapped in an h2, not h1 . Is this just something you’re in the process of changing?

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Chris P. May 1, 2007

Tom, mattur — You guys are too hung up on your own echo-chamber definitions of semantics to get over the fact that “semantics” means the following:

The meaning or the interpretation of a word, sentence, or other language form

In this case, the language form is XHTML. You guys seem to be lost on the fact that you can discuss the semantics of damn near anything—CSS, PHP, or anything that can be expressed as a language.

So yes, we could discuss the semantics of RDF, which you two clearly seem to be interested in, but that wasn’t the point of this article.

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Chris P. May 1, 2007

Deron — Good eyes there… I was wondering when someone was going to call me out on that.

The truth is that this site is badly in need of a code makeover, and I actually began work on that last night. I felt like it was more important to go ahead and get the message out there before changing my site around, though, so that’s what I did.

Also, it allowed me to be a little more self-deprecating in the post, which is always fun :)

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Tom Morris May 1, 2007

Chris P: I’m not suggesting that we should discuss RDF. I’m saying that if you have a blog entry titled “The Definitive Guide to Semantic Web Markup for Blogs” and it’s not about the upper-case Semantic Web, then it’s probably mistitled. Semantic and/or search engine friendly markup within HTML is different from the upper-case Semantic Web.

Semantic markup has value – accessibility, styling, Google-fu etc. – but building the Semantic Web (a phrase *you* put in the title of the post) is not really one of them.

I pointed this out because it is important for people to understand the difference between ‘semantics’ as applied to (X)HTML and ‘semantic’ as applied to the Semantic Web. The people who are involved in Semantic Web work have an uphill battle trying to get people to understand concepts (partly because they are responding to FUD, mind) – and it’s important that words are used precisely lest people misunderstand what the Semantic Web is actually about and think it’s using header tags for better SEO.

Frankly, I can do without being told that I’m ‘lost’ and ‘too hung up’ all the same.

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Chris P. May 1, 2007

Tom — I capitalize key words in the titles of my posts because it’s good form to do so. Never once in the post did I capitalize “Semantic Web” as you’re suggesting here.

Either way, I could easily make the argument that an overwhelming majority of readers get my drift, whereas a lot of people would read your remarks and scratch their heads, as if to say, “What is this guy so hung up on, and what the hell are all these acronyms?”

So while you can do without being told you’re lost, I can do without your unnecessarily nitpicky crap. With over 500 diggs, 60+ comments, a boatload of links, and tons of traffic, I’d say a lot of folks got my drift and found it helpful.

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Gregory Pittman May 1, 2007

WOW! I’m floored. I have had a couple of search terms set up in Google and daily digests of search results set to be delivered to my inbox. I could never figure out why my posts were not appearing in the results, and eventually I stopped worrying about it. After making these changes yesterday, for the first time one of my posts showed up in the results.

What I realized is that my blog title and header were not inside an h1 tag (good thing), and my post titles were in h2 tags. That meant there were no h1 tags appearing in my blog at all. Changing the post titles to appear in h1 tags makes a.huge difference!

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g1smd May 1, 2007

The thread title read OK to me.

I read is as [ Semantic "Web Markup" ] and fully expected it to be an article about the benefits of using heading, paragraph, list, table and form elements, and using CSS to style them, rather than using things like font size to control how it looks but which conveys no meaning (where “meaning” and “semantics” are interchangeable words here) to search robots.

The “Semantic Web” is something else, and I knew that was something that I was not expecting to see discussed here.

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Arun May 2, 2007

And you’re back!

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Guilherme Zuhlke O'Connor May 2, 2007

This is a great post. It really addresses many things I’ve been thinking about lately.

Just one thing though, You say “Use for post titles”, “Use on the main page for the tagline and for the others” and you say “You should use only one set per page”.

So far, I agree. In fact, it bugs me the fact that my post titles are all in the main page of the blog, as well as in the archives, searches and so forth.

Would you agree that the post titles should be on the first page (and archives, etc…) being the tagline the , and the opposite on the individual pages?

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Ana Luiza May 2, 2007

Hi Chris
Thanks for the article, I thought it was awesome. I don’t know how to mess with the header file or div tags but before I hire someone I have a question: the name of my website includes a major keyword.

In this case, wouldn’t you say that it’d make sense to serve the blog title in h1 at least in the main page?

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mattur May 2, 2007

Chris P: you’re making the classic mistake of confusing semantics as in syntax with semantics as in meaning.

But yes, you’re right, there’s no point trying to put the genie back in the bottle: semantic web markup is here to stay. Just don’t confuse it with Semantic Web markup… ;-)

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Guilherme Zuhlke O'Connor May 2, 2007

Sorry, I forgot to escape HTML tags in my previous comment, it would be like this:

This is a great post. It really addresses many things I’ve been thinking about lately.

Just one thing though, You say “Use <h1> for post titles”, “Use <h1> on the main page for the tagline and for the others” and you say “You should use only one set of <h1> per page”.

So far, I agree. In fact, it bugs me the fact that my post titles are all in the main page of the blog, as well as in the archives, searches and so forth.

Would you agree that the post titles should be on <h2> the first page (and archives, etc…) being the tagline the <h1> , and the opposite on the individual pages?

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Tony May 2, 2007

Concerning the use of background images in the sidebar, people browsing on most phone will just see a set of links without any sort of idea about what they are, and screenreaders will just call out the links without any sort of reference.

Do you find this acceptable?

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Lorelle May 2, 2007

I’m so GLAD someone besides me spoke out against the headings issue with WordPress. It is an issue I’ve fought since day one, but had to stick with because “that’s the way it was done”. It’s been wrong from the start. I would love to see all WordPress Theme designers take this seriously. Thank you!

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Chris P. May 2, 2007

Guilherme — I recommend exactly that.

Tony — No, and I’ve already said that’s a change I would be looking to make when I revamp the code for this site, which happens to lag behind the other sites that I currently operate. It won’t be that way for long, however.

If you want to nitpick, feel free to take a fine-toothed comb to CelebrityHack and let me know if you find anything that might be the slightest bit off, especially since I’ve obsessed over the code on that particular layout.

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Louis May 2, 2007

À la carte!

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Chris P. May 2, 2007

Touché!

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Louis May 2, 2007

Actually, it needed xml:lang=”fr”, but it was parsed out!

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Tim May 3, 2007

I’ve always enjoy your articles, and have learnt alot from them, thanks!

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Glenn May 3, 2007

Hey Chris, something that I think goes hand in hand with this is the text you use to support images. From an SEO perspective, you’ve made clear (in other posts) how important the title attribute of images is, for search engines indexing. This can drive traffic (from image search) as well as better text search results. And title attributes for images are of course used by screen readers, so they are vital for accessibility.

But leaving SEO aside, using captions (or labels, if some prefer) for images is smart. From a semantic perspective.

I’ll cite John Caples (of Tested Advertising Methods) in support of this: “Put captions under illustrations. … captions get high readership because they add to the interest of the illustrations and help explain their meaning. … Don’t run pictures without putting captions under them. Put a brief selling message or human interest message under every illustration you use.”

I suspect you are aware of this, as you’ve captioned your image in this post very nicely. So when considering semantic markup, in addition to good use of page titles and headings, titles and captions for images should perhaps be considered.

An elegant CSS solution that handled captioned images (with/without a border) across WP/WPMU would be really nice! Your Cutline img styling is great, but unless I’m mistaken, doesn’t seem to support captions inside borders.

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gareth brown May 3, 2007

Great article, if every web designer thought about all of the above points the web would be a better place.

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Slaptijack May 4, 2007

I’ve head this article hanging out in my bookmarks for a few days. I’m glad I decided to finally follow through and check it out. Thanks for the tips, Chris!

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WebStractions May 5, 2007

For general use of the Hx tags, you are right on. They should direct the user into sub-sections of your page.

I have to disagree on the use if H-tags in the Sidebar area.

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Daniel May 6, 2007

I thought I’d add another note, to help in explaining some things to the nay-sayers who believe that what Chris explains shouldn’t be considered “Semantic Mark-up”.

In the case of 508 compliance, the rules one follows in order to achieve an accessible web page is much closer to what Chris is describing. One should be discouraged from marking the page’s hierarchy in a way that the least important information to a reader be at the top of the XHTML page — which is simply the essence of hierarchal semantics and the separation of content and style.

The only thing in Chris’s diagram that’s missing in this case, when considering 508 — is the jump-to navigation link, which would be at the bottom of the XHTML page (without layout & styling).

Something to think about…

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Michael MD May 7, 2007

I’m surprised that the use of is so foreign to so many people.

I guess it was a trend in the days of netscape 3/4 when people wanted more customisation of size/font/etc but css wasn’t yet implemented properly in browers -
but the meaning of to search engines was always the same (the main heading) – and always important.

btw if you want to take semantic markup even further for blogs take a look at hAtom -

http://microformats.org/wiki/hatom

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Michael MD May 7, 2007

oops .. re previous comment … I was referring to h1 tags! … :-)

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I-Ming May 8, 2007

you don’t blog much do you? but you blog good

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Andy Beard May 8, 2007

Mine aren’t as good as they could be either.

The big problem is that H2 titles for subheading really suck when looked at in most feed readers

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Daniel May 8, 2007

PS: Potentially the ‘best way’ to implement this, would be to place the majority of a template’s header into the footer or Index template and establish a 508 compliant theme structure.

I’ve noticed that WordPress theme creators do not adhere to the most strict 508 compliance concepts, and that’s why the majority of the blogs I see don’t pass total validation.

Perhaps this is the kind of discussion that could propagate, and cause reason for experimentation to see if this would be the ‘best way’ to go.

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Lara May 8, 2007

Wow. Great article. I really enjoyed reading it. And I actually read the whole thing! Haha.

I’m guilty of many of the heading errors you’ve mentioned here. To be honest, I have never really thought about it – but this makes perfect sense.

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Dave Butler May 10, 2007

Chris, As a huge Cutline fan/user/but-not-abuser how does the article relate to someone using a Cutling blog. Did you include most of those tips in your design?

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Chris P. May 11, 2007

Andy — Great point about the <h2> tags and feed readers. I am constantly guilty of not considering the impact on that front.

Dave — Actually, no. Over the last three months, I’ve done a lot more direct experimentation with search results and markup, and I have only come to the conclusions drawn in this post here recently. The last Cutline update was on February 2nd, so it’s a little behind on that front.

Despite that, most folks will still probably be in better shape by switching, as a vast majority of themes are not so hot from a semantic markup standpoint.

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Hrm. May 11, 2007

Do you have any blog entries that aren’t written for Digg?

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Chris P. May 11, 2007

Hrm — I construct my blog entries with the intent to share information that I think may be valuable to others. The reason I believe that is because I personally have found the information that I share to be valuable, so on those grounds, the process is fairly organic.

Generally speaking, I spend a good four hours or more crafting a post for this site (asides excluded), and I think it’s fair to say that most bloggers aren’t giving individual topics that kind of treatment. As a result, when bloggers go the extra mile to share information, their posts tend to get noticed.

I post pretty infrequently, so when I do post, I feel the need to deliver as thorough and thoughtful an article as possible. Lately that has translated into Diggs and exposure, but trust me—it’s a hard standard to maintain.

This is probably why my posting frequency over the last 8 months has declined severely.

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Robert Bencivenga May 16, 2007

Sherman Hu suggested I contact you to find out if you could recommend someone who is proficient at working with Cascading Style Sheets.
Can you suggest someone?
Thank You

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eric May 21, 2007

Berners Lee is not the sole expert in this field; go see proceedings from W3C Banff site; if you all only knew the truth.

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Lars H May 24, 2007

This isn’t technically a comment about this post, but I thought you and your readers might still enjoy it.

I just did a quick Google search for Chris Pearson because I wanted to find your site and hadn’t bookmarked it.

Ebay is running a Google ad called “Chris Pearson for less”. (Do a search and see for yourself.)

I clicked on it, but alas, you aren’t anywhere to be found on Ebay.

I was hoping maybe for some cheap semantically correct themes. Ha ha.

I guess I’ll have to settle for your Copyblogger theme for now.

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Patrick May 24, 2007

This was an amazing refreshment on how my site should be designed. Thanks so much!

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Rafi May 28, 2007

Hi Chris:

I stumbled into your Cutline theme, and I am impressed. However, I am not familiar with HTML at all, and when I tried to work with it, it took me at least two hours to just learn how to blockquote. Not that your instructions were difficult..I just dont know, and learning is taking much more than I expected!
I saw that you dont accept requests/clients anymore, anyone you can recommend? I am planning to start a business blog/site, nothing major, but I know my limitations, and think my time can be spent better in running my business. Thanks for your help.

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Wes Groleau June 5, 2007

Says Sarven: “Do not tweak your code to cater a specific search engine”

Absolutely! I can’t believe all you Philistines who would rather have people read your text than have
the philosophically correct structure underneath it.

Consider: Does search engine ranking really mean
anything compared to where you’ll be coding for eternity?

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Kennith Nichol June 8, 2007

Your article brings up a number of excellent points, so I’m going to point out something to you about your own site :) . My development tools report to me that you have one error in your CSS style sheet, it’s not a fatal error but just a little forgotten units error.

*—:[ #wide_page styles ]:—*/
#cutline_img { width: 375 ….

Further more if you would like some more reading on semantics I found a nice article on the W3 Edge website related to “Search Engine Optimization and Semantics“.

Enjoy,
-Kennith

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Chris P. June 9, 2007

Kennith — Thanks for the heads-up!

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bob DuCharme June 11, 2007

h1, h2, etc. certainly have some semantics associated with them, but the title of this posting overstates the case a bit. If you’re really interested in adding Semantic Web markup to blogs, at least for Movable Type, I’ve written two postings on how to have Movable Type automatically add useful RDFa to blog entries here and here.

A two-part article here and here should give people enough background to do the same with other blogging software.

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James September 19, 2007

What is the name of the theme you are using for your site? I really enjoy the clean layout, but have google-itus and seem to be unable to find references to it in the comments, posts, and footers?

Thanks!

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Chris P. September 19, 2007

James — That’s because this is a custom theme that I built for myself, strictly for use on this site. It’s called Pearsonified version 3.0 :)

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James September 19, 2007

Well it is very sharp! Well done.

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Chris P. September 19, 2007

Well thank you very much!

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Angela September 26, 2007

Thank you for this list, looks like I have a lot of work to do on my site to get it where it should be. Your list is printing as I speak!

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Ashish Jha October 15, 2007

@Geez: friend, there is no need for google to do seo.Because google gave birth to seo. so they are least conceerned about seo.
Google is a big guy, and big guys often do things in their own way.

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Affiliate marketing guide October 17, 2007

Thanks for this thorough article.

Would be great if you could put it together in a free report that we could download and print out

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trademark registration November 13, 2007

Thanks for the very comprehensive list! It’s helped me out quite a bit with my SEO (all done on my own, no SEO company). I feel confident that I’ll soon shoot up in the rankings. =)

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Vladimir P November 14, 2007

This was very useful information thank you!

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Elsa December 19, 2007

Excellent article with some *head slapping* moments. It seems so obvious once you think about it, but bad habits are so easily formed and then you forget to ask why you are doing it that way.

I’m also interested in any suggestions for markup around dates, authors etc. One skin I’m working with uses span tags, but I’m not a big fan as they have no semantic value at all.

If you do a follow up post it might be worth mentioning Microformats too.

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Jim December 24, 2007

Man, you are good! Thanks.

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Kurt January 4, 2008

OK, Chris. I absolutely love the Neoclassical template, but I’m confused by this h1 vs h2 business. You’ve said clearly that post titles should be served inside h1 tags. But your template, which I use for my http://schulzkelaw.com apparently automatically tags the post titles h2. Example: Here’s the tag code from a recent post:

The Purpose of a Contract

Am I missing something? How do I go about fixing this? Or should I just leave it alone?

Many thanks!

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SEO Submitter February 13, 2008

I greatly appreciate this blog post. Word Press is a great blog tool for seo. I have been using it for sometime now.

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Jamie Horsley February 15, 2008

This is a great blog!!.
I am really new to blogging and find this site really useful, some greats posts and lots of usefull information.

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Claudiu March 6, 2008

True. This really is a great blog which I’m willing to stay tuned with :d
All the posts I’ve read here have great tips.

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Billy Marks April 12, 2008

Great Job! Im no expert in all this stuff, cant eve n do html but this was an eye opener for me. Great Stuff here!

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Web 2.0 Blog May 4, 2008

I make my H1 tag a link to my homepage too which is good for optimization.

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Abhishek Vaid May 18, 2008

Great Post..you have covered everything..I have bookmarked your post for future references and would be implementing the things that we’ve missed out.

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rena June 14, 2008

I’m using the copyblogger theme for my wordpress blog and widgets for sidebar. Can anyone pls explain step-by-step how to change the for sidebar headers to .

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Aaron Queen July 21, 2008

Chris.. This is really good information. I’ve actually already done most of what you said except I just looked over my header image ALT tag and optimized that a bit as well. I really don’t know what else I can do to optimize it for a keyword that is not very competitive.

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Dil Okulu July 25, 2008

The descriptions that appear under links in Google results leading to my site are also not ideal. I assume that the H2 or H3 or perhaps the first paragraph of text come into play there, but, annoyingly, it is my navigation text that is displayed.

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Righteous Marketing July 31, 2008

Very insightful. I’m going to revise my semantic mark-up ASAP

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Ride it like you stole it August 25, 2008

Another great piece on SEO! Thanks for all of the great tips on how to handle these much needed SEO tasks.

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Elizabeth September 6, 2008

Thank you Chris for posting this valuable information.

I’m going to review my own site with this new knowledge in mind.

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vinay September 21, 2008

thats a great job , specially the tips on H1 headings, these tips are leaned only by experience and would never get these in any book. .

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Don October 7, 2008

Ok you contradict yourself on points 1 and 2.

First you say that the h1 tag should be used on your tagline.

Then you go on to say that your post titles should use h1.

Then you say to only use 1 h1 tag per page, when you just got done telling us to use two instances of the h1 tag.

Am I missing something here?

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Chris Pearson October 13, 2008

Don — There is no contradiction because we’re talking about two totally different situations. On your home page, the tagline should be served inside <h1> tags. On interior posts and pages (read: not the home page), the actual title of the post or page should be served inside <h1> tags.

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Carl October 26, 2008

This is really important information for SEOing your wordpress blog. Thanks for the tips.

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Zelimir February 3, 2009

Something so obvious has eluded from my mind, like editing title tags right away, I almost cannot believe it. It`s one of those things you hardly admit to yourself you were not doing. I also wondered is it going to be made possible anytime soon to enclose WP sidebars in h3 or h4 tags?

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futuRich February 13, 2009

dang, this SEO stuff is really quite complex; so many details to pay attention to, but i suppose its all worth it to gain better rankings.

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Jack February 17, 2009

Nice article, very well done. And it still serves the same way it did 2 years ago.

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AP February 20, 2009

Thanks Chris for the article. its really interesting for novice like us

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Chris Pearson February 22, 2009

Zelimir — Theme designers get to choose how the sidebar markup is served. Thesis, for instance, serves <h3> tags in the sidebar by default.

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James February 26, 2009

With such a great PR, you obviously know your stuff, Chris! Thanks for the quality information.

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Bob March 8, 2009

Hello Chris,

Could you please check your gmail account because sended you several messages but did not get any response. Bought the thesis theme but did not get the theme. Also cannot acces the forum any more not sure why.

Not like to pay for nothing think you can understand that.

Thanks

Bob

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Mike March 10, 2009

Semantic Web Markup And SEO For Wordpress is so important that when I read this. I was like Wow that is Unbelievably, that nearly every WordPress, MovableType, or TypePad theme fails a simple test for truly semantic (and Google-recommended) XHTML markup.

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Bob March 12, 2009

update:

Now preparing a letter to your lawyer with all the evidences of the payment. Absolute a waste of my time. Need to send the letter form the Netherlands. Why do you not take some time to simply contact me?

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Jack March 19, 2009

Do these same principles apply to websites that aren’t blogs?

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Ben Cousins March 30, 2009

To answer Jack’s question (four comments previous) I think that yes, semantic markup applies to all websites but Chris has highlighted it here for Wordpress blogs because it is an extra effective technique that many of us new to Wordpress may miss.

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seoguy April 3, 2009

I take it the themes you sell incorpate the advice in your post?

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Chris Pearson April 4, 2009

seoguy — Absolutely. All of the articles you’ll find here about site development serve as the foundation for the techniques and features that I’ve included in the Thesis Theme.

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Alcazar April 8, 2009

Thanks Chris, excellent article … we will implement on our blog.

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Maria April 21, 2009

I’m good with all the advice except need a better solution for post subheadings. The title of a blog post is served as an h1 on the single post page but as an h2 on the blog index page, archives, etc. I can’t specify my subheadings differently depending on the page context because it’s just a blob of text to WordPress. I suppose it doesn’t really matter SEO-wise and isn’t that important document structure-wise, but I obsess over having all the details right.

I could avoid the issue (and the h2 in feed readers issue) by never putting subheadings before the “more” break but that’s not much of a solution.

P.S. All of this applies just as much to non-blog websites!

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Ian May 15, 2009

I do believe you rock. The most sensible article I’ve read on semantic markup for a long time. +1 guilty of logomania.

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Prasaad July 16, 2009

Nice article. I am using your cutline theme and would like to remove the search box as well as everything that appears in the extreme right box. Could you please guide me?

Thanks.

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Robert July 19, 2009

Funny… I have 5 blogs I run and every one of them made these mistakes. I have set my weekly goal to go back and fix them all up according to this post. Great read, keep up the good work, can you believe I just found this darn website? Where have I been?!

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Mark September 12, 2009

Live and learn! I keep making basic mistakes with the “H” tags. This post is fantastic! This is a must read for any blogger that is either starting out or working their way up in the search engines.

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Marc September 26, 2009

Title of a blog post is served as an h1 on the single post page but as an h2 on the blog index page, archives, etc. I can’t specify my subheadings differently depending on the page context because it’s just a blob of text to WordPress. I suppose it doesn’t really matter SEO-wise and isn’t that important document structure-wise, but I obsess over having all the details right. Thanks

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Martha September 26, 2009

This is a must read for any blogger that is either starting out or working their way up in the search engines. thanks admin

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Henry Lawson October 16, 2009

Thank you for such vital info. Can all of these semantic markup recommendations be followed just with Thesis? Do I need any other SEO plugins?

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Chris Pearson October 16, 2009

Henry — Thesis takes care of everything that I discuss on this site, with the exception of adding an XML Sitemap. For that purpose, I recommend the Google Sitemaps Plugin, but other than that, Thesis handles all your in-site SEO needs. Speed, standardized markup, and extended control over things like <title> and <meta> tags are just a few of the ways Thesis tackles this issue!

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Henry October 16, 2009

Could you please check your gmail account because sended you several messages but did not get any response. Bought the thesis theme but did not get the theme. Also cannot acces the forum any more not sure why.

Thanks

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Gavin October 19, 2009

Great tip with the H1 tags.

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Mart Gordon October 23, 2009

Thanks for this Chris, although I liek to think I am dilligent in my semantic markup approach it is nice to have somewhere I can come to reinstill myself with the way it should be done.

I have had a problem with WordPress Plugins not paying much heed to semantic markup for some time and have therefore started to rewrite some of the ones I use to do just that. The first one can be found here.

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Rocky Garcia November 14, 2009

Good tips!

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Stanley November 15, 2009

Most web authors have bootstrapped their way into the industry, learning how to mark up documents through whatever resources were available rather than a formal education. In the rush to build the web, there simply hasn’t been time to study the history of markup and the technology’s underlying concepts. But what does that matter? After all, you’ve likely created pages and sites that work just fine.

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Gavin December 16, 2009

Nice article. I am using your cutline theme and would like to remove the search box as well as everything that appears in the extreme right box.

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Rob McCance December 29, 2009

Makes me even happier that I’m using Thesis, which apparently works towards meeting these guideline goals.

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Chris Pearson December 30, 2009

Rob — Yeah man, Thesis incorporates every principle that I’ve mentioned on this site, as well as a whole lot more :D

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Louisse January 1, 2010

The big problem is that H2 titles for subheading really suck when looked at in most feed readers

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Christine February 16, 2010

I agree with previous poster.

Also, your header looks mad :) I love the design of your blog.

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Wynne March 8, 2010

Man, you are truly a ninja. Thanks for sharing your clearly set out thoughts on this.

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Sofi April 12, 2010

name of the theme you are using for your site? I really enjoy the clean layout, but have google-itus and seem to be unable to find references to it in the comments, posts, and footers?

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PMG May 11, 2010

Great great points, Title tags is so key. Good tips on using H1 properly too.

Are you checking your code with w3c or is there some other tool? The w3c validator tells me all the errors in code, and suggested fixes. It’s real easy to guarantee you seo on the site can work on your behalf if it’s w3c compliant. Anyhow, thanks as always for your depth of knowledge you share.

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wencent June 16, 2010

Hello ,

This is a really excellent article about hx tags .I have got some questions
In the tags page and catag page and archive page in the site , where supposed to put the h1 tag ? post title ? we all know there is a list of article titles through the page .So we just tell the SE to focus on every title ?

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James July 23, 2010

Headings issue with WordPress is an issue I’ve fought since day one, I would love to see all WordPress Theme designers take this seriously. Thank you!

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Ron July 28, 2010

Great article!

I was always confused about semantic markups, and reading this article now I am clear.

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Binh August 9, 2010

Nice one. You definitely know your stuff Chris. Thanks for sharing this.

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The Rust Belt August 15, 2010

Thank you, Chris, for yet another insightful article. I am building my site now, reading your blog in the meantime and learning from it a lot.

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Jayseo August 17, 2010

Great information. However Google recently had some major update they are calling “caffeine”. I don’t know all the details but I was wondering if all these techniques will still be effective. That is on page Seo?
Thanks

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Janna August 24, 2010

Thanks for the post Chris. You’re spot on highlighting the connection between technical SEO and the reader – they work in synergy not separate from each other. Thanks!

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Linda September 5, 2010

I heard people say about placing your content column on the left instead of in the middle or the right. Do you agree on this one?

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Adam September 9, 2010

Hi Chris, Great post. It sparked up some great advice from all.

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spintos November 8, 2010

Chris, As a huge Cutline fan/user/but-not-abuser how does the article relate to someone using a Cutling blog. Did you include most of those tips in your design?

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Chris Pearson November 15, 2010

Spintos, most of these tips are not included optimally in Cutline. They are, however, the foundation for the Thesis Theme, which has been the focus of my development work since March 2008.

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sodyba November 18, 2010

Wow. Great article. I really enjoyed reading it. And I actually read the whole thing! Haha.

I’m guilty of many of the heading errors you’ve mentioned here. To be honest, I have never really thought about it – but this makes perfect sense.

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Cuti December 7, 2010

Great comprehensive article as always Chris, just what I looked for

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Kathleen December 11, 2010

Though this article was written in 2007 .. the principle stood the test of time .. thanks Chris for this great tips.

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Kelvin December 14, 2010

Excellent guide! I improved my theme with your tips.

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Adam January 22, 2011

@Kathleen — Your comment should read “Though this was written in 2007 … I’d still like a link from you it.” LOL

@sodyba: Agree, heading errors are an easy one to make.

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John March 25, 2011

We’re currently building a new version of our site in Thesis. I’ll be using this. Thanks Chris.

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Nick April 17, 2011

It amazing how this template is still the same type of layout people should be using.

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Maceras May 3, 2011

Blog engines like wordpress has proven to be a popular cms for non blog websites as well. Any development that has taken place in the past few years is a sign that wp is still a good system and the only challange is users that should be able to use all the settings offered by the system.

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Louise M. May 8, 2011

very well structured post. it’s clear and helpful. I thought I already knew a lot about “semantic markup” but obviously not! I’ll make some changes on my website then. Thx!

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Paul May 20, 2011

I agree with the others here this was a great content puller and the whole semantics area has recently seen strides in view of Googles recent quality update. It just goes to show that content which is naturally written should contain all the relevant semantic associated words anyway so most of you that produce quailty content have nothing to learn or worry about…

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Matt Larson June 21, 2011

Thanks for the article. It is with deep shame (as a SEO consultant) that I admit I’ve overlooked some of this on our affiliate blogs.
Matt

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Simon July 9, 2011

Great and very clearly-put article.
What sometimes annoys me is the themes and templates available that do not do these simple and essential steps.
I’ve, in the past, spent more time fixing a template than it would to create it from scratch.
Nice thoughts on the use of H3′s and H4′s in the sidebar too.

Si

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Claudio August 3, 2011

Hey Chris, nice article. Not much has changed since your post. I find it is still critical to use the tags appropriatley, for your advantage aswell as best practices.

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David August 7, 2011

Thanks Chris,
I have a website but I am new to blogging & wordpress. I’ve just set up my first worpress blog page & shall do my best to follow your advice.
Thanks for a great post.

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David August 7, 2011

Hi Chris, I’ve just clicked the link to Thesis Theme framework. It looks good.
Did you design it?
Do you use it on your sites?
& do you recommend it for a wordpress beginner?

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Chris Pearson August 8, 2011

David, I have been designing and building the Thesis Theme Framework since March 2008.

Not surprisingly, I use Thesis on all of my sites—the biggest of which are this site and my business, DIYthemes.com.

Thesis is a fantastic choice for beginners because it enables you to do all the “little things” correctly without having to think or worry about them.

For instance, Thesis is a powerhouse when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). Many beginners spend a ton of time, energy, and money trying to chase this technical “white rabbit” that they know very little about.

I built Thesis with this precise situation in mind. There’s no reason why people should waste time and energy on a problem that is easily solved, and that’s why I’ve spent countless hours fine-tuning Thesis’ SEO (among many other things).

The bottom line is that Thesis is a fantastic—and possibly even the very best—way to start a new website.

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Tom Morris August 10, 2011

Thnaks and great post! I spent the morning tweaking my markup. A couple of questions, the first of which may seem like a rookie question and I’m reasonably certain I know the answer, but I want to make sure my bases are covered.

Search engines are looking for h3 versus h4 tags, etc. Does it matter if they’re styled the same? In other words, does it matter that my h3 and h4 tags are both set to a font size of 1.2em? SEs aren’t looking for appearance, they’re looking for hierarchy, correct?

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Chris Pearson August 11, 2011

Tom, search engines only care about the hierarchy, not the appearance (so you’re on the right track).

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Sean Davis September 28, 2011

I’m nowhere near a professional when it comes to this stuff, so I’m not too mad at myself for ignoring it. However, I definitely see the need to get it right, now.

Tomorrow, I’ll skate through and fix everything up. Because I’m using your Thesis theme, I seriously doubt that I’ll have to do very much work.

My blog is now, though. So it’s not too much work to go back through my few posts and ad a few h2′s to the mix.

Thanks for the advice!

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David October 12, 2011

Hey Chris,

While it is true that in hindsight these techniques appear to be obvious, a surprising number of people don’t pay attention to them, and I’m willing to bet a lot more will forget once they leave this page… which is a shame seeing as how these tips can yield a sizable increase in traffic and consequently revenue.

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Dinesh October 14, 2011

When is Thesis 2.0 coming.

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Mairo Vergara March 17, 2012

I’m starting to learn about SEO and stuff and this helped a lot! Thanks man!

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Ilana July 4, 2012

I use Thesis across all my sites and am a big fan of your work. Thanks for this guide as well – very helpful.

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Fleur August 13, 2012

I’ve just started a virtual assistance business (my own website is not quite finished yet ;-)) and in the future plan to offer some form of wordpress development to clients. Thesis seems to be the winning framework. Thanks!

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anno January 11, 2013

Do you think these rules still apply after recent search engine updates or they changed something. Would be good to see this post updated

Thank you

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burlupar February 17, 2013

Nice article (good message). Cheers. One can already see on this post that you get nice rankings without mega amounts of keywords and shit, but with nice semantic hierarchy. best wishes, david

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rahul March 3, 2013

thanks chris for the post. i have really benefited because of you

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jaminsoft January 25, 2014

I’ve just started a virtual assistance business (my own website is not quite finished yet ;-)) and in the future plan to offer some form of wordpress development to clients. Thesis seems to be the winning framework. Thanks!

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Hoot and/or Holler

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