It is difficult to say whether perfecting H1s and H2s is more important or the focus on on-page optimization should be structured data. SEOs should know where to focus on on-page optimization and what tools to use for on-page SEO.
Old-school SEO markup
Old-school SEO practices were focused more on meta description, headline tags and other tags than on keywords. It is important to note that keywords tags were of little importance for old-school SEOs. It took them a decade to understand value of keywords tags. A bare minimum kind of structure was used by old-school SEOs. There were tags developed by SEOs and also there were tags added by Google.
Modern SEO markup
Today there are more tags available but they are focused only on a few small items. For instance take metadata that is more technical than for search engines. Also there are Open Graph, Twitter Cards and the favicon. Also there are tags added by Google. A good example of Google markup is schema.org that Google is using. It is part of structured data markup.
Truth about schema is that Google only uses a part of it but schema markup is available for everything. Some sites displayed upward trend with schema markup but according to Google, it isn’t a rank booster but it helps in understanding content in right context. If you see understanding content, you will understand that it is directly related to visibility and high ranking. Similarly many of the old-school SEO tags are still used in modern SEO markup language.
The big changes are made on the header of pages. Ideally the SEOs should worry about
- Twitter Cards
- Open Graph markup
- The favicon
Open Graph markup: It is used by Facebook that is bigger than Twitter. Since social media is very well correlated with SEO practices that SEOs can do best on social networks.
Favicon: It is here forever and it is advantageous in SEO because sites use favicon to display sites. It is shown on at top of the browser tab as a small graphic and the sites that rely on it include social media, Google’s knowledge cards and distribution sites. Having a good favicon is a plus for SEO.
Not as important
The H1, H2 and H3 could be the best practices but these header tags couldn’t help in achieving high page rank. SEOs would hardly find any difference in tagging the headlines and making them bold on top of the content. But if there is the alternate headline in schema.org markup, it can help in understanding the content in the best manner. Google reads content with schema.org markup to get information. Also there are other sites that read schema.org markup and they can also improve visibility of your site.
Strong, bold and EM
With CSS, there is little need to worry about visual appearance of text matter in the HTML code. And also there should be no worries from the search engine perspective.
Added to body
Could body tag be added to HTML code? Some SEOs are using these tags and take advantage of all the options available on schema.org. There are examples of these tags being added to the body text.
Some questions that SEOs could ask about markup:
What about the metadata?
There are many forms of metadata markup including Dublin Core Metadata Initiative and SEOs are free to choose the most convenient form of writing metadata. But Google won’t pay heed to this data until it is popular. What it does is it puts extra weight to a page.
Does it matter? If your website has valid HTML coding then the validation won’t be an issue. Simply put, it doesn’t matter and Google has many examples to show. Some of the most popular sites don’t have W3C validation.
Schema that Google hasn’t adopted yet
It has some worth for a page but there are contradicting statements from SEO experts and developers. Schema.org has a set pattern of coding but Google hasn’t adopted those patterns and using schema codes would benefit only when Google validates the codes. Schema.org coding is a tedious job and it is learnt the developers pay a lot of attention and time in coding. There is an advice for the developers and it is “don’t worry about it too much.”
Other forms of semantic markup
SEOs believe more on markup language for no visible reasons. In the race to achieve ranking, they forget that no search engine, browser and the big social media organization worry about semantic markup texts and also there are no signs of their adopting semantic markup for ranking sites. The search engine and others would prefer parsing the content themselves and not how the content is marked up on the pages.
Header, footer, sidebar labels in CSS
It is like manipulating content for link counting and senior SEOs like to call it spam. It is like saying that the particular markup will be on header or footer or in the sidebar. It could help in highlighting the content but there is doubt that this markup could be helpful in achieving high ranking. But there is no harm in using these tags.
A markup language is a way to help search engine robots and other technical readers to read the content. It is a way to guide the robots and spiders to go through the information. Or you can say that you can try manipulating the content with the help of markup language. But the bitter truth is that markup isn’t yet adopted by Google and other authorities of web. It isn’t that SEOs should avoid markup as it can help in highlighting content and that in turn help in achieving desired ranking. But you should avoid paying too much attention and spending much time in researching and using markup.