Markup Language According to Its Purpose

Markup Language: What is it? Merriam Webster say that “Markup language (such as HTML or HTML5) is “a system for marking or tagging a document to indicate its logical structure, and gives instructions for its layout on the page especially for electronic transmission and display.” Simply put, markup language is the code you write to make a Web page look the way you want it to.


Html-source-code2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There have been small and large changes to the conventions of markup language in the recent past, and some webmasters have become confused by it.

Today, Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) blog post is about some of these conventions, and why one is more appropriate and when.

Who knew? I mean, everything I’ve learned about HMTL, CSS, HTML5 and other things I’ve picked up along the way are just that — picked up. I had no idea why one tag is more important when, did you?

Two tags, often have me wondering why there there are two different tags, are the bold tags — <b> or <strong>. I figured they were just two ways of writing the same thing, since they look identical when they appear on a Web page, right?

Wrong. Just as with the English language, where words have different connotations when used differently, so do the tags used in markup language. Consider the word “hot.” This can mean, “hot weather” or “hot body,” right? Two totally different things.

Markup is the same way.

Take the bold tags, for example:

The <b> tag indicates that you want the text to look different, but you aren’t really giving it added importance. If you use the <strong> tag, however, you are adding the special importance to the word in bold text. So, if you’re bolding for the keyword SEO, for example, the markup should carry the tag <strong>, not <b>.

Bad news if you’re using WordPress, however. There’s no point to going into the HTML and changing the tag because WordPress will just change it back to <strong> for you. I’m guessing the WordPress folks don’t know this difference, either, or it’s just too much of a pain to program. Either way, you’re stuck with <strong> and if that’s the one you’re stuck with, it’s the better choice.

The other tag pair that’s often confusing is the <i> or <em>. We know that both mean italics, but in what context?  GTW’s post tells us that <i> is to indicate a different inflection from the rest of the words in the paragraph, but it carries no specific weight. The tag  <em>, however, does carry weight and means that the content <em>inside</em> is important.

How much does this matter? Well, at this point, I’d say not very much, unless you’re coding from scratch. If you’re using a WYSIWYG editor, then no doubt, it’s going to add the tags the same way every time because it can’t tell inflection or basic highlighting from importance.

However, if you’re writing things in Dreamweaver or another HTML editor, where you can make the distinction, then, it may help you when the spiders crawl over your pages. If that weren’t the case, why would Google bother writing about these differences? These tag pairs are obviously NOT the same.

Be careful how you use paragraphs, too. They should carry the <p> tag rather than <br /> at the end of your lines.  Tables should be for tabular information only, and headings should use the <h1, 2, 3, etc.> tag, rather than <p class=”heading”>.

There, now that you’re thoroughly confused, let’s just say that markup language will continue to change and if you’re developing Web pages, you should know the “better” things to do. The easier you make it for spiders to run through your code and to understand your intent, the better off you’ll be in terms of SEO.

We won’t even go into Rich Snippets and such. Would NOT want your head to explode. 🙂


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