Semantic Markup

Semantic markup is the markup of HTML content with machine-readable meta-specifications. These “labels” help machines and especially search engines better understand, organize, and classify content on the web. In addition to structured data, semantic markup makes it possible for search engines to provide even more precise content.


When it first started out, the web was text-based. Text messages could be transmitted over the Internet between two computers. At that stage, machines simply had to represent the text blocks so that people could read them. But with the expansion of the Internet in the early 1990s, websites became more complex. Images were integrated on the web in addition to text. Finally, when the first search engines began to search web content for users, the time for meta data had arrived. Elements such as meta description or meta keywords were therefore of great importance for a website to be found at all.

The semantic markup of content with meta-data was and still is important for accessibility on the Internet. Special content can be prepared for blind people in a way that allows them to get the information of what is placed alongside the text on a website.

Modern search engines can now determine the content and relevance of websites by means of many different criteria. As far as indexing is concerned, meta-descriptions or meta-keywords are no longer significant.

Search engines are now able to understand even more complex content. The semantic web is a big topic nowadays, in other words an Internet where machines and people can communicate even better, because machines can better recognize the content of websites.

Semantic markup plays an important role in the recognition of content.


Semantic markup can be used on a website in many ways. Search engines often use references in the source code to provide search snippets in the SERPs with additional information. At the same time, the markups help to better understand the content of the page.

  • Markup for local businesses: With the markup defined by the W3C, websites for local businesses can additionally be semantically marked up.

An example of such markup:

<div itemscope itemtype=””>
<a itemprop=”url” href=””>
<div itemprop=”name”><strong>My Store</strong></div>
<div itemscope itemtype=””>
<span itemprop=”telephone”>(030) 123456</span>
<div itemprop=”address” itemscope itemtype=””>
<span itemprop=”streetAddress”>Sample street 111</span><br>
<span itemprop=”addressLocality”>Munich</span>
<span itemprop=”addressRegion”>Bavaria</span>
<span itemprop=”postalCode”>88111</span><br>
<span itemprop=”addressCountry”>Germany</span><br>

The visitor will only see the following data on the website:

My Store 030 123456 Sample street 111 Munich Bavaria 88111 (Germany)

The search engine is now able to assign this data to units due to the semantic markup and understand the text.

  • Product details: Semantic markup can also be used for products. Shop operators can provide this data with the appropriate markup, as found in The goal in this case is the enrichment of the search snippet.
  • Breadcrumbs: The navigation of a website via “breadcrumbs” can also be distinguished by semantic markup. In this case, the snippet is extended in the SERPs.
  • Markup of different language versions with rel="alternate" hreflang="x": The "hreflang" tag are used on multilingual websites to direct search engines to other language versions on the same website. This markup helps search engines deliver the appropriate content to users.

Many other examples of markup options are available at

Benefits for search engine optimization[edit]

At least since Google’s Hummingbird Update, the importance of semantic markup for search engine optimization has increased significantly.[1] The search engine is better at finding answers to complex queries and will likely get better in the future due to further developments of the web search algorithms. Google also uses semantic HTML markup.

The optimization of search snippets is of particular importance here, which is done using markup language. While the rankings of a webpage cannot be increased directly, the CTR in the SERPs could rise because the rich snippets usually attract more user attention than ordinary snippets.


  1. 5 options for semantic markup to improve SEO Accessed on 25/11/2014

Web Links[edit]