12/16/09

Is the HTML Address Tag Useful for SEO?

Posted by Ben in SEO

I was inspired to write this post because it’s a question I just recently asked myself. Having just started this website, I have been working a lot on the back-end, getting all of my SEO ducks in a row. Because I want our new website to rank well for local searches by potential clients, that means making sure our company address is present on every page of our site. My first thought was, “No problem! Stick it in the footer and call it a day!” But then I got to thinking…

Do the search engines care what format my business address is in? One would think that the search engines should be far more than capable of parsing out an address from a website, as long as it is listed in a half-way coherent fashion. Combine that effort with submissions to Yahoo Local and the Google Local Business Center, and it SEEMS like all your bases would be covered.

But then I thought about that often-forgotten HTML tag: the HTML address tag. The tag is simple enough, and designed to do exactly what you would think: identify a physical, geographic location. It looks something like this:

<address>
John QSearch<br />
123 Sesame St<br />
RichmondVA 23221<br />
(
555123-4444<br />
</
address

The address tag is sort of a vestige from an earlier time, back in those bad old days before we had heard of Google (let alone Bing!) and we all thought animated GIFs on GeoCities pages were just about the best thing in the world. Shudder.

But is it useful today? As in all things SEO related, the definitive answer is buried within secret search engine algorithms, held close to the vest by cryptic search engineers. However, I did some anecdotal evidence gathering of my own, and came to a conclusion fairly quickly. I’ll cut to the chase:

In short, there is no evidence that the HTML Address Tag is useful for SEO. The few sites that I can find using it are showing no apparent advantage for doing so, and the tag is noticeably absent from the vast majority of sites with enviable PageRank.

Furthermore, there IS evidence that the presence of the tag slows down your site’s loading time. I’m not just picking on the address tag here: any HTML tags are going to slow down your site’s load time. But unnecessary tags are going to slow it down unnecessarily, and that’s the point. Why should we care?

What a timely question! This month Google announced that it is adding page load speed into its algorithm for page ranking consideration. Which means that, along with about 200 other factors or so, the speed with which your site loads will now impact your placement in the Google search results.

Conclusion: With no evidence for the HTML address tag doing anything for your SEO efforts, and clear evidence that its presence will negatively impact your Google ranking (even if only slightly), I must advise you to toss this ancient tag out the window. The dog had its day, but is now little more than a leech.

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Comments (4)

  • Brad Hutchison on April 22, 2011

    I wonder if the address tag is finding new validity now that search engines are becoming more local oriented? Having our physical address in Denver is a great boon to our local rankings. Maybe the address tag will put more emphasis on this?

  • Cory on August 29, 2011

    This is fine, from an SEO stand point, but I’d be concerned about accessibility as well.

  • Gopal Aggarwal on December 06, 2011

    Hi

    1. Like you said SEO algorithms are a trade secret. But when when we have a tag, and it’s *not* deprecated, then why not use it?

    I mean, if we stick to our role of providing content to Google etc and leave the ever-changing algorithms to them. Their business sustainability is built over providing quality results only.

    2. I didn’t get you regarding HTML tags slowing down the webpage. I mean can one pair of tags really make any difference?

    3. @Cory

    How will it affect accessibility?

    Thanks for the article and views.

    Warm regards
    Gopal

  • Piano Tuner on May 24, 2012

    One little tag slowing down a whole page load?

    In the era of high-res images, massive jQuery files and webpages with 100’s of requests I think stripping the address tag is the last thing on my mind.

    Besides if you don’t use the <address> tag you’ll probably use a <div> or instead - they can all be styled to look the same.

    Nevertheless it’s so cool that you took the time out to do this testing, thank you for that!

What is 15 + 5?

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