What are HTML tags and which ones are the most useful for our site

Reading time : 10 minutes

They are the framework that supports the body of content, images and functionality that make up the online experience, an invisible language that shapes the web and helps shape our pages: we are talking about HTML tags, small commands that tell the browser how to interpret and display the content of a page. There are a hundred different HTML tags that we can use, and each of them has a specific function, to be exploited in the appropriate way to create a visually appealing and search-engine optimized web page. So with this guide we try to find out what exactly these HTML tags are, what are the main types to master, and how they can affect the SEO of our site.

What are HTML tags

HTML tags are the basic language used to create Web pages, and essentially they are small commands that guide the browser by instructing it how to interpret and display the content of a page. These tags reside in the cornerstone element of any web page, namely its HTML code, which stands for HyperText Markup Language, which we can imagine as what brings web pages to life.

More precisely, HyperText Markup Language is the programming language used to describe structured documents and to create web pages and applications on the Internet, and which we view every moment as users from our browsers, such as Chrome, Firefox and Edge. From the perspective of HTML source code, a page is a collection of elements, each of which has a specific role, such as “article title,” “text,” “subtitle,” and so on, and these elements are defined by tags, marked by the special characters “<“, “>” and “/”.

Each HTML tag is in fact enclosed in angle brackets (< >) and most of them work in pairs, that is, providing an opening tag (<tag>) and a closing tag (</tag>) in which to insert and enclose the content we wish to format.

These tags (literal translation of tags) serve to specify and define how the browser should format and display content. Thus, they are the ones that determine whether text should be italicized or bold, whether a line break should be inserted, a bulleted list, and much more.

But HTML tags are not just formatting tools, for they can also be powerful allies for SEO, because search engines such as Google use HTML tags to understand the structure and content of a web page and then index it correctly in search results.

The grammar of HTML tags: a universal language

The grammar of HTML tags is simple and universal, allowing anyone to learn how to use them simply with a little practice and attention.

Each HTML tag has a specific function and must be placed in the right place within the page code, while also respecting the syntax in order to actually communicate sensible instructions to the browser and avoid errors.

As mentioned, an HTML tag consists of a tag name enclosed in angle brackets < >, and most HTML tags have an opening and a closing command, with the content placed in between. For example, <p> is an opening tag for a paragraph, and </p> is the corresponding closing tag; thus, a paragraph of text would be written as <p>This is a paragraph.</p>.

Servers read HTML code to understand and display the content of a page, and reading is done from top to bottom, just as it is done at normal human reading.

The grammar of tags is not too complex, and there are just a few rules to know and follow, starting with the structure of this element, which generally consists of three elements:

  • An opening tag, which begins with a < > symbol.
  • The content, which is the brief instructions on how to display the element on the page.
  • A closing tag, which ends with a </ > symbol. It is important to note that the closing tag has the same text as the opening tag, from which it differs only by the addition of the slash (/) that clarifies the command.

However, some HTML tags can remain open, that is, they do not require a closing tag, and are typically used for metadata or line breaks. These HTML tags are known as “empty” or “self-closing” tags precisely because they do not need a closing tag: they are designed to hold information that does not need textual content or other HTML elements inside, and some common examples of empty tags include <img> for images, <br> for a line break, and <input> for input fields in forms.

For example, an image tag can appear as <img src=”image.jpg” alt=”Image description”>, without the need to specify a closing </img> command. Instead, the src attribute specifies the path to the image, and the alt attribute provides a textual description of the image, which can be used by search engines and screen readers.

However, it is good practice to include a space and a slash at the end of the tag (e.g., <br /> or <img src=”image.jpg” alt=”Image description” />) in XHTML and some versions of HTML: this helps maintain compatibility between different versions of HTML and ensures that the code is interpreted correctly by all browsers.

HTML tag rules: how tags are written and where they should be placed in HTML text

There are also few formal rules for writing these elements correctly: essentially, HTML tags should be strategically and consciously placed within the code to define the structure and layout of the site or page, because each has its own function and is only “activated” in the area where the command is open.

To put it more simply, the <head> tag, for example, serves to contain metadata about the web page and links to CSS style sheets: and it is located at the beginning of the document, just after the opening <html> tag, and does not contain any user-visible content, because it communicates its crucial information “only” to the browser and search engines. The <body> tag, on the other hand, encloses all the visible content of the web page, such as text, images, links, tables, lists, and so on: it should be inserted immediately after the closing </head> tag and extends to the end of the HTML document, just before the closing </html> tag.

Basically, then, the other HTML tags should be placed within the <body> tag to structure and format the visible content of the web page; the exact location of these elements depends on the type of content we are creating and the visual effect we want it to present to users.

In fact, proper organization of HTML tags within the code serves to provide reading support for people browsing the site, and at the same time they help browsers interpret and display the content correctly and, not least, they can also help improve SEO, as we shall see.

What are the most common and most commonly used HTML tags

Small but powerful, HTML tags are thus somewhat of road signs that guide search engines and users to find their way through the maze of code that brings a site to life, giving shape and color to the text on a web page.

There are hundreds of HTML tags that we can use to shape content-we have categorized them and identified the most common and useful commands that we can best master to optimize our pages.

  • The basic HTML tags

<!DOCTYPE> defines the type of document.

<html> represents and defines the header of the HTML document.

<head> contains all the elements that describe the document.

<body> encloses the contents of the web page.

<div> designates the paragraphs of a document.

<style> accommodates the CSS codes that define the appearance of the website,typing the code directly into the HTML file.

<title> specifies the title of the HTML page, which is displayed in the title bar of the browser.

<p> is used to format text as a standard paragraph or main text: everything between the opening <p> tag and the closing </p> tag is displayed as a paragraph.

<br> with this tag you insert a space to wrap, activating a single line of space.

  • Formatting tags (they affect text or fonts and work on everything between the opening tag and closing tag </ >).

<h1 – h6> define the hierarchy of content headings.

<em> is used to emphasize a particular text in a paragraph, making the text italicized (same task as the <i> italic tag, but this has been deprecated with HTML5).

<b> makes text bold.

<u> allows text to be underlined.

<li> allows content to be placed in order in the form of a list. There are two types of lists: the ordered list <ol> and the unordered list <ul>.

  • Link tags (for links within HTML documents):

<a> determines the hyperlink to another page, and the href attribute is used to define the link

<link> creates the link between the document and an external source.

<nav> creates links for navigation.

  • The tags for embedding resources in the content

<img> is used to embed an image in an HTML document and requires the mandatory specification of the source of the image within the tag.

<map>, allows for embedding a map in the document.

<audio> to include audio content.

<video> allows you to add video content.

<iframe> is used to embed content external to our pages.

<table> is used to create a table in the HTML document; the tag (<tr>) is used to create the rows of the table, while (<td>) is used to insert data into the table.

HTML tags, HTML meta tags and attributes: differences between these elements

It is appropriate at this point to open a small parenthesis to clarify what are the differences between “HTML tags,” “HTML meta tags,” and “tag attributes,” terms that refer to distinct concepts and different tasks in the creation of a web page and in the definition of HTML elements, i.e., each element of the page that is part of the content.

These are essential components that work together to create a functional, accessible, and search-engine-optimized web page, and this is precisely why we cannot go wrong either in theory or especially in practical applications.

HTML tags are the fundamental building blocks of any web page and are used to define and structure the content of a web page; each HTML tag has a specific meaning and tells the browser how to interpret the content within the tag, affecting how an HTML element is displayed.

HTML meta tags, on the other hand, are a specific type of HTML tag that provide information about the web page itself, rather than structuring its content. These tags should be placed within the <head> element of an HTML page. HTML meta tags are invisible to the user, but they play a crucial role in search engine optimization and ensuring that the web page functions properly.

Finally, tag attributes are additional information that can be added to an HTML tag to change its behavior or appearance and to describe the characteristics of an HTML element. For example, in the image tag <img src=”image.jpg” alt=”Image description”>, src and alt are attributes that, respectively, tell the browser where to find the image to display and provide a textual description of the image, which can be displayed if the image cannot be loaded and which can be used by screen readers for people with visual impairments.

To summarize, then:

  • HTML tags contain instructions on how to display an element on the page.
  • HTML elements are the contents of the page enclosed within the tags.
  • HTML attributes provide additional information about HTML elements and are displayed within the HTML tag.
  • HTML meta tags are a subcategory of HTML tags, which provide information about the web page that is not directly displayed to users.

The main errors in writing HTML tags and their consequences

Having clarified the theoretical issues, let’s move on to some rather practical aspects concerning the handling and writing of HTML tags; as mentioned, we are not talking about aspects that are rather complicated or require specific skills, but still there are many mistakes that can be made, which cause potential consequences for the web page that it is good to be aware of, so as to take appropriate action.

  • Omission of closing tags

One of the most common mistakes is the omission of closing tags: as mentioned, many HTML tags work in pairs, requiring an opening tag and a closing tag. If we forget to close a tag, the browser may not be able to interpret the code correctly, causing display problems on the page-most often, extending the command to the next closing tag.

  • Misuse of header tags

Header tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3> and so on) should be used to structure the content, not to format the text: using these tags improperly could confuse search engines and compromise the SEO of the page.

  • Keyword stuffing in meta tags

Another common mistake is “keyword stuffing,” or the excessive use of keywords in meta tags. This practice can be penalized by search engines and make the page less visible in search results.

  • Unsupported tags

Some HTML tags are not supported by all browsers or have been deprecated in newer versions of HTML. Use of these tags can cause display and functionality problems on the page.

  • Nesting errors

HTML tags must be nested correctly, that is, closed in the reverse order of the order in which they were opened. Nesting errors can cause display problems and make the code more difficult to read and maintain.

Ultimately, inserting HTML tags into your site is a process that requires care and precision, because you have to open and close each tag correctly and make sure they are inserted in the right place within the code. But with a little practice it will become a natural skill, and the text editors of CMSs markedly simplify the task, because they allow us to manage all these parameters with simple buttons, without manual work in the code.

HTML tags and SEO, how to use the controls appropriately

HTML is the cornerstone of the Internet, it defines the structure of the Web site and gives life to our pages, and tags are part of HTML markup: these small code snippets play, as mentioned, a crucial role in SEO as well, because they highlight parts of the content that are relevant to search and describe those elements for search crawlers.

Although perhaps the weight of such elements has waned somewhat in recent years-artificial intelligence and algorithms have made great strides in understanding content, for one thing-the link between HTML and SEO is still strong, however, making on-site optimization, which requires a deep understanding of language and HTML skills, a crucial step in the website creation process.

This is true for two reasons: first, there are still considerable margins for error in the automated work of crawlers, and HTML tags still have a crucial task in making sure that all our content is interpreted in the right way. Moreover, these tags are not only used to help search engines understand our content, because they can also improve the user experience, create preview snippets, solve duplicate content problems, and apply crawling rules.

Understanding the value and structure of a tag is essential if we want a web resource to reach the first page of search results, and when we talk about SEO HTML the focus falls precisely on tags, which are essential for building a logical and hierarchical structure of content, allowing it to display properly on the browser screen.

Writing well-argued content that is valuable to users and search engines is only one part of the equation, because the other part is the ability to effectively use HTML tags and meta tags to give semantic meaning to our content, improving its visibility on Google. An incorrectly written tag is like an actor forgetting his lines: not only does it not contribute to the performance, but it can also ruin the whole show, making the text unreadable.

What are the main HTML tags for SEO

That said, not all HTML tags carry the same weight nor is it necessary to use all these extra code tools.

However, there are some elements that, when used properly, can greatly support our optimization efforts, as they help search engines understand the structure and content of our site.

First, we need to know and master the HTML tags that provide semantic structure to our website: tags such as <title>, <h1>, <h2>, <p>, and <img> tell search engines which parts of our content are titles, subtitles, paragraphs, or images, and this makes it easier for them to understand the context of our content and determine its relevance to user searches.

In addition, meta tags provide direct information to search engines, and we know, for example, how useful and when the description meta tag is used to provide a brief summary of our page content, which search engines can use to create the excerpt that appears in search results.

Finally, the proper use of HTML tags can improve the accessibility of our website: for example, the alt attribute in images provides a textual description of our images, which can be used by screen readers for people with visual impairments.