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Semantic HTML Tags: The Essential Guide

This breakdown of semantic HTML tags explains the purposes and use cases of some of the most common options. Learn how to use them to build a website.

Building a website requires more than simply jotting down some text and adding a few images here and there. To build most websites today, HTML (HTML5) is often used in combination with other languages, such as CSS, JavaScript, and even backend web development languages such as PHP, C++, and Java.

When using HTML, developers often use semantic elements. Semantic elements can help developers and designers wade through a page’s coding or quickly locate a specific element that requires updating or editing. Semantic elements also provide value as they can also help keep pages organized, which is especially important for larger and more robust websites.

What is semantic HTML?

Website semantics are typically used to help demonstrate a type of element or even a particular element that is being used on a website. Because HTML is used to display data, semantic HTML helps provide labels for easier labeling and identification.

When you make a website and work at the backend of the site, you will need to label various areas of the site for the website to appear properly, such as the website's header, main navigation area, and footer. Semantic HTML tags provide numerous options when coding a website that can streamline the process to make it easier to bring your layout vision into reality.

With HTML5, the use of HTML semantic elements has become much more prevalent, for both personal and commercial website projects alike.

How HTML semantics improve a website

Once you understand what semantic HTML tags are, you can then begin incorporating HTML semantic elements into your own website, depending on the layout and design of your site itself. Knowing a few of the benefits of implementing the tags onto your own site can also help you in the design and development of it.


One of the most appealing aspects of using semantic HTML tags on any website is the improved legibility of the website's backend. When a website's coding is properly formatted and organized, it is much easier to wade through the visible markup to find specific sections and particular areas of various pages of your website.

Regardless of the programming languages used to build your website, you can use website semantics to help keep your website as organized and as legible as possible. Semantic HTML tags also eliminate the need to use classes and IDs, which saves time and helps tidy up the current format of your website's code.


Are you new to working with website semantics or HTML altogether? Are you unsure of where to begin? The use of semantic HTML tags and HTML5 make it easier than ever to feel comfortable building your website or even attempting to locate a particular element of coding from your site’s backend. The use of semantic HTML tags and HTML5 streamline the process while resulting in cleaner and much more concise coding.

Search engine optimization improvement

When you build a website, knowing how to promote and market your URL is often just as essential as the type of content or products you offer. To maximize online reach, those working in website development typically focus on optimizing a website for search engines, which is commonly referred to as SEO, or search engine optimization. Search engine optimization is key to boosting your website's online visibility and maximizing your reach.

A properly coded website that uses updated semantic HTML tags is much more likely to be virtually crawled and detected by search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and DuckDuckGo. Because search engines use virtual spiders to crawl the web, ensuring your HTML5 semantics are in proper order is imperative for the best results possible.

The cleaner your coding appears and the more updated it is to align with current search engines, the more likely search engines are to pick up, scan, crawl, and be promoted your website.

Macrostructure and microstructure HTML

Once you begin building a website, you will need to start off with a header and a container that will hold all of the content you intend to write, create, or produce. When you start coding your website, your header and container will be a part of macrostructure semantic HTML.

Microstructure semantic HTML is similar to macrostructure HTML, only it represents elements that fall within containers or macrostructure semantic HTML elements. The use of any HTML microstructures will greatly depend on the method in which your website was programmed and formatted.

Common semantic HTML tags

With the release of HTML5, there is an updated list of which semantic tags are valid and still used prominently in development projects today, including:

Elements such as <header></header>, <footer></footer>, <section><section></section></section>/, <nav></nav>, and <article></article> now perform more as traditional <div></div> elements with HTML5. These main elements act as macrostructure semantic HTML to help keep additional common HTML tags in proper order and place.

<article></article> and <section></section>

Both of these elements can often be used to manage the same sections and be used interchangeably. However, it is important to keep in mind that the <article></article> tag is useful for being reusable and it is also considered independently distributable. A <section></section> tag, on the other hand, is typically used to group more than one piece or section of content.


The header section of a website is typically found at the top of a website. The header of a website will often include meta tag information, keywords, and even imported CSS files or style sheets. The header can also lay out the necessary groundwork for your website layout or design.


The <footer></footer> tag operates similar to the <header></header> tag, except the footer is typically found at the bottom of any web page. The footer of a website typically includes contact information, a site map, and additional links such as ones to social media sites to help tie the website together and boost SEO.


When you choose to use the <main></main> element tag, you signify the main body of text or content of a website's layout. Only use the <main></main> tag to host the inner paragraphs, written text, images, and inner content of your website. The <main></main> tag will always come after the <header></header> tag has been introduced and prior to the <footer></footer> tag of any page.


Developing a successful website requires an accessible and updated navigation section. When you are building a website of any kind, you will need to add navigation links to help users properly browse your site. The use of the tag <nav></nav> helps organize the particular section of a site designated for navigation links. Navigation menus, tables, and indexes are all possible with the <nav></nav> semantic HTML5 tag.

<figure></figure> and <figcaption></figcaption>

If you are crafting content and you want to wrap images with text, you can use the <figure></figure> and <figcaption></figcaption> tags. The <figure></figure> tag wraps images around your text content without any additional effort. If you are interested in adding a caption to the image you are implementing onto your page, you can use the <figcaption></figcaption> tag. An example of how to use the <figure></figure> and <figcaption></figcaption> tags is available below:

<figure><img src=""><figcaption>This is my image caption!</figcaption></figure>


Using an <aside></aside> element will incorporate text that does not belong in the main sections of your website but should still appear in a set area or section.


The <time></time> tag is useful if you want to add an automatic date to a section or area of your website.

A full list of all HTML tags can be found directly on the official website of W3 Schools.

Create your desired web page with semantic HTML

If you are ready to design a website and you want to get started with HTML semantic elements, you can do so with a few tutorials and an all-inclusive marketing and website management platform, such as Mailchimp. With Mailchimp, you not only have the ability to create, launch, and manage email and other digital marketing campaigns, but you also have the ability to build, manage, and monitor various areas of your website with the use of semantic HTML elements.

Creating your desired web page with Mailchimp and semantic HTML has never been easier and has never been more accessible, even for those who have little to no designing and developing experience themselves.

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