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Would This Cause A Penalty?
Posted 03 June 2014 - 08:15 PM
Posted 04 June 2014 - 09:19 AM
To answer the question in your title, using markup as it's intended (which is what you're proposing to do) will not cause a penalty. Why should it?
As to whether making that change will help, hurt or have no effect, there's no way of telling ahead of time. My personal feeling is that H(whatever) elements don't have that much influence. What will make a bigger change is if you change the linking structure, site architecture or page layout. If you're keeping all the same links/menus and the same basic page layout, just changing is so that the links and menus are now in <div>s or <p>s or something like that (so you can now code using correct structural markup the titles and section headers that are already there), then I don't believe there should be a big change either way.
But that's just a gut feeling. The search algorithms take into account hundreds of factors, and it's difficult to predict how those factors will work together on any individual page. Not to mention that search results don't happen in a vacuum -- at the same time you're making your changes, you have no idea what the competition is doing, or what the market is doing. Changes outside the site you're working on can also affect how your site's pages rank in search.
You really won't know until you give it a try.
And all that said, I'm not sure that 70% traffic from organic search is a worthwhile goal. That's putting an awful lot of eggs in one (uncontrollable) basket. For my own sites, I'd rather see something more balanced, with over half my traffic coming from referral and direct. That way, if Google hiccups (as it does from time to time) and my pages drop off the SERPs (it has happened to even very high quality pages), I don't have to worry about losing 70% of my traffic until the situation is resolved.
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