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Does W3C Markup Validation Help With SEO?

Does W3C Markup Validation Help With SEO I have had about three discussions with various webmasters and SEO's lately regarding whether W3C validation helps with SEO, Some of these discussions become fairly heated, Though most were civilized and polite (my preferred method of discussion). So what i thought I would do is make a post about whether W3C Validation helps with SEO or not.

My personal opinion on this is that No, It doesn't. I have various reasons for thinking it doesn't, The main reason being that Google doesn't care about styling, They only care about content and information. So even if your site has broken tables and a layout that looks like something out of Texas chainsaw massacre why would google care? If it has the information that the searcher wants then it's the ideal site to send them to. We have to remember, Google aren't quality control, they are simply people we go to when we want to know what sites contain certain information. We don't go to google and say "show me a site that has the menu on the left and a blue background.".

Another good reason to think that W3C validation doesn't help with SEO is the fact that Matt Cutts, Google engineer who specializes in SEO, has said it doesn't in one of his grab bag videos. Matt Cutts said "Google have no signal for validated code". I read this as "Not only does Google not use validation as part of it's ranking algo, But it doesn't even have a way of telling if a site contains validated markup or not".

I figured you probably wouldn't be too interested in my opinions regarding W3C validation and SEO so i decided to do some research. I done a Google search for some of the more competitive keywords such as casino, Cheap flights, Hotels and web hosting to see if the sites that appear #1 in these results do in fact have markup that validates according to W3C. Here are my findings.
  1. A Google search for "casino" returned www.casino.com as the #1 result. This site failed validation. In fact, It failed because it didn't even have character encoding labeling.
  2. A Google search for "cheap flights" returned www.cheapflights.co.uk as the #1 result. This site failed validation because of a Character Encoding mismatch and 9 markup errors.
  3. A Google search for "hotels" returned www.hotels.com as the #1 result. This is my favorite, It failed validation because it contained No Character Encoding, Contained No DOCTYPE and contained 298 markup errors.
  4. A Google search for "web hosting" returned www.fortunecity.com as the #1 result. This site failed validation with 128 markup errors

As you can see, Having markup that does not validate according to W3C has not stopped these sites appearing top for some very competitive search terms.

Having said all that, if you were to ask me the simple question "Should i use W3C to validate my site?" i would say yes, you should. But not for SEO. Having a Validated site may increase your end user optimization and may mean more people visit, more people keep coming back and may even mean more people link to your site. But while these are beneficial to your site optimization and end user optimization they aren't SEO related issues.

When i make a site i simply check the site in various browsers to check the sites cross browser compatibility, But as for spending a day validating pages i just don't see the point. People are human and humans make errors. Google knows this and it's not in their interest to punish you for making tiny errors when your site has quality content or provides a great service.


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Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ Saturday, 28 October, 2006

But I follow the rules as much as possible and I think it helps.  

Posted by Blogger vladimir allen @ Saturday, 28 October, 2006

W3C validation is not a requirement for Google (other) ranking.

Firstly, Google does not web design valid, web-compliant web pages. Google itself does not follow good design practices. It doesn't have to according to the latest stock exchange earnings report. How are your stock exchange earnings?

Secondly, as you have demonstrated, any poorly designed web site can rank highly.

This is a reflection of our global society. How is it looking to you?

I use an indicator on my browser. A valid web page will show green, one with warnings will show amber, and a web page that is erroneous shows red.

I personally do not visit RED web pages regardless if they rank page 1, position 1 or page 999, position 2,900,000,000. These webmasters would treat me with as little respect as they treat their web pages and themselves.

How do you treat yourself?

BTW, this page shows Amber; 0 errors and 23 warnings. Not too bad.

Kind regards  

Posted by Blogger [ Matt ] @ Saturday, 28 October, 2006


Yes it does help. It helps your end user optimisation and your cross browser compatibility. But not your search engine optimisation.  

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ Wednesday, 01 November, 2006

As much as I wish it would I agree that valid code isn't going to help you in the SERPs. Maybe it was the Matt Cutts video, but if memeory serves Google says they are interested in information and that there is plenty of good information on sites that don't validate. They still want to index and return those pages.

I do think it's worth having valid code for your visitors. They're more important than search engines anyway.

And Matt I'll disagree it takes all day to validate your code. When I build a site I start by developing a template for the site. And once the single page template is done I check it in the W3C validator. It's usually only a matter of a few minutes to validate the page and once it checks out I can start building the other pages for the site knowing they too will validate.

With every site I check in the validator I learn something new and each subsequent site usually starts out with less and less validating errors. It takes about the same amount of time to wirte valid code as invalid code so why not write the valid stuff.

I'll even offer an argument for how valid code can help. By building a site that works better for people you stand a better chance of having those people link to you. It's especially true if you're site is on a technical subject. If you want links from webmasters having valid code on your site can only help getting them to link to you.

If you're a webmaster and you spend your time lerning how to get your code to validate and you're thinking of adding a link to one of two sites, so you think you'll link to the one with the valid or invalid code.

True it won't directly improve how well you do in a search engine, but not everything about SEO is directly related to search engines. So much more is indirectly related.  

Posted by Blogger Tom @ Monday, 06 November, 2006

Matt, in a purely technical sense, I would agree with you, however, if the site is coded to be concise and to standards, it is more likely to be friendlier to spiders and humans alike.

Your anecdotal testing fails to take into account everything that goes into the equations as well, and I assume you know that, so why use it as somewhat of a 'proof' that it has no affect? The other sites showing up Number 2 thru whatever on SERPs, could simply have fewer incoming links, too much javascript, or have even more problems with W3C. The point is, you don't know how negative one thing is unless you know how positive everything else is. Or, something like that. I forgot everything else I learned in Philosophy - Logic.

Thought provoking post, though. Keep up the good writing.  

Posted by Blogger [ Matt ] @ Monday, 06 November, 2006

i would agree with you Tom about the examples not proving that W3C validation has no effect on SEO, But it does prove that you don't need to validate in order to rank well for highly competitive terms.

Looking at what we know about google and what they are trying to do with thier search engine i just can't see any real reason why they would take coding errors into consideration in thier algo.  

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