Does W3C Validation Help In Search Rankings?

    September 23, 2004

Validating the html and other codes in your website can be a time consuming task. Because validation simply checks the mark up language for proper syntax, some have wondered if using this process will benefit a site when it comes to search engine rankings, and as such, is it worth doing?

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There are a number of sites that offer validation tools, but the most common one resides on the W3C web site. The process of validation is simple enough. You simply enter the URL of the site in question or W3C allows you to physically upload a page or a site and the validation tool scans the file and informs the user of any syntax. The corrections then have to be made by the site designer.

Is this work worth it when it comes to your site being spidered by search engines? This question was asked by a poster on the forum and also discussed by Daria Goetsch in an article that appeared On WMW, Larryhat stated that he had recently finished validating his site’s code, and was wondering if this would be beneficial to his SERP ranking: “Might all this work have a positive impact on my rankings in Google and/or Yahoo SERPs? Maybe some small advantage I would have missed by not validating? Or, do G and Y frankly not care one way or the other?”

Certainly, there are a number of sites without validity that rank well, so why should you be concerned? Claus, in response to a declaration about validation said, “A valid page can be beaten by another page, just like an invalid page can”, emphasized this point. However, claus also suggested validation is an important step in the design process but cautioned; “Valid markup does not cut it by itself, it takes a wee bit more than that to get rankings.”

Before you discount validation completely, consider this error that tedster discovered:

“Last year, there was one unique phrase (word1 word2) that I knew should rank – and it didn’t I checked the page and a <p> was written as <p with no closing bracket – probably a copy/paste error. Everything between that tag and the next <p> tag was evidently not in the index.

I fixed the mark-up and within 7 days, the two word phrase was #1 and bringing in traffic from the search engines.

Similar problems can definitely come from a missing close quote. Things like deprecated attributes and such have no real effect that I’ve ever seen. But when your markup is not well formed — there are real errors on the page — then you can have sections of a page not indexed”

Another vote for validation came from StupidScript, who said, “Proper code = easier for spiders to parse as expected.” However, it was WMW administrator tedster who possibly gave the most compelling reason why validation can help with search engines, albeit indirectly, by saying, “another hidden benefit of learning about validation and well structured documents has been finding natural and appropriate ways to include keywords in my pages.”

WMW senior member encyclo had this to say about why you should be mindful of validation: “That’s why you have to validate – not to clean up stray attributes, but to remove one big possible stumbling block to proper parsing of your documents – either by bots or end-users.” His point was supported by Daria’s article. She said, “Your human visitors need clear, easy-to-understand content and navigation on your pages; search engine robots need that same kind of clarity.”

While validation is in no way a guarantee of high search engine rankings, it’s hard to deny the process has merit, if only for an increased understanding of web semantics. As for whether or not the task is worth the effort, I’ll leave the last word to skippy, who says, “Any little thing I can do to help a spider digest my content I gladly find time.”

Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.