Can Coding Affect Your Search Ranking

    March 5, 2007

There are many strategies one can employ in order to improve a site’s search ranking. Everything from title tags to link buying has been suggested at one time or another when it comes to this elusive beast we like to call search engine optimization. The question remains, however, is there anything we’re missing as far as coding goes?

Can Coding Affect Your Search Ranking
Can Coding Affect Your Search Ranking

With all the talk about the importance of quality inbound links and avoiding spammy tactics like keyword stuffing, we also deal with myths surrounding coding and text-to-code ratio in terms of search ranking.

Some SEO professions subscribe to the theory that extraneous code throughout the source of a site could hinder the search crawlers from being able to adequately perceive the content of a page, which subsequently leads to less than optimal rankings within the SERP pages.

This article at PhoenixRealm SEO attempts to stress the importance of keeping your backend code clean and pristine:

A cleaner markup means extremely light pages and it also means an increase in content-to-markup ratio. Search engines want more content and less code on your web pages. With less code on your page, your main content moves closer to the top and consequently, gets easily crawled.

Remember that crawlers read only 150-250 words of your page and you should make sure everything important should be covered there. Pages with unnecessary and incorrectly nested code are difficult to crawl. They are also a hindrance to DOM scripting.

However, the handling of messy code is the subject of some debat. Some would say that poor coding can, in effect, disguise the true quality of your content, which you&’ve no doubt gone to great pains in order to develop and perfect. Google, however, is on the record as saying that the text-to-code ratio of a site isn’t really a significant factor in determining that site’s ranking. If the site is crawlable, it is indexable.

In a WebProNews video, Rand Fishkin interviewed Google’s Vanessa Fox and asked her about text to code ratio point blank. Fusednation has a nice synopsis of our video interview with Vanessa Fox of Google where, among other topics, she addresses text-to-code ratio.

From Fusednation:

This point I’ve seen crop up so many times, and each and every time I say – it does not matter! One of my first sites was created in Frontpage with absolutely shocking code and it ranks fine, even for searches with 100 million+ results.

The good word = Google ignores code to text ratio.

Not really big news, but I remember having an argument with a guy on a business forum who was adamant that content / code positioning was a deciding factor.  Ha!  I told you so! 😛

Nice to get clarification on these small things, even if we knew them to be true before. – Scott Boyd (Marketing Guy)

So perhaps a panic induced effort to recode your entire site by hand may be a bit premature, if not altogether unnecessary. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that making your code as clean as it needs to be is an altogether bad thing, but it’s more for your own personal benefit than for that of the search spiders.

When working with keyword themes, alt and title attributes, and developing an intuitive linking structure, you’ll be very well served to keep your code clean enough to easily navigate and edit. Just don’t depend on text-to-code ratios to be the end-all, be-all of your optimization process. 

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