Posted: May 30th, 2009
Controversy has always surrounded the topic of having validated source code (XHTML or HTML), and whether it has any impact on search engine optimization. Here at SearchEnginePanel.com we are validated to W3C’s high standards of XHTML 1.0 Strict – a fairly difficult task to accomplish for most websites. Web developers who attempt validation normally settle for the balanced, less-stringent XHTML Transitional.
In today’s post, we will voice both sides of the debate and provide a link should you decide to adhere to these web standards.
The Opposing Viewpoint
There are many reasons as to why W3C validation isn’t actively pursued by the general webmaster population. It often requires skill that most web designers don’t have as they usually only focus on what’s “on the outside,” and clients are largely unaware that web standards even exist.
As for the SEO side of things, bots are generally smart enough to compensate for flawed code and crawl poorly-constructed websites, albeit with some difficulty. Moreover, there are plenty of websites that do not validate yet still have high rankings and search traffic.
Benefits of Valid Source Code
To infer that having invalid source code would help bring in traffic would be incorrect though. In fact, bots love semantic code and are more likely to crawl and index your pages faster and more frequently. This is important to keep in mind, as most sites are constantly updated and you will want your fresh content to be indexed sooner rather than later.
In addition to making life easier for bots, passing W3C validation will also make things easier for web developers. Source code with good semantic markup allows web developers to understand what’s going on, what’s needed, and what they can take out. The processes of debugging and updating instantly become more effortless.
While search engines prefer validated sites for crawling reasons, they also know that validation is a rare achievement. W3C validity might not have as much of an SEO impact as a .edu backlink, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if search engines are endowing authority to validated pages with a multiplier effect.
Furthermore, W3C validity may begin playing a larger role in search algorithms, as the Internet is continually subjected to an onslaught of new sloppy sites. Validation is also key for compatibility across different browsers, and for emerging technologies like the mobile web.
Validating Your Source Code
It’s easy to check whether or not your code is valid with the help of free online validators, such as the W3C Markup Validation Service.
(Aside: A PageRank update occurred a couple of days ago.)