Code validation is the process in which you make your web page coding conform to the industry recognized professional standards. These standards are set by the World Wide Web Consortium or W3C, which is a professional organization that sets the specifications and guidelines for HTML and other web technologies. You can check your pages for validation errors at http://validator.w3.org/detailed.html, and check your CSS at http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/.
Code validation is another step in the optimization process often overlooked by some SEOs, however more and more SEOs (and designers) are seeing the value in validation. Those who don’t validate, however, often cite a few seemingly logical reasons:
It Works Fine in the Browser: Non-compliant HTML code will often display just fine in various web browsers. Many feel that if it looks good and there are no related usability issues, then there is no real reason to worry about validation. However, while the browsers tend to be forgiving of coding errors, search engines are much less forgiving. In fact, some validation issues, while displaying properly on the screen, can actually prevent search engine spiders from indexing your content. They may get hung up on a piece of bad code, in which case, instead of trying to figure the intent as a browser does, the spider will simple move on.
It’s a Cumbersome Process: Validating each page of a website can often be an extremely cumbersome process. Most validation issues themselves are small and irrelevant to the browser, the search engine and the process of achieving top search engine rankings. In the process of optimizing some of our clients, we’ve run across pages that had over three hundred validation errors. Most small errors are repeated over and over again and while easily fixed, it does take time.
Search Engines Don’t Care: Aside from the issues that actually prevent the search engines from properly analyzing a site, many believe that the search engines simply don’t care whether a page is valid HTML or not. While it is true that valid code may not translate directly into top rankings, as mentioned above validation ensures that you leave no errors that will prevent search engines spiders from properly indexing your content.
Using valid code should be assumed as especially important by designers, web developers and webmasters. Using invalid code is the equivalent of using poor quality materials or incorrect tools while building. That would be unacceptable for a general contractor to do, and it should also be unacceptable for web professionals. If it is the job of the web SEO to produce a search friendly site, validated code is undoubtedly one of the best ways to ensure that you do.
This post is part of a continuing series on the topic of:
Optimizing for Maximum Search Engine Performance
Sub-Topic: Eliminating Code Bloat.