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Search Engine Optimization And W3C Compliant Web Pages

What does search engine optimization have to do with the World Wide Web Consortium's Compliance Guidelines? In this blog article, I attempt to examine the relationship between W3C compliance and SEO. Let's start with an explanation of what W3C compliance is.


World Wide Web (or Wild Wacky Web, way back in 1994)

Since 1994, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has published more than 110 standards, called W3C Recommendations. This international consortium, lead by the inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee (no, not Al Gore), serves as an open forum for discussion about the Web. The W3C's mission is "to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing protocols and guidelines that ensure long-term growth for the Web."


These standards have provided the guidelines for creating and maintaining websites and web pages. While these guidelines are simply recommended best practices, websites don't have to follow them to be viewed correctly in a browser. There are however, a number of good reasons that you or your web design firm should adhere to these standards. Here are just a few of those reasons:

  • As the proliferation of devices that can access the internet (that aren't traditional PCs) grows, compliance helps ensure that your website is accessible to these devices
  • Compliance helps maintain consistency in how your website looks and functions across all types of browsers, devices, screen resolutions, etc.
  • Accessibility for the disabled is improved when a website is W3C compliant
  • Compliance increases the code-to-content ratio in favor of content

Let's consider that last point a bit more. When a web page uses W3C compliant XHTML/CSS, it by default uses less code on that page, thereby increasing the code-to-content ratio in favor of the content. Reducing the amount of code means your keywords take on a higher priority (or weight) when crawled by search engines. Compliant pages are also easier for search engine spider bots to crawl. Web pages that are poorly structured can even make it difficult for spider bots to tell where code ends and content begins.


There is some debate as to how much compliance affect SEO. Consider this quote from a recent interview with Adam Lasnik, SEO Strategist at Google:


"There are many great reasons to have your site validate, and to do validation checking. It can help your site, and could be more accessible to a lot of different people and browsers. But, here is the core problem why we cannot use this in our scoring algorithms currently: There are a ton of very high quality sites, pages and sites from universities, from research institutions, from very well respected ecommerce stores, of which I won't name any, that have really crufty sites, and sites that won't validate. On some of these you can view the source and cry. And, because this is quality content, we really can't use that as an effective signal in search quality. So, you can quote me as saying, I would be thrilled, it would make my day if people would decruft their sites, but it's not going to directly affect their Google ranking."


So Now What? How Does This Help My Website?

Ok, surf the web long enough, and you'll probably find an equal amount of arguments for both sides. But here's what I can say with a great deal of confidence: making your site W3C compliant will not, by itself, be the "golden ticket" to achieving good search engine rankings. But it is a vehicle to help achieve that goal. Pages that view well across multiple devices, have a good code-to-content ratio, and are easily crawlable by spider bots will ensure that your work with keywords and SEO research is not lost on poor web page structure.


How Can I Validate My Website?

There are several good, freely available web page validators. I personally like the HTML Tidy plug-in for Firefox. If you would like to further discuss your website's search engine optimization and W3C compliance, please contact us today to schedule some time to discuss your needs.


- Barry Koehler
Web Programming Manager

Tags: compliance 

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