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Google rankings and W3C validation

Posted by Michael Bloch in web development (Friday September 18, 2009 )

Ah, finally! I’ve been having this argument with people since 2001 and now, the official word from Google on whether or not having the source code of your web pages validate according to W3C standards gives you an edge in rankings.

In a nutshell – no it doesn’t.. and it never has.

Heck, even Google’s own pages don’t validate. I ran a search on the term W3C then ran the results through the W3C’s validation tool – and here’s the results.. 150 “errors”

The reason? As Google engineer Matt Cutts points out in this video, Google is serving up results to all sorts of browsers, some of which ignore some W3C standards. This makes cross browser compatibility quite a nightmare.

Matt Cutts also points out that most pages on the web don’t validate. I’ve noticed even many of those on the W3C’s official supporter list fail to make the grade.

If Google were to give extra ranking kudos to a page just because it validated, it runs the risk of that page actually being less useful to the end user than the one ranking below it, purely based on the validation issue – which is not what Google is about.

While I’m very glad this has finally, finally, been laid to rest; there is one circumstance where I could see valid code perhaps having an edge when it comes to Google – and that has to do with page bloat.

Valid HTML is very tidy; which means less bytes per page. Less bytes per page means faster page retrieval and less that Googlebot needs to wade through – this equals faster spidering. If you have a huge site, it’s *possible* that Googlebot is able to index more of it during each session.


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