For years there has been a big debate going on in the SEO world if having proper HTML code is going to increase your rankings or not. Both sides have valid points, and it can be a debate that will continue for years to come. I just wanted to gather and give you some data on what I have found from the experts and let you gain your own opinion on this. I also want to give my 2 cents on what I think.
So what is valid HTML code? That is a good question, and is probably something that not a lot of people within the business world think about since it usually is not under their realm of responsibilities. To give a little bit of background, as the internet began to expand more and more in the early 90’s there seemed to be a need for creating a standard set of rules. In 1994 the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) was created. According to Wikipedia: “W3C was created to ensure compatibility and agreement among industry members in the adoption of new standards. Prior to its creation, incompatible versions of HTML were offered by different vendors, increasing the potential for inconsistency between web pages. The consortium was created to get all those vendors to agree on a set of core principles and components which would be supported by everyone.”
Rather than have utter chaos online, this group was founded and has since been the industry standard for how each web page should be coded so that it is readable by any person or search engine that lands on the site. Since then people have been asking SEO experts and search engines if keeping up with this standard is going to give them a better ranking or if they not following it would change their rankings.
I think the best quote that I have found comes from Vanessa Fox (who wrote the book Marketing in the Age of Google) in an interview you can watch here. It gets pretty technical, but the thing that I like is when she says: ““[Google] Sitemaps doesn’t impact your ranking at all… it helps with the very first obstacle of learning about all of your pages. It’s about crawling, thus it doesn’t preclude code optimization, site organization or other sensible methods in SEO. It may indirectly allow for better ranking, but won’t provide it.”
What she is saying is that having a sitemap, robots.txt file, and proper coding is not going to help you with your rankings just because you have it. It is going to make Google’s job of finding you, and indexing you that much easier. I agree with that 100%.
If we take Site A that has amazing content but no sitemap, and the code is a little off, it is going to have a harder time being indexed by Google than Site B which has a sitemap and follows what W3C considers the proper coding of the internet. Site B will be easier for Google to crawl and read, so that will get them in Google faster than Site A, who will have to wait until someone links to them, or they decide to get a sitemap and other items in their site.
Having valid code is not going to directly affect your rankings, but will affect how soon and how easily search engines crawl your site. I tell my clients that this is a rather important factor to put in after you have quality and relevant content. It’s going to help you that much more.