Google Goals

Your Website Code May Not Be As Clean As You Think

Editors update: March, 13th, 2010

True story: About two weeks ago, I came across a website that listed top SEO companies – well-known SEO companies at that. The website had used a site validator to see how clean the top SEOs’ site codes were. I stared in shock and then started gloating.

Several of the top name SEO companies had more errors than you could shake a stick at – and these people are supposed to know how to optimize a web page. Further down on the page were other big name websites, such as the BBC, with just as many errors.

Horror of Optimization Horrors

While sharing this information with my programmer and coding specialist, she made a strange comment. “You know, that’s something I haven’t thought of, running a site validation.” Well, I had the site redesigned shortly before she came on, by a professional designer. I just KNEW our site code would be clean and I could continue gloating.

The first page we ran the W3C Site Validator on had thirty-three errors. Thirty-three! My programmer informed me that, since she had planned on updating the site anyway, these errors could be quickly solved. I took a deep breath and we went on to the next page. Seven-eight errors!

On each consecutive page, error after error was found. I had taken so many deep breaths I felt like I was hyperventilating. She swore she’d clean it up and, after taking one more deep breath, I left it in her capable hands.

A thought occurred to me then, which is the foundation of this blog. “If SEO companies who are supposed to know clean code can have errors like this (and I include mine), what about webmasters that have to rely on outside help?” In other words, if you don’t know programming and you don’t have an in house programmer you can trust, how do you know YOUR site code is… well, up to code?

  1. Run each page through the W3C Markup Validator. It will give you a list of errors and information on how to fix them. You’ll probably need a little programming background. If you don’t have any programming knowledge but you do have errors, you can hire a professional programmer to do the work and then run the Validator yourself to make sure they’ve done the job right. According to my programmer, it took her ten minutes to a half hour per page, depending on the number of errors. Factor that in when hiring.
  2. Run your stylesheets (CSS) through the W3C CSS Validator. It will also give you a list of errors and how to fix them. Again, you may need a little bit of CSS coding background and, again, if you don’t have any, you’ll need a professional. According to my programmer, it took her ten minutes to clean up our CSS,  but there weren’t that many errors.
  3. Use the W3C Link Checker. Not only does this check for broken links, but it also shows where you have redirects. In running our site, we had 400 redirect links when only two were intentional. How did this happen?

There’s a programmer’s shortcut: instead of using the whole URL to indicate where a page will pull its content from, they use a series of path codes that look like this:


Unfortunately, this doesn’t sit well and the engines will use this path to redirect to the full URL. It’s messy and it takes longer, which slows down the time it takes to load your site.

The moral of the story:

A website’s code is just a part of search engine optimization. However, it’s a huge part of how your website performs for the user. If you’re not sure how clean your website is, take a few minutes to run it through W3C. You may be surprised how bad (or good) your code really is.

Another great articles about W3C that I recently read was “W3C Validation for SEO? Separating Facts From Fiction” at Springboard SEO

Today's Author


Interested in Guest Posting?
Read our guest posting guidelines.

18 Responses

  1. You are absolutely right, but if we are going to give out advice & call ourselves SEO geeks then I think we should make sure our code is clean. I say lead by example, and it really doesn't take any more time on your part. We pride ourselves on checking every little thing… I guess attention to detail is a huge thing for me.

  2. All the websites I've ever built have been valid. I feel this is one of the most important parts of designing a decent site. It's important to have standards to work to.

    But….it doesn't seem to make an ounce of difference to the search engines whether you're valid or not….infact Google flags up errors if you run it through the validator.

  3. Gracias telefonia always nice to see people are paying attention. It won't be difficult just follow their instructions and remove all the mierda code and you will be fine.

  4. Omg you too. I saw some stuff on there I was like wtf? Who put that stuff on there? Suffice it to say so many different hands touched this thing that I am glad we only have ONE person messing with our code. Thanks for joining he conversation Jacob btw “I’m currently a full-time student at ITT-Tech pursuing web design.” very impressive 😉

  5. You're right, you definitely need to clean your code. However, when I validate, there are some pretty weird things that come up as errors such as page breaks
    versus versus

    Weird stuff.

  6. Hey Rafael no kidding huh? I was discussing this with another SEO geek & need I say an argument ensued. lolAmazing at how some SEO people forget the most basic functions. I personally want to say I don't care what Google does but, would that be smart? It's in their “how to” so we follow the rules and add a few new rules that work for our clients. Thanks for keeping the conversation going.

  7. Indeed & the way I see it there is tons of information out there. Some take their time giving it to you or hold you hostage for an email or a name. At Level343 we treat our readers as friends and we share our knowledge for free. Thanks for sharing in our conversation joel

  8. Yeahhhh I am glad we were able to help you. That just made me smile and it's not even 7:00 am. Okay now for more coffee and more tips & discussion to give away. Come back & join in the conversation.

  9. Very interesting post, I am newbie in this domain so it was very useful for me. I used W3C and I discovered some errors to my web site so thanks for sharing with us.

  10. Amazing at how many SEO professionals I know got very “pissy” (lack of a better word) about doing that. when I brought it up at an SEO chat. Like it was beneath them since they find no value in being validated. Personally I think it's unfortunate, almost like no pride in the work you put out there. To have clean code is a big plus at least imho. Thanks for your input

  11. Hi Gariella
    Great post and some helpful info here on code validation. We ran this on our site some time ago and did all we could to fix as many errors as possible. Actually it didnt really make any difference SE ranking-wise as it seems search engines don't judge ever so highly on whether a site has perfectly clean code or not but surely its good practice and where possible it makes sense to cross as many t's and dot as many i's as possible. And the unintentional redirects you point out could indeed have implications on ranking if there are alot of 404 errors as a result.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

As Seen In

Hello there! Please read to understand how we handle your privacy.

This website uses tracking cookies to help us understand how you use the site and improve upon your experience. We do not share any information collected – either personal or anonymous – with any other parties, with the exception of the reporting programs we use in conjunction with those cookies. By continuing to use this site, you agree to the use of these cookies. If you do not agree, please close the site.