What Role Does W3C Validation Have in SEO?

As if the SEO world wasn’t full of enough debates, W3C validation is has been a heated discussion amongst experts. For those who are unfamiliar, W3C stands for Wide Web Consortium, a company that develops standards for code on the web. Validation works to check the HTML code for proper markup; thus making sure that all pages of a website are built in accordance with Web standards. If your website follows these standards, you have a better chance that your website will be able to work on different browsers and different operating systems. On the surface, validation seems like a good thing for SEO. This then causes many to scratch their heads and ask: Why all of the debate?

How W3C Validation Works for SEO

In general, W3C validation would naturally be seen as something beneficial for SEO. Validating your website is important because there are code errors that can cause serious styling issues from a web design perspective. These are generally the types of errors that also cause a Googlebot not to render. In other words, the type of errors and how many errors are really all that matter. Most SEOs agree that W3C validation does matter when it comes to SEO, but only for errors that cause bad rendering.

What the Skeptics Say about W3C Validation and SEO

The biggest reason that many SEOs do not put much emphasis on W3C validation is because Matt Cutts, head engineer of Google search, says himself that W3C validation has no affect on SEO. Cutts gave a few different reasons to support this claim:

  • Still Great Content – The biggest reason that Cutts has for supporting this argument is that many browsers do a good job working with broken code. Users can usually understand broken code just fine, even if it is not perfect, so it wouldn’t make sense for these tiny mistakes to affect a website’s position on a SERP. Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land who helped Cutts answer this question compared this to a grammatical error. Every once and a while you read an article with a grammatical error, but you can usually still understand the article, right?
  • Google Doesn’t Validate – Another reason that many SEOs do not put a large emphasis on W3C validation is the idea that many major sites don’t validate. These sites include Google, Amazon, and Twitter. It is clear that these sites believe in great content (as do Google algorithms) more so than perfect code.

The Verdict Regarding W3C Validation and SEO

At the end of the day, W3C validation doesn’t have a major impact on whether a website will rank. There are other aspects of SEO that should be put at the forefront of a website’s strategy—content creation, link building, etc.—before worrying about W3C validation.

If you’re interested in seeing how your website validates with W3C, visit the Markup Validator.

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