Did Google just kill an SEO Myth or reinforce my convictions?

published on January 15, 2010 in SEO & PPC,Website Design

Valid code is a mark of professional ethics from a web designer.

Back in November Matt Cutts, the public face of Google for most webmasters, announced in a video that W3C validation doesn’t boost a website ranking.

What doesn’t boost website ranking?

W3C validation, what is it?

The W3C is the main organization in charge of “standardising” the internet. They publish rules, guidelines and recommendations on how best to build websites, and provide free tools to assess them against these standards.

There are many ways to build a website – like there are many ways to do accounts – but with valid pages, you can be reassured that a certain care has been taken when putting them together. You can validate your website pages on the W3C site: simply type your website address in the appropriate box and pressing the “check” button.

But what did Matt Cutts say?

Here is the video explaining why Google doesn’t validate and why websites that do validate don’t get a boost in rankings.

Video summary:

Why Google doesn’t validate: historically Google doesn’t validate because they need to be able to serve billions of pages a day and validation could cause a slight increase in file size, which would ultimately cost them a lot of money (because of the number of pages they deliver).

Why websites that validate don’t get a boost in rankings: too few web developers take the care they should when designing websites and only a small minority of all websites validate. Google aim is to serve the most relevant pages and that information is – far too often – available from non valid websites.

Why you should bother with code validation nonetheless

Even if website validation doesn’t mean “boost in rankings”, coding errors may still be detrimental to your search engine optimisation efforts.

From my point of view, you paid a professional to have a website designed, so it should follow web standards and adhere to them, the same way that I would expect my accountants to provide me with a set of accounts that follow accounting standards.

Apart from the professionalism I mentioned twice before, a valid code can also help fix possible bugs that would cause visual discrepancies in different browsers. Valid code also facilitates website maintenance, which in turn should save you money, if maintenance is not included in your website contract.

Finally, code validation should not cost you anything extra and should come as standard from a professional web designer / developer. If in doubt ask before agreeing to any deal as it may show a lack of proficiency or expertise.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan April 1, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I just spent the past hour looking for a website that validates (beyond the new site I’m working on now), and yours is the first whose base URL actually validates. Good job!

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Kurt from Easy Internet Business December 28, 2010 at 5:27 pm

So, if I am designing my own page, should I bother with validation? You say that if you are paying for a website it should be validated, but is it worth it for me to go through the extra trouble?

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netaccountant January 12, 2011 at 8:34 am

Hi Kurt,
I’d say it depends. I find that validation greatly help iron out some browsers discrepancies, and as we design our sites to be backward compatible down to IE6, there could be a few. But to be honest, validation and correction usually take less than half an hour, so it is not too much of a burden.

For your own site though, it is up to you, but as I said apparently no benefit in the SERP apart from knowing you did a good job :).

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Rich from Web design leeds January 1, 2011 at 12:51 pm

I think Google don’t bother simply because most websites aren’t built by professionals – so why penalise them?

You are right when you say that a validating site should be as-standard in a professional build. That said, validation isn’t really about SEO, but more part of accessibility, cross-browser compatibility and semantic mark-up.

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netaccountant January 10, 2011 at 11:18 am

Rich, totally agree with you, validation is not going to improve your rankings, but should always be reached when delivering a website to a client.

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Karl Wharry from webkatalog January 11, 2011 at 11:42 pm

I think a W3C conform website is very important for search enigne ranking. Matt says it doesn’t boost your rankings, but it could mean if you are not conform you got a little penalty on your rankings.

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netaccountant January 12, 2011 at 8:15 am

Actually no, I wouldn’t think it does – just look at the top 10 for many search queries, my guess would be than less than 10% of those sites validate.

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Alison Moore Smith from LonTalk Routers January 21, 2011 at 11:31 pm

Agreed. If you’re paying for code, it should be GOOD code and should follow protocol. Doing so may not increase rankings, but it can help avoid conflicts!

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Ben Jackson from seo myths March 6, 2011 at 5:32 am

This reminds me of the myth that Google ranks sites higher that register their domain for a longer period of time – an SEO myth that unsurprisingly started with domain registrars :P
Ben Jackson@ seo myths also wrote Image SEO – Optimizing Your Images

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netaccountant March 6, 2011 at 6:46 pm

Hi Ben,
Thanks for stopping by and you are correct, the length of the domain registration shouldn’t play a part in website rankings / SEO.

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Edmund from Matt Carter Rapid Profit Formula March 8, 2011 at 8:38 am

I am using WordPress themes. Can I still use the W3C sites to validate my webpages? If there are errors, do you have anyone that I can approach to correct those errors or any websites that I can refer to for solutions?
Edmund@Matt Carter Rapid Profit Formula also wrote Rapid Profit Formula – The Full Review

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netaccountant March 9, 2011 at 8:13 am

Hi Edmund, yes you can use the W3C Validator to check your site whatever platform it is based on. The errors should be explained on the validator itself so if you know a bit about HTML you should be able to sort them out pretty easily.

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