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Importance of Clean HTML Code to Optimizaton
By Andrew Gerhart - February 26, 2002

A factor that many overlook, but that is just as important as keyword research and application, search engine submission, or link popularity, is the size, appearance, and cleanliness of your HTML coding. The size, cleanliness, and appearance and presentation to the search engine robots and spiders can be the difference between ranking #1 and #12.

Size of HTML Coding and Page

Nowadays, it seems as though every web page designer likes the use of Flash, JavaScript, or in some cases - dynamic page generation tools like ASP, PHP, of Coldfusion's CFM. While these tools make database integration and visual appearance both simplified and amazing - it can also hinder the optimization value of a page - and do so in the eye of every search engine.

Bear in mind that there are two elements that a search engine's spiders and robots can read and decipher. That is the actual HTML markup code, and the ASCII text that appears on the page itself. Regardless of which search engine is your target, it is wise to have the ASCII text contained within your page outweigh the HTML coding of the page.

Every search engine prefers a different amount of text on the page, a different overall page size, and of course, a different keyword density ratio. Google, for example, likes small page sizes, with the size ranging anywhere from 5K to 20K.

HTML Appearance and Presentation

This one may sound a bit odd to some, so let us clarify what we are discussing. We are not talking about your HTML code's appearance per se'. Instead what we mean is the way that your HTML code is presented to the search engine robots and spiders.

When the search engines come to your web page, they have a number of things that they are going to be looking for, and a number of things that they don't want to find on the page.

Some of the criteria that the search engine robots look for are:

  • Text, text, text, and more text
  • Keyword rich text
  • Title tags
  • Links and Link titles
  • Alt tags
  • A keyword density percentage
  • H1 Tags
  • Large text sizes
  • No Frames tag if using Frames

Some of the things that the search engine robots do not want to find on your page are:

  • Too little Text
  • Keyword Stuffing
  • Heavy JavaScript
  • Large File Sizes
  • Small Text Sizes
  • Frames

Each search engine puts a different amount of weight on each of these criteria, but general rules apply across the board.

When the search engine robots visit your web page, and site for that matter, they will want to see certain things at the top of your HTML code. This is what we mean by the appearance of your HTML code: the things that the search engines look for in ranking a website should be as close to the top as possible. This is not the rule that applies to all search engines, as a few of them do prefer to see text and links near the bottom of the page as well.

Validating Your HTML Code

Validating your HTML coding is something that not only touches upon optimization issues, but usability and browser rendering. Using an HTML validator, like CSE Validator Pro, will allow you to clean up your HTML code to remove all unneeded tags, add the tags that you do need, check your spelling, and eliminate code errors that will result in browsers rendering your pages wrong. Having your HTML in the correct format, with all the correct tags in place, is something that search engines look for, and can help your optimization efforts as well.

How can an HTML validator help with an optimization campaign?

One way that an HTML validator can help is by catching mistakes that you may have made while developing the site, or when optimizing the site. The same mistakes that a search engine robot will notice. Another way that an HTML validator can help is that it will pick up on the missing ALT tags, and other tags that are useful to an optimization campaign.

Every web developer and SEO professional should make sure that their HTML validates, and renders in all browsers. This is why the best way to optimize a site is to begin the optimization process while the site is still being built.