W3C Errors and SEO

We were recently asked whether W3C errors have a negative impact on Search Engine rankings and SEO.

W3C is a set of guidelines to which website owners and developers should try and achieve full compliance. W3C compliance ensures cross browser compatibility i,e those of you who do not have knowledge of the jargon that surrounds the web industry it will ensure that your website renders on all “browsers” which are the likes of the various Internet Explorer versions, Safari, Chrome, Firefox and so forth. It also tries to ensure accessibility for the disabled.

One should insist on 100% compliance of a new website however with the speed of technological changes and changes in programming code it is sometimes difficult in particular with a limited maintenance budget difficult to keep up and maintain a site with 100% compliance.

Our own experience indicates that there does not seem to be any correlation between a fully compliant W3C website and higher rankings versus those with errors dependant on the type of errors your website has. We have optimised old websites with many errors where the client does not have the budget for a rebuild and there have been no issues in achieving rankings.

W3C non-compliances will only cause an issue if they prevent reliable search engine crawler access. Errors which are that serious usually prevent the page from rendering properly – like close body tags () in the middle of the content and other such errors. A lot of errors occur because of older versions of a particular programming code being used particularly if the website is old.
With W3C errors, one or two issues on any given page can easily generate a 100 errors especially if the validator fails to find a few HTML tags closed. In these cases errors then proliferate through the page – when actually only a few issues are really present.

Minor W3C non-compliances like missing ALT tags, unclosed paragraph tags and un-encoded ampersands (&) we feel continue to have no bearing on search ranking, although as mentioned it makes sense to ensure that your website is as compliant as possible given your budget.

One issue we have recently found is that some of the new social sharing buttons like Facebook and Google +1 fail W3C compliance, so maintaining 100% compliance is very hard if we are to embrace these new concepts as and when they arise.

avatar Name: James Briggs
About: James is a Digital Marketing Consultant with over 12 years of design, development, search engine optimisation and project managment experience previously fullfilling a number of senior roles for two of the South's most well established and successful digital marketing agencies before setting up WebSafe Solutions Ltd in 2009. In his own words..."I've planned, designed and developed countless websites and am proud to have helped hundreds of clients to get the very best from their digital marketing campaigns. Some would say I have an unusual blend of knowledge, skill and experience and for my sins I'm an absolute perfectionist!"
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