Does Google Penalize for Invalid HTML?
Matt Cutts, chief of search spam at Google, is back with another video in his series of YouTube question-and-answer pieces in which he answers questions about SEO, Google penalties, ranking factors and more. This time, Cutts dives into a topic that many site owners and web developers might consider when they’re trying to figure out why they’re not ranking higher: invalid HTML text.
Will your site rank higher if you ensure that every last bit of HTML on your backend is perfectly formatted and working as intended? Matt’s answer might surprise you.
Correcting Invalid HTML is Important for Many Reasons, But…
The latest question comes from Hemanth in Bangalore, India, who asks:
“Does the crawler [Google’s search bot responsible for evaluative web pages algorithmically] really care about invalid HTML? Validating google.com gives me 23 errors and 4 warnings.”
Way to call out Google on their own HTML, Hemanth!
Cutts begins by stating some of the reasons why you want to make sure that you always write good, valid HTML, including:
- It’s easier to maintain
- It makes upgrading less of a headache
- It makes it easier to hand the code off to somebody else – for example, if you decided to sell your website, a potential buyer would be more interested if the site’s code is easy to understand and validates properly
However, Cutts goes on to say that “Google needs to work with the Web we have, not the Web we want to have,” so they’ve built their crawlers around the fact that the internet is filled with HTML code that doesn’t validate, includes non-standard syntax, or is otherwise broken.
As a result, Google decided that making HTML validation a ranking factor would actually hurt search quality, not improve it. Sites that provide a superior user experience with valuable content and features sometimes use inferior HTML, in other words, and Google doesn’t want to penalize those sites and keep them relatively hidden from users.
Cutts says there’s no guarantee that they won’t somehow use HTML quality as a ranking factor in the future, but for now, your primary concern when it comes to ranking should be providing relevant, truthful information to your users in a way that’s easy to navigate and understand.
You can watch the video for yourself right here: