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How important is HTML Validation?
How important is HTML Validation?
greenfrog




msg:36810
 6:58 pm on Jul 29, 2003 (gmt 0)

How important is it to make sure that your page is validated with www.w3c.org? I just tried to validate a page there that had over 150 errors on it. A lot of it has to do with missing quotes, or images missing the alt tags.

How important is this type of validation?

What are the errors that cause the most problems for google?

 

MrSpeed




msg:36811
 2:37 am on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

HTML purists will argue that all pages need to validate against the W3C. And while there are compelling reasons to do so it's not that important from the search engine standpoint.

I validate in homesite to make sure there are no nesting errors or missing tags. You need to make sure the spider can parse the html easily.

victor




msg:36812
 5:02 am on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

Google say (somewhere) that their spider's parser can handle a large number of errors.

They don't say which errors it can't handle.

So, if you put errors into your HTML and you want to be 100% confident that Google hasn't skipped some of your text or links because of errors, you really do need to do a lot of testing.

Probably the easier thing is to do a Google, in quotes, for every 10 words on each of your pages:

"Probably the easier thing is to do a Google in"
"quotes for every 10 words on each of your pages"

Or take the risk.

Or write close to standard HTML.

greenfrog




msg:36813
 4:55 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hey Victor,

Thanks for the comments. I am a little lost on this part, can you clarify a little for me.

Probably the easier thing is to do a Google, in quotes, for every 10 words on each of your pages:

"Probably the easier thing is to do a Google in"
"quotes for every 10 words on each of your pages"

Thanks

John_Creed




msg:36814
 6:11 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

It's not that important, but every little bit counts.

HTML validation is good for your users as well. But a bunch of minor "errors" like an image missing the alt tag is fine.

I wouldn't worry too much about it.

junai3




msg:36815
 7:22 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

I took over promotion for a website that has a ton of HTML errors. I left the errors and optimized the site and it is doing fine in Google.

pageoneresults




msg:36816
 7:26 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

I left the errors and optimized the site and it is doing fine in Google.

And, it is possible that it may do better without the errors. If you know they are there, and you know how to fix them, why not do it?

Doozer




msg:36817
 7:40 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

I find HTML Validation is essential in keeping a site running smoothly. I not a purist and will certainly not loose sleep about leaving out the odd "alt" attribute, but a quick trip to [validator.w3.org...] can easily spot problems that IE "covers up" that would leave old Netscape 4 struggling with a very unhelpful blank page (a missing </TABLE> tag for example).

glengara




msg:36818
 7:45 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

Strictly IMO and simply a gut feeling; I never used to bother with validation, now I ensure I do, and strongly suggest to clients they do.

pageoneresults




msg:36819
 7:59 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

My personal feelings on this are that the web is moving forward with standards and we need to follow them as closely as we can, if not adhere to them strictly.

Since SEO is close to being a dead sport, we as existing SEOs/SEMs need to consider alternative niche markets to target. I'm finding that there is a very large untapped market when it comes to designing sites properly and with valid markup. As accessibility issues heat up, and they have been for some time, more and more companies are starting to consider their options. And if you travel down the accessibility road, validation is key in the overall scheme of things.

Start thinking about the future of your careers in this industry. It is no longer SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as they say but more SEM (Search Engine Marketing). One of the many benefits you can add to your marketing portfolio is the claim of building W3C compliant web sites.

There are still many who feel that it is all a waste of time. Why validate if the site still displays properly in their favorite browser? Who cares about the rest? Who cares that your biggest prospect ever could not view your site because they are using a standards compliant browser? Who cares that the indexing spider just skipped 50k of your core content on the home page because it encountered an error it could not compensate for?

I care, and so do my clients. They may pay a high premium for the attention to detail and final results but, they now truly understand what I've been trying to explain to them over the past couple of years. ;)

pageoneresults




msg:36820
 8:04 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

I just tried to validate a page there that had over 150 errors on it.

greenfrog, didn't mean to hijack your topic! ;)

You'll find that a good portion of those errors are cascading downwards from the initial error. When working through the errors, begin at the top of the Verbose Report from the W3C and correct each one in sequence. As you do this, the list of errors will diminish quite rapidly and you'll find that it was not as bad as you think it is.

And yes, do assign alt text where applicable. If the image is non-essential (spacer.gif) then assign empty alt text. You'll have to if you wish to pass validation.

<added>I should also bring to your attention that the validator will only you show you the first instance of an error. If it is repeated elsewhere on the page, it won't appear until after you correct the first occurrence. This drove me absolutely nuts back in the beginning but then I caught on. You eliminate one group of errors and wham, a new set appear that are the same as the one you just fixed.

It's a tedious process but as you learn, it becomes second nature. You'll soon get to the point that when you finish a page and hit that validation button, there are no errors. These days I sometimes forget to validate and come back only to find that all was just fine. If you are working from a group of templates that are all valid, you are one step ahead of the process.

hutcheson




msg:36821
 8:22 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

>You eliminate one group of errors and wham, a new set appear that are the same as the one you just fixed.

Yes. Live and learn.

Eventually you may realize it's worth doing a bit more planning up front to ensure that you MAKE EXACTLY THE SAME MISTAKES in all similar constructs. That way, when the validator complains about the first one, you just fix them all before re-validating.

MWpro




msg:36822
 8:58 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

I don't find writing an error-free page to be hard at all. When you're writing the code and thinking about not adding the quotation marks, you could have just as easily added them and been compliant as well.

It is not hard to write HTML correctly, and if you learn CSS it will make it even easier.

leoo24




msg:36823
 9:00 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think that one important thing that is forgotten, is at the end of the day you can forget good listings/referrals from google if your site can't be accessed by anyone! validating your code gives you the best possible chance for anyone being able to see your site as intended (coupled with other obvious factors as the actual design ofcourse :))

mipapage




msg:36824
 9:18 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

It's a tedious process but as you learn, it becomes second nature.

I naively learnt to write valid code, sliding into this creative world via xhtml and css. I had my first site go to first place in Google for fairly competitive search words without even knowing what SEO was. I am certain that the valid code and small file sizes helped.

validating your code gives you the best possible chance for anyone being able to see your site as intended

This becomes important WRT Google after GoogleGuy said (I believe) that 'generally what's good for the user is good for Google'.

greenfrog




msg:36825
 11:35 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

I have been dreading the thought of validating all of my pages. Most of them are coded by hand, and the w3c validator gave a huge number of errors. All the pages are displaying great in the major browsers, but that isn't enough when it comes to google.

So here goes nothing....wish me luck.

Anybody want to donate a few dozen hours to a good cause.................my web site?

mipapage




msg:36826
 11:41 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

So here goes nothing....wish me luck.

Good Luck! Boil up a nice pot of coffee and get good and wired. Once you get the eye for similar errors you can get into an error killing zone with enough caffeine.

Where would the web be without coffee?

pageoneresults




msg:36827
 11:43 pm on Jul 30, 2003 (gmt 0)

Anybody want to donate a few dozen hours to a good cause, my web site?

This will be a great learning experience for you. Just look closely at the errors, click on the links that end up telling you "foo" is not an element or there is no "foo", and you should be able to work your way through them. Foo this, foo that.

If you run into any that are really difficult, there are threads here that discuss the most common errors you will run into and how to correct them. Just do a site search for common validation errors and I think you will find the answers you are looking for.

athinktank




msg:36828
 12:10 am on Jul 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hello greenfrog :-)

I have moved to XSLT to produce all of my pages. One great thing generating pages though XSLT, it will find most all of your errors. Expecially when it comes to element and attribute errors ( <td> being an element of <tr> and alt="asdf" being an attribute.

Also, I would pick up tidy, see [tidy.sourceforge.net...] for more details. This validator / checker can be configured so that you can suppress certain validation comments, like "no summary element in the table element" or what ever you want to suppress. Further you can pipe the results into a text file then grep the ERROR lines... something like this

c:\>tidy page.html > results.txt
c:\>grep error results.txt

oops, guess you need unix or cygwin for the grep

GrinninGordon




msg:36829
 12:10 am on Jul 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

greenfrog

I know w3c compliance is important. I know it is not easy, but stick it out. It will take you along a path that will make you much more aware, with better sites (user wise) that rank better than people with the "It is OK to have errors" mentality. As another tangible benefit, I can not begin to tell you how many SEO lights came on for me as a result of doing exactly what you are about. I even just recently found out how to make a flash movie site compliant.

MrSpeed




msg:36830
 12:26 am on Jul 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well I see the html purists have chimed in :)

If I need to validate sites I didn't build I use CSE HTML Validator. It has a cool batch mode. Otherwise I validate right in HomeSite.

Which leads me to....

I have been dreading the thought of validating all of my pages. Most of them are coded by hand

Please don't tell me you're one of these noble people that say "NotePad is your favorite html editor". I use Homesite and I suppose I can say I code by hand. But believe me I leverage Homesite to make development quick, easy and error free.

tedster




msg:36831
 12:40 am on Jul 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

I also have used Homesite for many years, but I didn't always have the habit of clicking the validate button after each edit -- or several times if I was doing lots of work on a page.

True story - we had a page doing very well on lots of searches, and though it was an "inner" page it had quite a few backlinks from off-site.

There was one phrase on the page that related to a recent development in the industry and the client asked me why the page didn't show up on that search. What do you know, I had a copy/paste error that clipped the > from one of the tags right before that phrase.

Later material was indexed, and earlier material was indexed. But not this phrase, hidden from Googlebot by the error.

A full W3C validation isn't necessary for good indexing. But catching serious errors definitely is. I don't use the W3C validator nearly so much as I use my internal Homesite validator -- which I can customize to overlook this and that, as business demands make necesary. But I always check the W3C for a basic template before I start pasting in content.

I agree with MrSpeed -- make sure the basics are dead on (nesting, closing tags, etc.) so you know your HTML is at least well-formed, even if you do have a deprecated attribute here and there.

[edited by: tedster at 1:47 am (utc) on July 31, 2003]

GrinninGordon




msg:36832
 1:11 am on Jul 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

MrSpeed

Purist?!

I suppose so if it gets me where I want to go ;-)

Yeh CSE HTML is good, but its results often are different to w3c right? I bought it a while a go and have recently downloaded the latest version, but have not used it yet. What I do now is start with a template page or two or three. Validate them, then work from these.

When I wanted to go back over a site that was failing w3c validation, in particular in my nice new screen resolution, I found the freebe Search and Replace 98 a gem. Just write a css file to lose all the font etc. tags, and then S&R to impliment this in one click. I also use this to trim html fat en mass (just enter double blank space in what it is to look for, and nothing in the replace box). Then I had w3c compliant pages that were 50% smaller than before.

They looked the same in the browser (but now all browsers / screens - so I did not lose business from people who saw html yuck on high res screens and old browsers), I found my text (and therefore keywords) were more easily found by the search engines ;-), and the pages loaded faster (which I know SE's like as well).

MrSpeed




msg:36833
 1:19 am on Jul 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

Purist?!
I suppose so if it gets me where I want to go ;-)

The purist comment wasn't directed at any one person. But I was hoping the folks from forum21 and forum83 wouldn't see this thread!

pageoneresults




msg:36834
 1:24 am on Jul 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

But I was hoping the folks from forum21 and forum83 wouldn't see this thread!

Ah, the power players. Those who know what they want and go for it. Those are my two favorite forums. ;)

greenfrog




msg:36835
 3:53 pm on Jul 31, 2003 (gmt 0)

yada yada ya....all this talk about validation is all great, but I was actually hoping the participants in this thread would take it a little bit further.

NOW....Who is going to step up to the plate and volunteer to help me with all this messy validation?

How about it athinktank :-)

victor




msg:36836
 11:25 am on Aug 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Greenfrog,

tedster has given you a true cautionary tale about bad HTML stopping Googlebot from producing a full index of a page. That alone should be sufficient reason to produce 100% valid HTML. I wonder how many pages rank badly simply because Googlebot doesn't see the all the important keywords?. That's got to be a scarey thought for any one doing SEO work.

As pageoneresults says, use the W3C validator and fix each error as you find it. That's a great way to learn how to produce HTML that is fully valid in the future.

If you have a HTML generator that is producing bad code, you should attempt to upgrade it or trade it in for one that produces valid code. In a perfect world, you'd have a warranty claim against the tool provider for not producing valid HTML.

If you actually want someone to do the work for you, then switch to stickies and talk hourly rates!

incywincy




msg:36837
 11:54 am on Aug 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

isn't it great to know that your web pages can be viewed in ANY browser? (correction, any browser that has been implemented to W3C standards)

my web pages used to look ok in IE but pretty bad in Netscape, Opera, Mozilla, Konqueror etc. At first I thought what the hell, nearly everyone uses IE anyway. After spending time at WebmasterWorld though I saw the SEO benefits of good html and validated all of my pages. Now I feel good when my site looks right in all different types of browser.

ps don't forget about validating your css too!

Web Footed Newbie




msg:36838
 12:07 pm on Aug 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

Ever since my first site in February, I have always validated. The reason? All of the reading here at Webmasterworld forums, I wanted to do things right the first time.

It not only helps with search engines being able to read the HTML, but also with the variety of browsers being able to comprehend, IMO. I also validate my CSS, and proudly post both W3C logos on my pages.

The effort involved to fix errors, even 150, is really not that difficult once you know the error. Using a find and replace, you can quickly fix common errors on your whole site.

WFN :)

Web Footed Newbie




msg:36839
 12:09 pm on Aug 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

By the way, welcome to WebmasterWorld, greenfrog!
Web Footed Newbie

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