My developers recently put together a page which lists a grid of products and product information. They did so using tables and spacer gifs. Totally 1997, but nonetheless, I'm now trying to figure out whether this could have a negative SEO impact.
The code is something like this:
<table> <tr> <td>Product Name 1</td><td>Product Name 2</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Product Description 1</td><td>Product Description 2</td> </tr> etc, etc. </table>
This is stopping us from being able to incorporate Schema.org markup, as one HTML element does not contain an entirety of Product content. The better, non-1997 version would use div and spans, but the question is whether Google/Bing will be able to determine which content is associated with which product?
My understanding of the issue is that SE didn't like nested tables and that tables should not be used to layout the page. This doesn't mean you can't use tables at all. Infact often tables are the correct thing to use, although I would use divs in the case you describe. I don't think a modern search engine would have any problem with the table you example.
If it's a data table, make sure you use the full set of table markup to convey as much meaning as possible. A brief example:
<table border="1" summary="Product data displayed in columns"> <caption>Data on products in this category</caption> <thead> <tr> <td></td> <th scope="col">Product one</th> <th scope="col">Product two</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <th scope="row">Description</th> <td>Product one description</td> <td>Product one description</td> </tr> </tbody> </table>
This would, of course, need to be adapted to your own situation (and is an off-the-cuff example which may well contain mistakes) - but don't forget that there's lots of meaning in HTML already, even without the use of schema and similar!