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the way I think about it is if your site is easily parsed (correct HTML) then SE spiders will zip through it without "choking" if it has to stumble to try and work something out.. it just might turn around and leave if it's in a hurry or can't find anything else ;)
can't do any harm to be as valid as possible that's for sure
For example, an open tag (<p instead of <p>
I had an example of the open tag phenomonon back in Sept. I was searching for a relatively unique phrase that I KNEW was on a page I built. I wasn't finding it, although that very page was showing up on another search, so I knew it was in the index.
It was a missing > on a <span> tag
Further testing showed that Googlebot's error recovery had kicked in at the next complete tag, but that was 60 important and valuable words later!
Other spiders might be less adept, who knows. Validation can be your friend.
What if the SE's are looking closely at validation as possible SEO?
They wouldn't have to look far. There are only a few of us who have taken that route. ;)
Here's an error that doesn't get caught by the validator but causes all sorts of problems. Can you see it?
<!-- HTML Comments -- Insert Comma Separated Keyword Phrase List Here -->
A common error is to include a string of hyphens ("---") within a comment. Authors should avoid putting two or more adjacent hyphens inside comments.
You could end up commenting out an entire page and not really know it until after the fact.
Validating XHTML 1.1 will flag it as an error.
[edited by: pageoneresults at 4:50 am (utc) on Feb. 3, 2004]
3.2.4 Comments [w3.org]
<added> XHTML 1.1 Validation Results
Below are the results of attempting to parse this document with an SGML parser.
Line 16, column 24: S separator in comment declaration
<!-- Testing Comments -- Testing Comments -->
This error is not caught in the HTML 4.01 Strict validation.
Comparison of SGML and XML [w3.org]
A parameter separator cannot contain comments; this means that markup declarations (other than comment declarations) cannot contain comments
Empty comment declarations (<!> in the reference concrete syntax) are not allowed
A comment declaration cannot contain more than one comment
In a comment declaration, an S separator is not allowed before the final MDC