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How vital is this, and how big a hassle is it for developers who write code using Dreamweaver, etc ?
I think that there are a few different things that you can do to overcome this issue:
1) Place the code in an external JS file and link to it
2) use CSS to push the content to the top
3) not worry about it and focus on strenghtening your site in other areas (ex: link pop)
I am not sure what level of impact this will have on your site. I think that it is pretty important to take care of, but at the same time I have seen some top ranking sites with a mess of code at the top.
I was once running 3rd party ads and the bloated code i had to use doubled my file sizes before I started calling it externally. In the end...
Each page had one line of code instead of the full script. (faster loading - less space taken) and I *believe* it helped ranking.
>>How vital is this, and how big a hassle is it for developers who write code using Dreamweaver, etc ?
<added>The same thing works for CSS, by the way, and elements that can be inserted via SSI. The latter won't help your page size, but will simplify maintenance.</added>
My site is too new to see any effect in the search engines yet.
I only have a dozen or so pages on my site and I'm going to cut and paste a link to the external JS.
Regarding slow-loading graphics and page rank: I doubt there would be any direct effect on page rank, but if pages are painfully slow other sites will be less likely to link to them. This would mean you'd have less chance to develop the page rank that your content would otherwise deserve. It's worth doing everything you can to streamline your graphics.
example, im on broadband and come accross pages that take upto 10 seconds to laod, if you were on a serial, bugger that, go somewhere else.
do not design for yourself design for a lowest common denomenator, easy graphics, easy linking, easy to understand, and easy on the recipients computer.
work on theme content across the site, rather than loading 10 pages with terms, that could easily with enough research split into another 10/100 pages