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Does Google Penalize For Invalid HTML? Matt Cutts Says No

Matt Cutts

It’s easy to make a mistake when trying to create perfect HTML code that validates correctly every time. When one of the features in Google Webmaster Tools is the ability to validate your code to see if there are any errors, certainly it raises the question of how important it is to have validated code.

While we all know the reasons why we should write valid HTML, in reality it doesn’t always happen. But from an SEO perspective, how important is valid HTML when it comes to your Google rankings in organic search. That is the topic of the latest Google webmaster help video.

Does the crawler really care about valid HTML? Validating gives me 23 errors, 4 warning(s)

In a new video, Google’s Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts explained why it’s best to have validated HTML code and ensure your code is clean.

“It makes it more maintainable, it makes it easier whenever you want to upgrade, it makes it better if you want to hand that code off to somebody else, there’s just a lot of good reasons to do it,” Cutts said.

There are a lot of coding purists, where every little piece of code has to perfectly validate before they will launch a website, and then there’s the other end of the spectrum where many have atrociously coded HTML, yet it ranks extremely well. The rest fall somewhere in between atrocious and perfect.

Cutts continued saying that Google needs to work with the webpages that are available, not the perfectly validated webpages in Google’s perfect world. And because of this, Google’s webcrawler has to compensate for people’s poorly coded HTML, or for told that has been changed for things like for loading purposes.

“So Google does not penalize you if you have invalid HTML because there would be a huge number of webpages like that and some people know the rules and then decided to make things a little bit faster or to tweak things here there and so their pages don’t validate and there are enough pages they don’t validate that we said OK this would actually hurt search quality if we said only the pages that validate are allowed to rank or rank those a little bit higher.”

He does caution that Google could make changes in the future.

“Now I wouldn’t be surprised if they correlate relatively well, you know maybe it’s a signal we’ll consider in the future, but at least for right now do it because it’s good for maintenance, it’s easier for you if you want to change the site in the future, don’t just do it because you think it’ll give you higher search rankings.”

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