Google SEO & Search Engine Marketing Services

The Truth About Validation

Before I start this post I would like to declare my respect for web designers and developers, I am pretty handy with html and CSS but I can only dream about some of the stuff these guys can accomplish with a web page, however one thing that really annoys me is when a web designer/developer criticises me without doing the research.

I wish I had a pound for every time a developer has told me ‘you can’t me much of an SEO if you can’t even validate your pages’. This is a statement that really bugs me and when I read Aaron Walls post at seobook I just had to react with some hard facts.

Many people have got it into their heads that validation is a crucial part of SEO and that it is essential to ranking a site highly. This is not the case and never has been, as long as Google can find your content your page will get indexed.

Is validation worth it??

Well that depends really, sure it’s nice to have clean code but it can also be expensive and time consuming to fix. If you’re a start up business and your budget is tight, validation is not what you need, you need traffic and SEO get’s traffic.

OK… Before we go any further let’s take a look at some facts.

200 top ranked sites were used to compile the following information.

First let’s look at the average errors on sites ranking in position 1 – 5 in Google.

seo and validation

Yes we can see from the graph that rank 5 has significantly more errors than the sites above, however this was mainly due to 4 sites having well in excess of 3000 errors but hey their still 5th on Google!

The main thing to take from this graph is that sites are ranking high on Google with errors and that all these sites were ranking for ultra competitive terms like car insurance and credit cards.

The average errors for rank 1 was 54. Do you really think validation is the key to high rankings?

OK.. One last graph… Here are the percentage of sites ranking in the top 5 with Errors.

seo validation

Thats right people only 8% of the 200 sites across 20 different keywords validated.

Even though the above is compelling enough there is more evidence to prove validation is not the be all and end all.

1) Google does not validate

2) On a search for ‘web design’ only 2 of the top 5 validated with position 2 having over 100 errors.

3) A lot of the big brands such as Tesco, The Times, Direct Line and The Guardian do not validate.

We are talking about companies with limitless budgets and yet they do not see the need to validate???? Something doesn’t make sense.

The Truth

The truth is validation is a luxury, it is not needed to rank well and does not play a role in the Google ranking factors.

Maybe as your business starts to grow and funds become more readily available then consider validation, but know the only thing it is going to give you is a big green tick on the validation page, it will not boost your SERP position.

Now if you are reading this ready to assault me in the comments please know that I have nothing against dev’s and designers, as I said at the beginning I only wish I had the same skills. The thing that really bugs me is when a small percentage comes along and tries to tell someone else how to do their job properly, trust me if validation was a crucial part of SEO every SEO site out there would validate :)

For those of you who don’t want to kill me, I hope you enjoyed the post.

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Author: Tim (254 Articles)

is the owner and editor of SEO wizz and has been involved in the search engine marketing industry for over 9 years. He has worked with multiple businesses across many verticals, creating and implementing search marketing strategies for companies in the UK, US and across Europe. Tim is also the Director of Search at Branded3, a Digital Marketing & SEO Agency based in the UK.

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{ 4 comments }

David August 28, 2009 at 1:33 am

Thanks for pointing this out.

I just checked Google search engine optimization starter guide and the word ‘validation’ does not appear even once in it.

Structure, navigation, use of H1 tags etc. – these all appear – but nothing about pages that validate.

I just ran our site at Quillcards Distinctive Ecards through w3 validator and got 6 errors for the homepage.

It’s written from scratch in Ruby.

Pretty good, eh!

On the other hand, our blog at The Quillcards Blog which is on a page of the site, is built on Wordpress, which must be one of the most widely used blogging platforms worldwide.

We use the Thesis theme – which is recognized as a model of good code, and yet it shows – 23 Errors and 3 warnings.

What’s more, the warnings all relate to the “Subscribe by Email” link which is a script from Google’s Feedburner.

So I think you are absolutely right about validation as it relates to Google’s Search.

Tim August 28, 2009 at 1:53 am

Thanks for your input David,

I use the thesis theme and yes I am getting around 50 errors, however some of them are due to my own lack of skills :)

However I use blogger for many small projects and the average template has around 300 errors, again blogger is owned by Google.

I think validation is a nice luxury if you can afford to pay someone or you yourself are good at coding, however it’s a luxury with no real urgency attached to it, as it drives no traffic to your site.

Anthony August 30, 2009 at 12:10 am

Aren’t we as SEO’s suppose to advice people on how to (in Matt Cutts words) put there best foot forward.

Even after all that data, we still can conclusively tell whether Google, bing or yahoo look at these as a Quality Indicator, they certainly aren’t going to devalue your listin if it does validate.

So I think its very important to atleast advise clients to there website validating. At the end of the day, its just sloppy if it doesn’t validate.. No excuses for it! Thats my thought on it anyway.

Tim August 30, 2009 at 6:25 am

@Anthony,

Thanks for your input, I was trying my best not to discredit validation. I was simply looking at it from an SEO perspective. Yes if a clients page does not validate there is no harm in telling them, the problem I have with it is when it is sold as a ranking booster, which it often is. That’s not what validation is.

I have nothing against it and will one day start working on my 50 odd errors, however when big brands like tesco, direct line and the guardian cannot be bothered to sort it out, it makes me wonder why.

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