SEO tip #2: Clean coding equals a solid structure

Posted by: Caroline Stickland
Categories: Interactive

It’s simple – use good clean code to build a website and you will have a strong foundation for your site to grow and blossom.

When search engines crawl through a site they look for words and links. Basically, everything else (such as HTML and JavaScript) is a distraction and can get in the way of them being able to scan your content correctly.  So coding must be clean, meaning all irrelevant code is deleted and only the minimum amount of coding around content is used.

How clean is your code

To examine how well your site has been coded (and any other site really) you must first have the page you want to check on a browser and find ‘view source’; this is located in different places depending on your browser. For Internet Explorer right click and you’ll find it in the drop down menu. This will now show you the coding behind the page. Looks confusing, doesn’t it? What you need to look for is your content and then the code around it. If it’s easy to find then that’s a good sign. But if you need to dig deep to find it and there are lots of other bits around it then it means search engines will struggle to find it too.

XHTML and CSS to the rescue

In days gone by, websites used table cells to position everything on a page, be it a paragraph of text or an image.  The problem with this was lots of code was needed to display content. For example a paragraph of text coded using table cells would look like this.

<table cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0">
<tr>
<td>
This is a paragraph containing very important keywords
and information. This is a paragraph containing very
important keywords and information. This is a paragraph
containing very important keywords and information.
</td>
</tr>
</table>

As you can see the paragraph text is surrounded by <table>, <tr> and <td> tags. That’s a lot of code around a small amount of content that isn’t ideal for search engines to scan.

But now we have XHTML, a variant of HTML that allows the use of CSS, a language that is used to style elements of a website. I could write about CSS coding all day as it is very complex, but in terms of search engine optimization (SEO) it’s a godsend because we no longer need to rely on tables for presenting content. Instead we can use HTML tags relevant to the content and style them using CSS.

So, the paragraph of text illustrated above no longer needs table cells surrounding it. Instead we can use a paragraph tag <p> to hold the paragraph of text.

<p>This is a paragraph containing very important keywords
and information. This is a paragraph containing very
important keywords and information. This is a paragraph
containing very important keywords and information.</p>

As you can see, this cuts down the amount of coding used around the content dramatically, making it easier for the search engines to find and scan.
 It’s also a semantic way of coding as elements of a web page are labeled correctly. So a paragraph will use paragraph tags, a list will use list tags and, if we have to use table tags again, they will only be used for tables.

Time for a change

If your site is coded using tables then it’s definitely time to invest in a new website that’s coded to the highest standards. At Harris Associates, we understand the need for this and we have the technical knowhow to create websites that look good inside and out. We’ve recently won a WebAward for our own website and been nominated in the Internal Communications category in the Construction Marketing Awards 2010 for producing a totally new intranet site for our client Lakesmere.

1 Comment to “SEO tip #2: Clean coding equals a solid structure”

  1. Leah:

    Interesting information.

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