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Why is W3C Compliance Important?

By Bryan McCaffrey

What is W3C Compliance? What is the W3C for that matter?

‘W3C’ is short for World Wide Web Consortium, the international standards organization for the World Wide Web. It was founded by Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web.

Before the advent of the W3C, vendors offered different versions of HTML, and incompatibility was a big problem. The W3C acted as a mediator for all of these vendors, getting them to agree on a set of standards and principles that would be supported by everyone.

That said, why is W3C compliance important?

Creating your website to be W3C compliant means it will display properly across all browsers (well, for the most part. *cough* *cough* Internet Explorer) – and while each browser might have its own quirks – creating valid code is the best way to ensure your pages display how they are supposed to, not only to human visitors but to search engine bots as well.

Does W3C Compliance affect search engine page ranking?

The most honest answer I can give you is this: If you are expecting your non-valid website to jump five ranks after validating your code, you are mistaken (steer clear of anyone who promises increased rankings by fixing these errors). In fact, if you enter a random search query in google, chances are most or all of the top ten results will not validate in the W3C’s validator tool. Websites high in ranking probably got there due to great content, a large amount of back links, other factors or a mix of all three. My question to you is: can your website afford to have these errors? Unless you are MSN, The New York Times or similar, probably not. Besides that, it is simply good practice to have semantically correct code.

However, there can be indirect ranking benefits from validating your code. As I mentioned before you want to be sure your website displays properly to human visitors and search engine crawlers alike. An improperly coded site could mean a search bot doesn’t know where your content ends or begins (wrong tags, tags not closed or other big errors), or doesn’t catch all of your content. Call me a psychic, but that’s probably something you don’t want to risk. If your main content area is clearly defined, a search engine bot will be able to more clearly determine what your site is about, this (potentially) ranking you higher for the words you are targeting. If your code is a mess, or (God forbid!) table-based (uggghhh), then it isn’t very clear to search engines what you are trying to emphasize. It’d be like you trying to read a book that had the pages all mixed up – it’d be really hard to understand what the author was trying to get across to you.