Web Standards based design and SEO

So, I figured to ring in the New Year of 2008, I would post about how the whole SEO industry should really start to take an understanding of Web Standards in the design of Websites. Semantic Web Design and using CSS for layouts is not really cutting edge people!! We have been doing this since 2001!

I have been so thoroughly frustrated with the quality (rather, lack of quality!) that I am seeing in some of the top agencies and experts in SEO. Even being at Webmaster World PubCon this year and sitting in on some of the interactive site reviews I was horrified by the lack of real web knowledge.

Now, as much as I love the SEO industry, I feel the need to call everyone out that is doing this. We are at a point where the web is becomming more and more semantic and browsers are standards compliant (See: Private Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 build passes Acid2 test).

What I am not going to do is start giving you a tutorial for how to build CSS layouts or semantic websites. Although this is an area of expertise of mine, there are TONS and TONS of resources for this out there already. (Resources Below).

Building Web Standards compliant websites that are semantic will add tons of value, not only to your services, but to your overall value as an organization. We are no longer in the 90’s and do not have to use tables for design purposes and layout, CSS is extremely powerful now. Using a CSS layout will dramatically reduce the amount of markup on your page. Also, use semantic markup up in your html document, such as using semantic CSS styles, insert the appropriate HTML (e.g. paragraphs, strong instead of b), etc. There should never be a class named “style6” or a div id with the name “leftside.” Classes should be named “footer” and similarly your div id’s should signify the content on the page, (e.g. div id=”logo”).
Here are the two **VERY IMPORTANT** reasons that you should build Standards Compliant websites with semantic markup.

Crawlability and Indexability is of course one of the most crucial things when working with SEO, because, the truth is, if a search engine doesn’t crawl your site, you won’t have any business. Standards compliant and semantic markup allows the search engine to read through your html documents with many pre-determined factors. To break this down in its simplist form search engines read through an html document the same way that we read through a written or “Word” document. From a User Experience stand point, page load times will drop and allowing the page to even render correctly will increase conversion.

Websites Maintenance can be a big part of the work that is taken on for consultants, agencies, and SEO Experts. Especially in larger organizations that have hundreds or even thousands of pages. Using the methods that I have been talking about will allow you to dramatically reduce the time it takes to even put up pages or re-design pages on a site, thus reducing your cost to build new or update old pages. This leads to you offering discounted rates, increasing customer loyalty, and/or increased margins for your organizations. From an SEO perspective, the benefit of building a site this way is that you do not have to attempt to stuff keywords into your content, less markup will in-turn help with keyword ratios on the page.

In summary, please build standards compliant websites that contain semantic markup. You will see a great benefit from it and help in cleaning up the web!

Resources:
A List Apart Articles – Great Web Design Resource
Web Standards Project – Do I really need to explain this?
Designing with Web Standards – A GREAT book by Jeffrey Zeldman that explains why Web Standards is important (yes, even for SEO) and goes into code level detail.

If you are using Standards based design with your websites and/or are practicing SEO…please comment!…I’d love to hear and share your thoughts!