Google’s answer to W3C Validation of your website

In a recent query session on Google’s Webmaster Central channel on youtube, a Google spokesperson was answering the question – “Why doesn’t Google validate according to the W3C (Markup Validation Service standards)”? Google had a simple, logical and a well rehearsed response -

“While Validation may be good internally (for your website/organization), we have to make sure that the number of bytes returned to the users is as small as possible”, and added, that “Google does NOT provide any boost in ranking to pages that are validated”.

Now, those two sentences probably sum up the interview, and require some explaining, notwithstanding how casually they have been quoted. But first, a background check. The W3C validation is a service provided by the World Wide Web Consortium that prescribes a set of HTML coding standards for web pages. The service also allows coders to check for any markup errors in the pages authored by them. The objective of the HTML validation standards is similar to the objective behind traditional accounting practices or programming conventions – to produce Web pages that are:

  1. Neat (user-friendly)
  2. Accessible (from different devices)
  3. Compatible (with different multimedia formats)
  4. Manageable
  5. Universally understood (similar displays on different browsers), and
  6. Easy to update.

Despite all the apparent advantages, a majority of web pages on the internet are not validated. In fact, w3c and wikipedia confirm that less than 20% of the major search engine and browser websites are validated and error free.

A good number of search engine homepages are not w3c validated themselves

A good number of search engine homepages are not w3c validated themselves

Reason: What Google says in the interview.

If you were to design a web page, the most primary of your targets will be:

a) to keep the page loading times as low as possible; and

b) to ensure that your page is compatible with all common browsers in the market.

And the prospect of tweaking with your optimized HTML coding to even slightly increase your page size or decrease compatibility with browsers, is something that is generally seen as avoidable, in spite of however form of validation that may bring to your page. Also, the SEO benefits that are often stated in support of W3C validation are indirect and unquantifiable, at best, and validated pages receive no special attention from Search Engines; as affirmed by Google. The spokesperson also went on record saying that, “We would love if a Googler would spend 20% time trying to make sure we validate, and I think we can validate and still have a small page size.” Clearly, Google thinks of validation as frivolous or something that occupies a secondary priority at best.

Image Courtesy: Rob Cottingham & cvwdesign.com

Image Courtesy: Rob Cottingham & cvwdesign.com

For rhetoric, when a major web entity doesn’t care to validate, would you? Let us know what you think about it. If you liked reading this post on the KPMRS blog, do subscribe to our feed now!

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8 Comments

  1. okey says:

    Well, even if google says they do not boost the rankings for valid documents, i believe it helps somehow in long term

  2. Julian says:

    Interesting… now I know why our site has good ranking despite it don’t validate in all internal pages.

    Thank you for sharing.

  3. Julian says:

    In addition, … what I understand from your article is that creating pages with less size (in bytes) makes more sense than validatin

  4. Naveed Ashraf says:

    Why W3 Validator and Firefox HTML Validator shows much different results from each other? I see that Firefox HTML validator shows 0 errors and W3 Validator shows more then 40 or 50 errors for the same sites. I think most of the developers use Firefox HTML validator rather than W3 Validator.

  5. jeremy says:

    So exactly how much does page size matter? I have a home page @ 110kb, but it does fit any browser perfectly from an iphone to safari and opera. Please help! BTW I am totally not validated. 89 errrorrs.
    (joke)

  6. Piotr P. Karwasz says:

    A great way to ensure that the server sends the smallest possible number of bytes is to serve compressed pages, whenever the browser accepts them. In such a case a few bytes don’t really matter.

    For static pages it is a win-win situation, it is enough to leave a compressed copy on disk.

  7. Al Toman says:

    It comes down to character and regardless how large (in importance) Google considers itself, it doesn’t necessarily espouse good character.

    First, Google is a business, that is, it’s priority is to make money, not web site, not search engines.
    Second, Google states on its Google Maps API page that it is REQUIRED that the web page has a DOCTYPE (a W3C Standard) … so … this Google spokesman poops hot air !?!
    Third, Google’s tracker javascript NOW validates. Mmm!?!
    Fourth, this Google Spokesperson primary role is PR, an interface between Google and YOU. Google is smart. Google keeps YOU at bay, under control.
    Fifth, if you at all know how to use Google, you will discover that Google, Microsoft, Stanford University, other colleges, and independents around the World are designing and developing “search engines”. So, if you think Google is a search engine, well, think again. Google is a tool to make Google money. Big money. Period. And it’s working.
    Sixth, if Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the W.W.W., charged Google 49cents for each W.W.W. transaction that wasn’t valid, then you’d see Google’s character change dramatically. Otherwise, Sir Tim would own Google after a couple days transactions.
    Seventh, 99% of W.W. Web content has no character, therefore, W3C validation isn’t to be expected.

  8. HCG Diet says:

    Extremely useful. I love the way you write. Do you provide an RSS feed?

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