This sounds techie but it doesn't need to be. And its essential we go visit website code on our SEO journey because it could be causing major issues when it comes to better rankings!
There's an easy way to find out. Open a page on your website and make a note of some text content which appears in the main content. Not the title but a sentence from somewhere in the main body of the page.
When you visit a page your browser (Firefox, Chrome or whatever)
But when a search engine visits your page it just reads the page source code. They don't render the page. Later when they have some free time they will render the content. This secondary action is the second wave indexing.
So not only are search engines going to be slower at discovering your content, they're also going to be slower at discovering links to other pages on your website - its a double whammy of bad SEO news.
Further down the line when you make changes you might have to wait weeks again until search engines like Google actually acknowledge your edits.
For more on this specifically see my piece What does second wave indexing mean in SEO? which explains how to test a page and how to resolve issues.
Search engines aren't sticklers for good coding. They'll do their best to root through your page source code no matter how many errors there are ... but why make life difficult for them?
Websites are usually made up of two core elements:
You can check both of these online very quickly using the following free tools:
The chances are your website is not going to pass with flying colors because very often plugins like a Facebook like button throw errors. All you need to check is your side of things and reduce errors down to a minimum where you can.
To do so you might need some help from a programmer to understand if the errors are critical - they might cause your page not to render correctly in some circumstances - or small and nothing to sweat about.
I do get clients come to me who have hundreds of errors and it really is a lot of noise that the search engines could do without. A good chunk of search engine optimization is about making pages search engine friendly and pages with buckets of HTML or CSS errors are not search engine friendly.
I mentioned earlier errors in your code can cause your website to display poorly in some browsers and there are so many different browsers out there that you can't possibly test them all.
However if your website is already getting a fair number of visitors and you know your code has errors you can look for clues as to which browsers struggle with your content.
This was exactly the issue that was affecting a client who came to me recently. When we looked at his Analytics we found visitors with iPads were bouncing far more often than users with other devices. We resolved the issues and his sales doubled.
Also, for every user who finds you in a search engine but then backs out fast because your content does not display correctly in their browser, the search engine takes note. In their eyes your obviously not serving them well so perhaps you shouldn't be ranking there at all ....
Yes, coding errors that creep in can actually kill rankings you already have so keep on top of them.
Most websites are on platforms like WordPress which make it really easy for you to create content without flaffing around in the code to make everything look great. However when work is regularly edited invisible issues in code can start to gather.
Here's some code I recenly saw on a client's website:
Users will see the word Traffic just fine but search engines might not because rogure code is breaking up the text.
A Validator won't flag this because in code terms there is nothing wrong.
Usually your platform will have a way for you to check this. In WordPress, open a post or page to edit and at the top right of the main text entry area you will see two tabs: Visual and Text.
Click on the Text version to see much of the underlying code and check for issues like the example above, especially where words are being physically broken apart.
If you are not on WordPress but you are using a Content Management System of off the shelf product have a search on Google or ask on a relevant forum to see if a similar option is available for your platform.
You don't need to be a techy to know if your code is bringing down your SEO but you might need to help to resolve them. Don't skip this vital SEO work if you are serious about search engine optimizing. If you do you could be doing all your other SEO with one hand tied behind your back.
I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.
If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.