Is untidy website code sabotaging search engine rankings and sales?

Is untidy website code sabotaging search engine rankings and sales?

Most business owners are busy with the day-to-day tasks of ensuring their customers are properly serviced and satisfied, employees are showing up and performing at an optimal level and payroll and bills are paid to name just a few.

And should the business garner most of its sales online, then all eyes are glued on ensuring the website is functional at all times and without show stopping glitches that could harm sales.

In today’s post, I will cover the common pitfalls of untidy code and how it greatly harms search engine rankings as well as potentially harms online sales.

Untidy code costs an online business whether it is search engine rankings or missing sales from potential customer’s altogether.

From forgetting the simple closure of html tags to use of deprecated coding practices, untidy code can also cost your business online sales and search engine rankings.

The following items are common offenses encountered when providing our customers with a free website search engine optimization audit:

1. Use of deprecated coding practices

One of the common practices encountered when inspecting a customers codebase is the use of the table tag.  Table tags are and have been deprecated for quite a well.

If your website is using table tags, then you are severely hurting your chance at garnering high search engine rankings.

But don’t fear as this can be corrected by replacing table tags with div or span tags and using CSS to style and position page content.

Other tags up for removal and nonuse are iFrame or frame tags.

2. Use of flash in websites

I’m not going to go into great detail about flash.  Yes, it was cool, beautiful, sexy and mysterious all at the same time.

However, if you’re web designer or developer or firm suggests the use of flash for anything on your website, please fire them immediately and let that be the end of communication.

Search engines do one thing well in regards to flash and all of its overly hyped attributes: ERROR.

So, if a sexy page provides greater value than being highly ranked in search engines, keep using flash and your business will find itself the poster child of flash’s next stop: OBSOLETE.

3. Mixing of old and new standards

Another common offense is the mixing of new HTML5 standards with HTML4 standards.  Pick one standard and use that one standard only.

Just because certain coding tags work and display on a web page does not make it the right thing to implement in terms of subscribing to hybrid web standards, doing so will negatively impact your search engine ranking.

4. Inline styling of page content

Another offense, easier to catch, is the use of inline cascading stylesheet (css) styling within code.

Simply stated, instead of using a style sheet, someone will hack the code or place their css styling within the code.

This is commonly seen on div and span tags.

Again, just because one can do it doesn’t make it correct. In short, do the right thing and place css in an external file, properly making use of classes and ids.

5. Not using external or compressed css and javascript files

Another common offense is not using external or minimized files for both css and javascript in web pages.

The more irrelevant code a search engine has to search through, the greater the chance for it to misinterpret or error while crawling one’s website content.

Make it easy on search engines by removing all inline css, moving all css to a css file and link to the file, and placing all javascript in external files.

In addition, be sure to minimize or compress both css and javascript to save on page load time.

6. Not coding for cross-browser compatibility

Depending upon the web browser the potential customer is using when viewing your website, not using sound coding practices to account for cross-browser compatibility will not only harm search engine rankings but will also increase the website’s bounce rate and decrease sales.

For instance, a website could display fine in Internet Explorer, yet display totally different in both FireFox and Google Chrome.

And yes, don’t forget Safari or Opera when considering browsers either.

Honestly, one really must understand the web analytics for their website, honing in on what browsers and browser resolutions the majority of their customers are using.

In addition, one must consider the type of device (i.e. mobile, tablet, laptop, desktop, etc.) being used to view the website.

In short, be sure your website is compatible with ALL browsers or you will miss sales opportunities and negatively impact search engine rankings.

Don’t try to boil the ocean in an effort to tidy the codebase in one day

Focus on your highest ranking pages within search engines and work your way throughout your entire website when attempting to remedy an untidy codebase.

The use of validation tools, CSS Validation and Markup Validation, to clean up sloppy coding practices is highly recommended.

In addition, we recommend implementing the use of validation tools as a milestone within a comprehensive content and development publishing guide – making validation a mandatory step in the process before all pages are authorized to be published and updated.

In closing, the above points are just a few of the common pitfalls business owners can correct and capitalize on to greatly enhance and increase their website’s chances of ranking higher in search engines and lower the chance of losing sales.

After all, regardless of the culprit, how much does it cost your business to lose a sure sale?


Written by Alvin Brown
He's an experienced and passionate serial entrepreneur, founder and publisher of Kickstart Commerce. Alvin possesses a great love for startups dominating their market using profitable digital strategies for greater commerce.