I can’t seem to get a straight answer when it comes to how a site is coded/built and the affects that this has on SEO. After having taken a few web courses (design to SEO related courses) it seems to me that the “best practice” with regard to building a site that is search engine “friendly” is with CSS, utilizing as few tables as possible. I’ve been told by numerous instructors that tables can adversely affect SEO rankings and they don’t recommend constructing with tables (they consider this an outdated approach).
However, I work with a couple of web developers that swear this isn’t true and refuse to move away from building sites with tables. Can you solve this mystery for me once and for all? And, if CSS is the way to go, should I go to the expense of having sites developed with tables converted to CSS in order to improve SEO??
Thanks, Barb. You ask a great question!
I have never heard that tables can adversely affect your SEO placement (also known as your “SERPs”), and on the face of it, that doesn’t make sense anyway. As long as it’s legal HTML and properly formed, I can’t imagine it’s a problem. The definitive word for this sort of thing is always Google, and a quick check at their Webmaster Guidelines reveals nothing about tables being good or bad.
SEO Notepad says: “Today, the discussion has become more of an argument over whether using CSS is superior to using tables, and that is a debate that is largely a matter of taste and style.”
One author at Webmaster World had a good point too: “One advantage to table free design can be semantic. When you use tables for layout, groups of text on the page that are actually related visually and in meaning can end up widely separated in the html.”
What I will say, however, is that a pure-CSS site is problematic, because if you think about it, a page that’s encoded like:
<div class=”regular-text”>This is stuff that’s not anywhere near as important</div>
How can the search engine figure out what are the most important words on the page if it doesn’t parse the CSS structure? Compare that to:
<p class=”regular-text”>This is stuff that’s not anywhere near as important</p>
Now you’ve given Google a lot more information to work with: The “h1” is a headline that is critically important to identifying the content of the page, while the text in the “p” block is just regular text.
Ultimately, though, the real keys to success are to produce great content with frequency that’s never shown up elsewhere online, to have good page titles that are specific to the content of that page, and to gain inbound links from related sites.