Dirty Code by DIY Website Generators Can Hurt SEO
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Avoiding Dirty & Extraneous Code
Developing An Effective Web Presence & Ad Campaign Strategy

Revised April 12, 2017
Originally Published April 23, 2009

Most business owners and website managers have heard of "keyword density" and its ramifications on search engine ranking and placement in search results.

Very few seem to be aware of how extraneous (or dirty code), can be a detrimental factor to a website's ranking in search results.

Extra code effectively lowers a website's overall ratio of good, human readable text vs machine readable program code; negatively impacting SEO.

For example:

    If a website page takes 100 lines of code to generate, and the actual human readable content is several paragraphs of text with usable links and images taking 75 lines of the code, then that web page has a 75% "text to code" density ratio.

When a webpage is coded by hand, or an SEO-friendly CMS (Content Management System that allows a novice to easily manage the site), more often than not, the amount of code is minimal, thus lending to a higher text to code ratio. (The more human readable content versus program code, the better it is for SEO.)

On the other hand, most of today's DIY (Do-It-Yourself) website template creators, (such as WordPress, Wix, Drupal, and others), create sites with very low text to code ratio. What might take a professional programmer or an SEO-friendly CMS 100 lines of code to create, many DIY sites will take 5 to 10 times as many lines!

While WordPress or Wix may make it easy for an amateur to create a website that "appears" to be a nice, professional looking website; more often than not, the code behind the scenes is often:

  • extremely verbose (often taking 10 times as much code as a SEO-friendly CMS, or hand-coded site) resulting in low text to code density

  • not cross browser compatible resulting in browser rendering issues or failure to load properly on all platforms

  • not responsive, and may require the development of two websites; one optimized for laptops/desktops, and one for mobile/smartphones/tablet-like devices; resulting in duplicitous work

  • looks messy, like an amateur wrote the code; making it difficult for programmers to understand the previous work for future customizations

Best SEO Practice

Extraneous code can be detrimental to proper SEO (Search Engine Optimization) of a website. Just like a book editor would tell a book author to write short, sweet, and to the point; website code needs to be concise, and well written too.

This makes sense from an SEO perspective as the most important factors are:

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Three Step Rule in Designing a Site's Navigation

A web site's navigational structure is one of the most important factors to consider when designing a website so that visitors and search engines can easily find the information needed. One very important rule that comes into play in making a site's navigational structure effective is the "Three Step Rule".

The "Three Step Rule" basically states that a visitor should be able to get to any section of a website by following no more than three steps or clicks. For instance, from the Home Page, a visitor looking for Product X should have to make no more than three clicks before getting to the information about Product X. This means that when designing a website, the designer must take a good amount of time to plan how the website is laid out so that nearly any portion of the website can be found within three clicks from the Home Page.

This can sometimes be difficult when dealing with a large amount of information, products or services. A great deal of planning must be put into the website layout in order to achieve the "Three Step Rule". One must take appropriate time to plan out your major categories of information, and then break this down into subcategories with your final destination beneath the subcategories.

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