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divs are best because I say so..

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I was going through my hits and mint stats as per usual this evening and noticed that the lovely Carly was plugging me again.. I went to check out why I was being linked to find a thread at a forum where the discussion of tables and divs had come up. About three quarters of the way down the page there’s this gem:

i work for a professional company now (internship) and they could care less about if tables where only meant for data haha so yeah :) even the “big ones” don’t follow that rule (i think it’s a stupid rule … i hate w3c shit)

Aside from the misuse of the phrase “couldn’t care less” and the completely irrelevant hatred of an organisation she obviously doesn’t understand: she’s actually correct. The majority of professional companies could not give a monkeys whether a website is coded in fully valid HTML or whether it’s a mismatch of embedded tables, deprecated (not depreciated, which is something entirely different) tags and innappropriate use of various elements. This is because their main aim is to get the client on board and produce what they think they want as quickly as possible and for as little money as possible so that they can make the most profit.

This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t care though, and here’s why: because the clients of these big companies are paying hundreds, sometimes thousands, of pounds out for advertising and pay-per-click schemes that are generating shoddy hits which rarely result in a sale. Only because of blackhat SEO techniques are they ranked on Google at all. Yet, here I am having never paid for advertising in my life receiving thousands of hits a day and listed #2 at Google (UK) for the search term “Jem” which.. isn’t even my real name!

I believe the key here is (at least partially) decent coding. Where as they’re using the kind of coding I’d expect to see left behind in 1996, static page names and stuffed meta keyword tags, I am using neat and fast-loading semantic divs with proper use of headers. I emphasise keywords throughout a page and try and create dynamic titles for pages that I feel would benefit from being ranked higher. Where their pages are creating “half-listings” in Google from broken tags and superfluous coding, mine are big and bold and beautiful.

My new geek t-shirts page is ranked on the first page of Google — despite having only been up four days — and is higher than the shop I buy the t-shirts from! That’s 7th for “geek t-shirts” out over almost 13 million results. My new quick php mail form: page 3 out of 90 million results. (If you don’t find that even slightly impressive, then you’re obviously not a geek.)

Until someone can turn around and prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that this has nothing at all to do with my mark-up, I think I’ll stick to my “stupid rule” and my sleek, lightweight divs, eh? :)

Jem Turner jem@jemjabella.co.uk +44(0)7521056376

28 comments so far

  1. Amelie said:

    I have nice semantic mark-up and I’m 10th (on the FIRST PAGE!1!1! OMG!!1) on Google when you look up my name, which, let’s face it, has far more popular connotation. I’m doing a degree in web production and I can tell you right now that semanticity is one of the most important parts of a website. Not only is it much better in terms of accessibility, but it makes your pages load faster and gives you much better search engine results :)

  2. Amanda said:

    I’m eighth on Google when you search “Amanda”…it looks like I’m more popular than Amanda Marshall and Amanda Easton, and even Amanda Bynes and Amanda Vanstone, so I’m happy with my efforts. :P

  3. Xeronia said:

    Well, if you search “Echo of Memory” or “Xeronia”, I’m first, but then, no one uses those names. Clean coding does help. Search engines can actually read it. Your rankings are impressive. I won’t say that your coding did it all, but it certainly helped. Companies are always like that. As long as they profit, from my point of view, they could care less. But divs are better and cleaner.

  4. Shannon said:

    I only periodically find my site with “Shannon.” And I don’t even try “Shannon Lee” with all the things about Bruce Lee’s daughter. I don’t like how those professional companies and things work. It’s just not worth it. Then you’d have to hire a SEO expert too. They’re all about the ‘look.’ Some people these days just take a class about graphic design, study it, and ‘master it’ and never learn anything about good coding. That’s annoying.

  5. Aithnea said:

    I work for a web development company in my town. Sadly they use tables for all of their designs like you wouldn’t believe. When I got hired they told me that they don’t do tableless because it takes too much time and effort. I’ve been doing work at home to try to get better at tableless designs so that I can start converting my work over. They also don’t really care about cross-browser compatablity. So long as it works in IE and Firefox they are happy (something that annoys me since I use Opera).

  6. Adrianne said:

    I’m currently studying for a Web Design Master’s Certificate and I have to admit that in the past, all I cared about is the look of the site and not the semantics behind the site. But after taking courses regarding accessibility, it seriously gave me a whole different outlook on how websites should be built. Right now my portfolio is the only site I have that is completely validated through W3C and matched with Section 508 standards. Next week I am starting to work as a web designer at a startup community in the Silicon Valley area (I live in that area, so it’s closer to home… :) ) and the peeps there are actually very strict and serious about accessibility and validation. I’m glad too because their product that they’re launching is a content aggregation site that involves social networks and (hosted) blog systems throughout the net and they know that they have to cater to all users using different platforms. Too bad existing professional corporations are not aware or even give a darn about cross-browser compatibility…

  7. Loadx said:

    Semantics are great and so is light weight code but when it comes to SEO, it don’t mean jack…your rants on semantics etc are what brings the traffic because you are creating a click through scheme. You have created many sub domains within Jemjabella and the nature of your articles etc seems to be a hit with other bloggers in turn you get trackback’s for each of these which then adds more PR(page rank). The content is what builds traffic not the code, that *IS* the case and always will be. The formula is further proof of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PageRank#Simplified_PageRank_algorithm

  8. Jem said:

    @Mat: The phrase you’re effectively looking for is “content is king”. I’m not disputing the value of incoming links and popular articles. What I am pointing out is that broken code creates broken listings – I’ve seen it myself (e.g. look up disney redesign on Google – when they went from valid mark-up to an invalid and unsemantic mess their Google description changed to a broken “spacer.gif spacer.gif spacer.gif”). By not having broken code Google and other SEs list my websites properly and therefore maximises the keyword to hit potential generated by the content in the first place. If Google can’t index a page because of the code then it’s not going to GET ranked for PR to be an issue.

  9. Jem said:

    I have absolutely nothing against static pages :) An entire website of static pages all with the exact same title however, are going to suffer in Google.

  10. Lew said:

    I often create small sites for use by me and my friends only, forums etc on a particular event. This is just one example where I go out of my way to keep it off search engines. Same goes for my CV I was stung once before. I did it all perfectly in XHTML, then of course google went and ranked it and my home address and telephone numbers, not to mention a lot of particular information about me was visible in the actual search results. I hear where your coming from though. Just wanted to you to think about this: Are we as web *content* creators (and not web developers who put up other peoples’ content) becoming too obsessed with hits and search-to-hit ratios? Since I make no money from my personal sites, where is the need for me to count my hits aside from pure curiosity?

  11. Chloe said:

    You’re 5th on google in the US :O That’s incredible. Omggzz you rock. Hahaha. I totally agree with you and I despise “professional” companies who use terrible coding… we’re paying so much money and getting crap!

  12. Lily said:

    As for me who works on a corporate, it is true that they don’t care how you code and they don’t care how you design it too! They are more into content (yeah money is what matters most for them), but for the developers, this is really important. So it’s really on my hand … and my conscience. I really want to use DIV …but it’s really a pain in the ass… maybe I’m lack of practice.

  13. Alys said:

    *nods head in agreement* I think that it is awful that companies won’t provide clean coding for the sake of their clients. Congrats on the quich page rank sucess, I’m still somewhere on the 3rd page for Alys (getting there though)!

  14. Melissa said:

    Agree, agree, agree…and agree! In that order. :P Nicely coded mark-up matters most definitely, even if the client doesn’t care or is aware of the importance. I’m still working on my skills in that area…you’re an inspiration to me, Jem! :D

  15. Alys said:

    Bug report: On the green/blue layout the asked questions on your Q&A are white like the background, so you can’t read without highliting. It’s my favourite of your layouts so far however!

  16. Belinda said:

    Random though, but I think I might just go name my kids (when and if I have them XD) Jemma now. I like ‘Jem’ and all, but Jemma is reaalllyy pretty. I completely agree on large companies using horrible coding. Honestly, if they’re going to distribute it to others, it should be pretty damn good. Heh, I’m 4th in Google when you search Belinda. Not that great, though, considering that my name is already uncommon.

  17. Julie said:

    No matter what I do, Opera refuses to set the skin to the third type. And no, I didn’t forget about the screen shot you asked me. I’ve just been attacked by a sudden rush of laziness and university and, anyway, it seems to be fixed now.

  18. Chans said:

    I reckon if someone lets a company make a website for them (and it costs quiet a bit!), they expect it to be good as it’s done by professionals. So basically most of those companies claiming to be professionals are deceiving the trusty clients. Unfortunately that seems the way the world goes round. If someone who’s absolutely no professional (yours truly ;) ) can do it than a real professional should have no problem with it.

  19. Montoya said:

    Grax: what’s wrong with that? Jem: I’m in the top ten on all search engines for “montoya,” #5 on Google. At my uni (Cornell), we don’t allow tables for layout or anything less than semantic markup for all of our web design students. Sites must validate to Strict XHTML 1.0, period. At companies like Yahoo, standards based code really is a big deal. Sure, you can find web shops out there that only care about making thing fast, and you can also find car dealerships that only care about ripping the customer off. That’s nothing to brag about.

  20. Carly said:

    Just catching up on some posts from when I didn’t have the internet, and find my name! Awesome!! I looked on the internet recently to look at web assistant’s jobs in Yorkshire, and most of the requirements for ANY company hiring is that the candidate knows and uses Dreamweaver. I might turn up and tell them I ‘pwn’ dreamweaver, and I only just about know what I am doing…

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