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Thread: who uses css layout

  1. #11
    Post Impressionist Array vangogh's Avatar
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    Let me rephrase a few things I said. First I think clean code is very important, though the importance is more to do with development and maintenance and usability than it is to do with SEO. All of the above overlap though so clean code can improve SEO to a degree. Usually with SEO it's more that poor code can hurt you than clean code can help you.

    As an example say your home page navigation is created with Flash and you have no other links on the page. Search engines don't really read Flash well so odds are they may never index any page beyond your home page. Fixing that by either changing the navigation or creating an alternate html navigation for spiders would seem like it improved your optimization, but again it's more that the Flash navigation was hurting you than the html navigation is helping you. There is a difference.

    Steve with the site you gave as an example I think it's hard to determine what changes had the effect of improved ranking. You changed a lot of things and any or all could have had an effect. Most likely the increase in ranking was due to a combination of things, but it's not proof that any one change you made had an effect. You could have done everything with the exception of converting the layout from a table to css and might still have noticed the exact same results.

    Bill the older sites ranking well is most likely that they had an advantage in quantity and quality of links due to being online as long as they have. It's possible that the age of the site played a role, but it's more likely the age of the links is why they rank so well.

    When it comes to css vs table layout I don't see any evidence that one or the other is better for SEO. I wish the evidence pointed to css, but it doesn't. Search engines want to rank content. When comparing pages for ranking they looked at the content stripped of all the code anyway. I can offer you lots of reasons why you should use css over a table based layout, but SEO isn't one of them.
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    Refugee from the .com Array cbscreative's Avatar
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    Vangogh, I certainly wouldn't argue that the sum total of all the changes helped the site I used as an example. That's exactly why I made the changes is that I knew they would help when all were combined. I don't believe that any one of them would have had the same effect on their own.

    The one thing that I still favor CSS for is the top down logic because I have not seen any evidence that top down logic is a myth. Can it help on its own? Maybe in a situation of local results and limited competition, but it certainly appears to help as a contributing factor.

    I like to look at the "what if all things are equal?" question. If everything were equal between two competing sites, then what might push one above the other? This is where attention to smaller details could pay off. If the only difference were CSS vs. tables, who would win? I don't claim to know for sure, but I suspect CSS would have the advantage.
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  3. #13
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    My only point is that it may matter in the future. You never know. I think a clean design probably helps to some degree today including putting body text at the top but like steve cb I have never seen anything definitive on it.

    As a sidenote, I'm working on a custom cms that writes pages optimized as I see fit from my template and filling out a form page. I'm doing it to quickly put up pages optimized and structured the way I want. It writes static pages from the info in the db as opposed to pulling info from the db on every page load. I can still have dynamic info on the page or pull stuff from a db if I want. I wrote one a number of years ago, but I wanted to redo it. The old one accommodated obsolete things like recip linking etc.

    The reason I mention it is it seems like something like this would allow site developers to develop sites optimized as they see fit more quickly. The intent is not to replace a wp blog or ecommerce software, but rather to put those in subdirectories and use it for the top level and add the SEO you want easily at the top level. For informational sites, it could replace a wp site and get rid of the required updates and maintenance.

    Just a thought.

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    Post Impressionist Array vangogh's Avatar
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    If the only difference were CSS vs. tables, who would win? I don't claim to know for sure, but I suspect CSS would have the advantage.
    That's the issue and I've yet to see evidence either way. Now I'm going to develop sites with a css layout for a variety of other good reasons, but I just haven't seen anything to convince me it'll make much difference when it comes to SEO unless that difference is indirect. For example a css site should load faster than a table based site. That could mean more people sticking around the site and thus more people linking to your content. The links would likely lead to improved ranking and in a sense you could say the css improved SEO.
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    Refugee from the .com Array cbscreative's Avatar
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    Yes, even with SEO off the table, there are plenty of other good reasons to use CSS.
    Steve Chittenden

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  6. #16
    Post Impressionist Array vangogh's Avatar
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    Absolutely. The first site I ever built was developed using DreamWeaver. it was a tables driven site. I knew as soon as I was done there was a better way and saw quickly it was hand coding with css. I spent a couple weeks reading a few books and learning and have been developing with css ever since.

    Anything to help separate the structure and presentation is a good thing. The more modular you can make your code the easier it will be to maintain and reuse.
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    I'm curious. I have generally coded everything I do by hand and have used css, but there are a couple of places where I have tables of data. I have read that using tables to design the page layout is "bad" but that using it for real tables of information is OK. An example my the list of California LLC forms and filing fees.

    I am sure i could probably figure out a way to do it with <div> tags but is that really necessary? Frankly, too, the kind of information that I put in tables is not the key text on the page, so I'm not sure that I even care if the spiders get indigestion on it, as long as it doesn't hurt indexing the main text.

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    Member Needs New Keyboard Array seolman's Avatar
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    Nice thread - let me jump in. I like Steve's comment about how bad code hurts you more than anything. We do use CSS layouts by default on all our sites and in our experience, in almost every case where we've swapped a site over to CSS from old style layouts, we've seen a definite improvement in ranking. I tend to think this has more to do with the robots grabbing more text based on either time limits or character limitations.

    I must admit I'm ignorant about this guys. How much of the text is actually spidered on a long web page starting from the <body> tag? I read about it some time ago and I can't recall - is there is a limit...(2,048 characters???)

    <edit - sorry Dave - jumped in before you posted >
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    Member Needs New Keyboard Array seolman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Business Attorney View Post
    I'm curious. I have generally coded everything I do by hand and have used css, but there are a couple of places where I have tables of data. I have read that using tables to design the page layout is "bad" but that using it for real tables of information is OK. An example my the list of California LLC forms and filing fees.

    I am sure i could probably figure out a way to do it with <div> tags but is that really necessary? Frankly, too, the kind of information that I put in tables is not the key text on the page, so I'm not sure that I even care if the spiders get indigestion on it, as long as it doesn't hurt indexing the main text.
    It's not "bad" to use tables. That's a myth. Use the code that is appropriate to your needs. The search engines don't really have any problem reading tables but they are a lot more cumbersome to manage than CSS tables in terms of making changes in fonts, borders etc. Once you get used to using CSS tables you'll never go back to old style tables again. Use what you are comfortable with. It's not likely making any real difference to your rankings.
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  10. #20
    Post Impressionist Array vangogh's Avatar
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    David it's not only fine, but recommended to use html tables to present tabular data. That's exactly why those table tags were created. The issue with tables is when they're used to layout the entire page.

    Search engines can spider and index pages written with tables just fine. You can certainly code something with tables that won't be spiderable the same way you can code something with css that won't be spiderable. Some of the ideas for why css was better for seo came from the thought that the content that appears first in your file is given more importance than the content that comes later. With tables it was possible your most important content ended up somewhere down in the file even if it was at the top of the page when viewed through a browser.

    With css you had more control. You could for example have important keywords in your footer, but write your code in a such a way that the footer appears first in the html file. I think search engines have evolved beyond seeing content at the top as the only important content, though it may still play a role.

    Another thought with css is that it's generally going to be much cleaner code than the same page code with tables. Less code means less potential for error that could trip up a spider. Still a talented web developer could write cleaner table code than an untalented developer could write css code.

    Ultimately I don't think it matters to search engines whether you use css or tables. Either can be spidered, indexed, and ranked. Whether or not the page has problems will have more to do with who's writing the code than whether or not css or tables are used. Any advantages to css would tend to be slightly more advanced and in my opinion haven't been proven.

    That's not to say you shouldn't use css to layout a site. You should (though again using tables for tabular data is the correct way to present that data)

    Then again everything you know about css and tables is wrong. The link will take you to an article about 'css tables' which are different than html tables and will likely be the way forward in laying out a site. So a couple of years from now we can argue whether or not we should use css or tables or css tables and really confuse everyone even more.
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