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Old 2nd September 2006, 12:35 PM   #1

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Default Do tables hurt SEO?

Just a general question really. My site uses tons of tables. It has tables inside tables insides tables. Does this hurt my sites SEO?


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Old 3rd September 2006, 09:12 AM   #2
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Matt Cutts recently de-bunked the theory that code structure has any effect what-so-ever on indexation. IT quite simply does not.

Sure, if you’re code was REALLY horrid, the spider may have a tough time indexing a page, but that is even ‘theory’ and conjecture.

As Matt put it, there are TONs of very knowledgeable university students, professors and other that post things with little HTML knowledge, should we not be able to access this knowledge simply because of poor HTML skills? Not a good idea huh?

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Old 3rd September 2006, 02:06 PM   #3

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Then what is all the rave about using css rather than tables? Is there any benifit besides maybe a slightly faster loading time?


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Old 4th September 2006, 12:41 AM   #4
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The thing is that when using CSS you also use more semantically correct markup, such as subheadings (h2, h3, etc), lists, emphasized text (strong, em), etc. Having keywords in those elements does give more value to a page, but you'd rather use them for the visitors anyway.

CSS has a bit more benefits, than simply faster load (faster by 50% if you don't count images and scripts).

With CSS, you can edit the site easily. You can format the same element (h1, for instance) for the whole site with a single line of code in the CSS stylesheet.

Cascading styles are helpful as well. For instance, you can format any links within paragraphs (or lists) to look the same. It is very flexible.

A downside of CSS is that you have to spend some time learning tricks and stuff for things to display correctly. And you need a separate stylesheet for IE.

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Old 4th September 2006, 03:44 AM   #5
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If you nest tables too deep, and place scripts inside the deepest table, then it WILL choke the spider and I do not give a <potty mouth > what Matt says, he is wrong on this if that is what he has said (although I think he might have been misquoted)

I have seen on multiple occasions evidence of the spiders choking and backing out of the page having taken only a portion of the code. This might have been from server respect, or it might have been because the code was ugly, but either way, the result was the same.

On a sensible level, I use tables for my own sites (I still use CSS for everything else other than layout though), they are easier for me to use, CSS positioning is mostly alien to me.

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Old 4th September 2006, 10:20 AM   #6

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What is considered too deep? I think the most I have is 3. (a table in a table in a table). I haven't really been recognized by search engines, but I think word of mouth is what will get my site going, there arejust too many logo design studios.

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Old 4th September 2006, 12:30 PM   #7
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Along with OWG, I believe that MC has been misquoted more than quoted correctly in that comment.

Here's the thing - think beyond SEO.

Table layouts work fine for browsers, well, most of them. Nested tables are just bad.

Consider, though, the next generation of web surfers, who are much more comfortable surfing on a handheld device. Handheld web surfing is growing at a much faster rate than browser-based surfing ever did. If you have a site that could be accessed by a handheld - you should understand how it will be rendered.

The problem is - how many Web Enabled Phones and devices are there? Are you willing to test your site on all of the models? Very few of them will be able to correctly display the table layout. Most will linearize the page, meaning that they will show the information in columns starting from the left column to right column (Just like a search engine reads tables). This means that any information in the right column will be at the very bottom of the page.

CSS relies on the W3C principle of interopability. The same code that allows the information on the page to be displayed properly in a browser will enable a very smooth transition to a handheld device or a phone. Because there are no tables, the information is shown in order on every display, no matter what the device.

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Old 5th September 2006, 09:31 AM   #8
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Anybody got that Matt Cutts quote in question here? I'd love to see if we could put it into proper context.

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Old 5th September 2006, 12:58 PM   #9
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Well just because something doesn't have great benefits for seo doesn't mean there aren't benefits to it.

You have far more control over a design using css for one. The biggest benefits to me though are that download times are typically improved and css allows for a far more maintainable site.

Take a look at the css Zen Garden site and realize that all those different designs come from changing one css file. You simply couldn't do that with a table based layout where you'd need to change the html structure on each page to create a new design.

There are many who think css layouts are better for seo. I'm not really one of them though. At least I haven't been convinced yet. I do understand the thinking as to why css layouts might be better for seo and I can see where they may prove to be beneficial to seo in the future.

There's nothing inherently wrong with a table layout from an seo point of view. Search engines are interested in the content more so than the markup. But a table layout is harder to work with than a css layout. CSS layouts are the future of site development if not already the present.

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