Perfect HTML

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Many times we have been told here that the imperfect or non-standard HTML used in our websites won't affect SEO. I have just come across a piece written by Jennifer Kyrnin that suggests that this may not be the case and in fact she has stated that invalid HTML may hinder SEO?:

From Jennifer Kyrnin, your Guide to Web Design / HTML
The HTML tags that you use can affect your SEO. The first thing you should think about is that search engine robots are a lot like very simple Web browsers. Most of them can't view images, can't see Flash, and ignore any non-standard HTML. So when you're working on SEO the first thing you want to have is a page with valid HTML, valid CSS, and accessible HTML. Then you should worry about things like position of your content and HTML inside of frames.
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Posted 8 years ago

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Official Response
Hey there

Let me prefix this by saying that nobody really knows what exactly effects search engine rankings. They just guess. Even when scientific tests are done, their conclusions are debatable, and even if they were right, the search engines could (and do) change their algorithms on the fly rendering the findings invalid.

That said, it's possible to make some educated guesses.

Invalid HTML might effect your SEO, but the degree it effects it is almost certainly tiny compared to other factors like incoming link quality, copy quality, site age, copy updating frequency etc. This is because Google cares more about their users finding good content than it does about site authors compliance with a set of coding rules that usually don't effect the rendered result of the webpage.

If you code was so bad that the website couldn't render, they might care and lower your rank. They might also have found a correlation between code quality and content quality and factored this into their algorithm as an optimization.

Semantic HTML is more important (using appropriate headings etc - something our text widget supports) and often what people mean when they talk about valid code. You should definitely use headings, bold keywords and emphasize quotations, etc.

I wouldn't spend time worrying about code validation it in the case of your Yola site. They code is good enough and you'll see higher gains by focusing on writing lots of good content (with a focus on the keywords that users would search for you).