Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

Well, that didn’t take long. In his follow-up to his ‘Silly Expert Opinions’ post, Eric Meyer ponts to a test run by Peter Janes. The early results aren’t necessarily encouraging.

My next question: in the comments to the post, Shari Thurow insists that CSS does matter to Google. As proof, she points to a page on Google’s site which reads, in pertinent part:

Hypertext-Matching Analysis: Google’s search engine also analyzes page content. However, instead of simply scanning for page-based text (which can be manipulated by site publishers through meta-tags), Google’s technology analyzes the full content of a page and factors in fonts, subdivisions and the precise location of each word. Google also analyzes the content of neighboring web pages to ensure the results returned are the most relevant to a user’s query.

So how does that jibe with Peter Janes’ findings? I’ve no idea. Perhaps a follow-up is in order: try testing text with CSS styling to make it bolder, bigger or different colors — including matching the page background as keyword spammers might do. Then also try using old-skool <font> tags to accomplish the same thing and see if either matters. Maybe try <i>, <b>, <em> and <strong> for good measure. Heck, why not try positioning and images with alt attributes while we’re at it. I’d also be interested in results from Yahoo! and MSN Search, since neither of those uses Google’s engine and both command healthy audiences, if nowhere near the size of Google’s.

As Eric notes, it would be terribly disappointing (though not terribly surprising, I suppose) if SEO and standards were found to be substantially at odds. The only way we’re going to know that, though, is to keep experimenting. Certainly Peter seems willing, as does Eric. And WaSP’s own Molly Holzschlag seems interested in how SEO fits into the total client-education picture, if nothing else (note: Molly’s post was written before Eric’s follow-up, so she refers to ‘slimy SEOs’; I expect she means that to be distinct from the honest, professional SEO experts who have been contributing to the discussion).

Let’s keep digging.

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