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WordPress 5.3 Moves Closer to Valid HTML

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WordPress announced that version 5.3 will use improved coding that will be closer to standards compliant HTML. There are good reasons why it valid HTML should be considered important for SEO.  While the WordPress HTML will not be 100% valid, this update is a step in the right direction.

The release date is tentatively scheduled for November 12, 2019. For many this might seem like too little and too late. Nevertheless, WordPress is arguably the most important content management system at the moment. This means that attaining valid HTML for a website is closer now for a great many sites across the web.

WordPress 5.3 Fixes Type Attribute Issue

The improvement is focused on how script and style tags are coded. Prior to HTML5, it was mandatory to use the “type” attribute to tell browsers that the script or style was text.

HTML5 eliminated the need for the “type” attribute. The change caused HTML5 sites that continued using the “type” attribute to render as invalid HTML.

Different Levels of Validation Messages

There are different levels of validation messages. There are warnings, which are considered relatively minor and there are errors, which are more important.

This coding error resulted in a validation warning but did not trigger an error message. Perhaps because it was seen as a harmless oversight the invalid code continued to be present in WordPress.

Official WordPress Announcement

This is how the official WordPress announcement described what is changing in version 5.3:

“In HTML5, the type attribute is not required for the <script> and <style> tags. Including the attribute on these tags (type="text/javascript", for example) will trigger a validation warning in HTML validation tools.

In WordPress 5.3, two new arguments are now supported for the html5 theme feature, script and style. When these arguments are passed, the type attribute will not be output for those tags.”

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Why HTML Validation Matters

HTML is a programming language with rules. Initially, bots and browsers functioned best when the rules were followed. But developer demands outpaced the rules. So developers bent the rules.

Search engines and browsers needed the content so developers adapted to non-conforming HTML.

Yet, the best way to communicate data has always been to give the browsers and search engines valid HTML because when you follow the rules there is less chance of a mistake happening.

The essence of SEO, the heart of it, is to communicate information to users and search engines.

Anything that muffles your message, that makes it harder to understand your message, works against you. Invalid HTML works against your message.

Poor HTML markup does not necessarily block your message (although in certain cases it can). But it does makes it harder to communicate it.

Type Attribute Issue is Commonly Downplayed

Many in the publishing and SEO community regard the type attribute warning as a minor issue. In a discussion thread from 2017, a senior member of WebmasterWorld observed:

“Also note that it’s flagged as a “warning”, not as an “error”. That means nothing bad will happen even if you leave it unchanged; it’s more of an FYI.”

Screenshot of a webmasterworld forum member downplaying the type attribute validation warning

That member’s attitude of downplaying the invalid code is common throughout the industry and with good reason.

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As long as Google can overlook it then this kind of problem can go unfixed. There is always something more important to focus on than a seemingly minor HTML coding error.

But there’s more to this issue in the form of what’s known as browser quirks mode.

Valid WordPress HTML Code is Important to SEO

Another member pointed out that invalid code has the potential to trigger what’s known as “quirks mode” in a browser.

Quirks mode is when a browser begins trying to interpret the invalid code in a manner that may result in a useful web page. It’s a way to compensate for bad code.

Quirks mode can cause unpredictable web page rendering and in unlucky circumstances result in a web page that does not function correctly.

This is the reason why maintaining valid HTML code is important for SEO. Part of good SEO is controlling for every aspect of how a web page renders for users and for bots.

In general, invalid code has the potential to cause a cascading series of errors that can impact speed, conversions, bounce rates and even indexing.

The potential is widely considered remote, but it can’t be ruled out.

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All it takes is a script or a plugin to play badly with another script (while the browser is in quirks mode), to cause unintended consequences.

Even though the above scenario may be remote, it’s a good practice to lock down every factor that contains a potential for error. That’s good SEO.

Screenshot of a webmasterworld forum discussion.

WordPress 5.3 HTML Improvement is Important

I asked HTML and SEO expert Edward Lewis for his thoughts on WordPress fixing the type attribute error:

“It is a BIG deal. It will eliminate a gajillion warnings from validation routines. Some sites will now go green and be 100% valid since they’ve failed to heed the warnings.”

I agree with Edward Lewis. WordPress finally removing the “type” attribute in <script> and <style> tags is indeed a big deal.

WordPress Ticket Timeline

The WordPress development team has been aware of this issue since almost two years ago. A WordPress ticket was opened 23 months ago about this issue.

About three months ago Sergey Biryukov (@SergeyBiryukov)  appeared to take notice and about four weeks ago updated the status of the ticket.

Screenshot of a WordPress development ticket

WordPress 5.3 Contains Many Improvements

The improvements coming in WordPress version 5.3 aren’t limited to this one fix. There are numerous changes in WP 5.3 that may be important to developers.

But this change will directly affect publishers, developers and those in the SEO community.

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It’s encouraging to see the WordPress development team pushing WordPress that much closer to outputting valid HTML code. WordPress 5.3 will be good for publishers and for SEO.

Read the announcement here:
https://make.wordpress.org/core/5-3/

NEWS

Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster

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Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.

Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update

On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.

The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.

A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:

“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.

Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.

Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”

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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.

The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.

The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.

The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.

Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller trying to recall if December Product Review Update affects more than the English language

Product Review Update Targets More Languages?

The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.

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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.

This is his question:

“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.

So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.

…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”

John Mueller answered:

“I don’t know… like other languages?

My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.

But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.

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But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.

I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.

But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.

And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.

So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.

But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”

Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?

While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.

Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.

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One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.

It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.

Citations

Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update

Product reviews update and your site

Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines

Write high quality product reviews

John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global

Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark

[embedded content]

Searchenginejournal.com

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