[thelist] Tables vrs. CSS for search engines

Simon Willison cs1spw at bath.ac.uk
Tue Oct 28 17:41:46 CST 2003

kent wrote:

> My employer at work has been doing a little bit of research on 
> strategies for making rank on search engines. She told me today that 
> search engines do not search tables, and that all sites should therefor 
> be designed purely using style sheets. Does anyone know if this is true?

It's almost completely untrue. If search engines couldn't search tables, 
they wouldn't be able to search 98% of the web! They can search tables 
just fine. However, using style sheets can provide big benefits to the 
search engine compatibility of your site simply because they allow you 
to move the actual content of your page to the top of the HTML source 
code of your document, which (apparently) can improve your search engine 

What's definitely not disputed is that sensible use of structural 
markup, in particular header tags (h1, h2 etc) can really helo your 
search engine rankings.

There are plenty of other benefits to using stylesheets over tables 
aside from search engine optimisation, such as easier maintenance, 
improved accessibility and faster page loading. An entertaining 
presentation explaining some of these can be found here: 


Simon Willison
Web development weblog: http://simon.incutio.com/

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