Why Clean Code Helps with SEO

Sometimes you might hear that your website’s design can impact its search engine ranking performance. This is true, but there are naysayers denying the fact because, since the impact is “indirect,” it seems irrelevant. Yet, there is a significant difference between the SEO value of clean code versus bulky or poorly written code.

Understanding How Google Ranks You and Why Clean Code Matters

Google algorithm decides your website’s ranking value by crawling your website with a bot, which runs regularly to ensure all new pages are registered and valued. You want your website to be visible to Google’s crawl bot — and, in fact, it is a net-negative to your SEO performance if you block any content.

Now, Google’s crawl bot is not as sophisticated as you might think. After all, it was “designed to be distributed on several machines to improve performance and scale as the web grows.” This means the most fundamental content is received, such as your headers, sub-headers, any metadata, the types of media and sizes, etc.

Yet, any jam in your website’s code can obfuscate the bot’s ability to absorb all the information on your site. This can be troubling at times, such as when you are working with a highly customizable WordPress theme like millions of websites already do.

Avoid Bulky Code and Heavy WP Themes

The perception that premium WordPress themes are great is understandable. It can work, but you are better off custom coding a clean HTML5 template instead. This lets you start from the beginning, which creates the cleanest code possible. Or, you could remove everything you do not want from a current template and tweak it to stay functional, but this can cause headaches if done wrong. This makes for a great design, but all the customization options clog up the site’s code. The visitors get more server requests, they have to decipher different media types and more — the page load speed therefore suffers. Google’s crawl bot might not walk away with positive information.

Meanwhile, a cleanly coded website will not have a net-negative effect on your website’s ability to rank well. Your faster page load speed will lead to a higher percentage of visitors taking in what your site is about. Page abandonment rises as page load speed goes up; many all-in-one WP themes take a good four seconds to load and, by then, you have lost 25 percent of your traffic.
When looking at the coding for your website, focus on things you can do to make it cleaner and lighter. The best starting point is a Pingdom Website Speed test. This will display all content load times from the CSS to the JavaScript in your website. There are suggestions on what to fix. For a more advanced checklist, read this Kissmetrics guide on optimizing website source code for SEO.


Clean code can be difficult, but any website developer worth their own weight will swear by it. The setbacks of clunky code are too severe. You do not want to scare visitors away because Google won’t like that. Plus, you want to appease Google’s standard ranking method, and a site with clean code gives Google only the best things to digest. If you are not a professional developer — even if you understand web design — hire a professional to at least clean your code up when the design is done!

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