I'm in a bit of a pickle. My company's website recently started ranking in the top 5 Google organic results for 80% of our 2 and 3 word "target" phrases, often #1. This has resulted in awesome e-commerce sales numbers.

The problem is that the site needs structural optimization badly after a designer carved it up with table layouts and 20-deep elements - I cry every time I look at or modify the source.

I'm afraid to heavily restructure the actual HTML into valid, minimal XHTML/CSS.

I would like some advice, thanks!

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    I'm not sure I understand what's going on here. You largely answer your own question in that last paragraph but simultaneously say those things are inconsequential or that you don't want to do them. – Su' Oct 1 '11 at 2:13
  • yeah, sry. updated to be specific to content and markup changes. – leeoniya Oct 1 '11 at 4:32
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    "i'm afraid to heavily restructure the actual HTML into valid, minimal XHTML/CSS." - Why? assuming you don't delete content, links, URL structure or link text, restructuring it properly has more chances of improving SEO than ruining it. – Osvaldo Oct 1 '11 at 6:27
  • As Osvaldo says. By all means clean it up. Google indexes the content, not the html tags and attributes. Keep your content, current navigation structure, url strings and meta title tags. Not having deeply nested table tag soup means that Google has less to filter out to find the actual human-readable content it's looking for. From experience, going from a frames'n tables structure to a hybrid CSS-P/table layout made a major difference on our first website redesign for page load speed and improved ranking. – Fiasco Labs Oct 1 '11 at 6:39

If you are merely cleaning up the HTML/CSS code behind a page, it will make no difference. Make sure you keep the same page titles, level 1 headings and general text on the page.

Changing the site structure (i.e. the URLs) is a different story - you'd need to add redirections and so forth. There are plenty of questions to help you there if you need it.

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Your site's ranking is the result of two things:

  1. Content (and relevancy to the keyphrases)
  2. Backlinks (authority)

As long as you're not messing with either of those (and internal backlinks do count), then you'll be fine to clean-up the HTML/CSS, in fact, some cleaner code, speed optimizations and semantic mark-up may actually help (a little).

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