I'm helping somebody with a site and I've noticed that all the main pages are wrapped inside a form. I mean:

   [ everything in the page ]

Now I'm an experienced frontend dev, and find this markup horrendous. It's technically permitted, as a form can contain any flow content, but it's semantically horrible. Most of these pages don't even contain form child elements (input, select, etc.). However, in this case I'm only helping them with usability and findability, I'm not re-doing their frontend code.

Will this weird use of a form mess up search ranking, or otherwise impact on automated parsing of a page, such as in assistive technology like screen readers?

  • You should be able to emulate how Google is viewing the page, can you please share the URL of the site. Mar 26 '13 at 11:55
  • I think they'd be annoyed if I mentioned their site in the context of me finding their markup horrendous. Are there any steps you could recommend?
    – puppybeard
    Mar 26 '13 at 12:03
  • 1
    me thinks your friends site was created in .net - one of the many reasons i avoid that language at all costs. idk if every html document created in .net does that, but every single one that i've ever worked on does.
    – albert
    Mar 27 '13 at 14:18
  • Albert, you are exactly right. That's bloody weird.
    – puppybeard
    Mar 27 '13 at 17:50

Well as you said its semantically horrible and should be avoided, its impossible to tell if its impacting on the rankings as such as Google but it's definitely will not help rankings.

You should test the following site using the following to determine how bad the situation is:

  • Markup Validation (I suspect there are dozens to hundreds of errors). Some major issues could be preventing Google to reward full weight to certain elements on the page.

  • View the site without JS and in text, there is a few text based browsers you can emulate how Google would view the page, another way is to use Google's cache service and click text only (Top Right) - however browsers can fix problems on the page and render correctly while Google may not, so a text browser such as Lynx may be more ideal.

But again without seeing the URL viewers will not be able to answer more without taking a look which I appericate that you can't disclose this website in question. Personally and its debatable I take w3 validation very seriously and believe that Google does in fact take this into account, we already know that page accessibility and page speed count to Google's rankings so I would only assume that this is naturally the case for a validating website. As I said I suspect that because everything is stuck in a form, almost everything will be failing validation and many people could be experiencing problems depending on browser type.

  • i'm sure it affects seo....how much, idk
    – albert
    Mar 27 '13 at 14:18
  • It's impossible to tell..... Mar 27 '13 at 14:39
  • experiment time! create equal documents in .net and in not .net, apply same seo techniques to each....see what serps does. i'm down to help. but i don't have visual studio or .net on my server. so i can only help with one
    – albert
    Mar 27 '13 at 15:05
  • It's nothing to do with them being designed in .net, its the fact that the entire content is wrapped in a form. This can be done in html, php and .net. The problem is when attempting to compare sites the content varies on them and the factors never are the same due to Google factors each site differently, its impossible to get a exact answer but of course you can get a rough estimate. Personally who cares the exact figures how bad it is... just don't wrap content in forms, its a nightmare for accessibility and prone to errors. Mar 27 '13 at 15:16
  • i'm going to disagree with you there; like i said, every .net project i've been on, thats the automatic markup being spit out. but it's a good point, could just wrap them up myself and not use .net. and as i said in the experiment idea, if they're set up identically, it would be a good indicator. i care. plus it'd be a good use case to get .net to cut that crap out. so i guess you're out. right on.
    – albert
    Mar 27 '13 at 16:23

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