Just checked out my buddy's family business website. From a design perspective not too bad actually, fairly modern design, although there was way too much text that any person would care not to read.
Anyway upon deeper analysis I found it was all laid out in tables, and more tables, and tables within tables, etc. I know everyone frowns on that and so do I.
Anyway, does this affect SEO in any way? And is it a big enough of a problem where you would suggest paying someone to redo the backend and separate the content from the styling?
Sounds messy. If you use a screen reader (i.e. how search bots "see" the page), do things make sense?
There are a number of advantages to getting tid of layout tables, and SEO is included within that. It's unlikely to be a "make or break" situation – if the site is languishing on page 7 of Google for your top query then it's got bigger problems to worry about – but it might make a small difference if the competition is tight.
The main thing to check is that you have used semantics properly ... your headings are marked up with appropriate <h1>, <h2> etc tags; you've used lists where you should use lists; any other suitable tags have been used where applicable instead of generic <span> and <div>, or worse, the wrong tags. If you've got all that right then search bots will tend to overlook the layout tables. If the semantics aren't there then, without any logical structure either, they're going to be at something of a loss when it comes to trying to understand your page.
The other way that getting rid of layout tables can help SEO is by streamlining the markup and improving the ratio of content to code, which search engines like.
I wouldn't generally get rid of layout tables just because of SEO, but because they are wrong for so many other reasons!
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