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The end-goal of a search engine, when it's crawling a page, is to try to determine what a web page looks like to regular people. But the search engine can't see a page like we do. Instead, it sees the code that the web servers send back to our browsers. And to help illustrate this, let's take a look at the Explore California homepage. To us humans, we see a rich and colorful web page with lots of content on it: pictures, text, menus, and videos, in all kinds of colors and styles.
It's visually appealing, and we know how to absorb all this information and how to navigate through it. But to a search engine crawler, the same page looks like this instead. This may not look like the same page we were just looking at, but it is. All of this markup and code are really just a bunch of instructions that our browsers can follow in order to render a great-looking webpage onto our screens. And the important part is that this is the code that search engines look at. Webpages are ultimately created with HTML code and markup, and this code helps browsers figure out where to find all the files that we'll need to produce this pretty page; where everything is visibly placed in the page; how things are laid out, what fonts, colors, and sizes to use; what side menus will look like; where links will point to; and where content elements are going to be placed.
You can see that there's a lot of stuff here in the HTML that may not end up on the screen. And these items provide us with extra opportunities to help search engines understand our content better. HTML is also responsible for loading stylesheets, which are extra instructions that help to find the visible attributes of a page. Font coloring, content sizing, line spacing, background images, page conventions, all kinds of rules for the visual representation of your page can be found here.
While this isn't a course on web design or programming, it's important to understand the perspective of the search engine as we go through this course, and see what it sees. As you can probably guess, making sure that your website's code is clean, efficient, and free from any coding errors will help ensure that your pages are displaying properly to your users. But it will also save the search engine some confusion. The cleaner your code, the easier it will be for you to make adjustments to improve your on-page optimization, and the more search engines will trust that your pages will be a good experience for your users.
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