Jun 01

Accessibility First, SEO Second

Tag: Accessibility,SEO (Search Engine Optimization)John Britsios @ 05:00

A lot of webmasters are far more concerned with SEO than with accessibility; while it is indeed important to optimize your site for the search engines, most website owners have their priorities backwards.

Making your website accessible isn’t just:

  • a) the right thing to do;
  • b) a way to make your site available to a larger number of potential visitors;
  • c) part of ensuring standards compliance.

It’s all of these things, of course, but there’s something else which you may not have known about accessibility: it’s also good SEO. Let’s have a look at some of the ways that accessible design makes for a more well optimized website.

1) Search engines can’t see images or hear audio on your site:

Like visually impaired visitors, the search engines cannot see any images or video content on your site. Instead, they rely on your image’s alt tags to determine what this content is.

Similarly, if your site has audio content, the search engines can’t hear this either; so you should also include text descriptions of this content for both hearing impaired visitors as well as search engines.

2) Site maps are more important to accessibility (and SEO) than you think:

While every site needs a site map, it’s especially important if yours is a site which has a large number of pages – it’s simple, text based navigational tool which makes it easier for users with slower connections and people using text only browsers like Lynx or w3m to find what they’re looking for without having to click through several pages first. A site map is also extremely helpful to search engine crawlers; neglect them at your peril.

3) Avoiding the use of Flash, Javascript and frames is better for your visitors (even visitors named Google):

Flash and Javascript based pages may have looked impressive five to ten years ago, but they’re not good at all from an accessibility standpoint. These pages are next to impossible for visually impaired visitors to use – and since they’re also notoriously difficult for search engines to index, they’re bad news for your SEO efforts as well. Make your site accessible to everyone, including search engines by using valid XHTML and CSS instead. Your readers will be happier – and so will you.

Did you know that SEO is just another feather in accessibility’s cap?

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