Note : If you like this post also read on Web Accessibility and SEO Tools
Web accessibility can be defined as:
an approach to web design that aims to ensure the widest access to the content and features of a website. The term is often used to refer to accessibility for people with disabilities, particularly blindness. (source)
However accessibility is also about making Web content more available to all users:
whatever user agent they are using (e.g., desktop browser, voice browser, mobile phone, automobile-based personal computer, etc.) or constraints they may be operating under (e.g., noisy surroundings, under- or over-illuminated rooms, in a hands-free environment, etc.).
While we (surprisingly) seldom see accessibility issues discussed in SEO community, search engine optimizers should definitely both explore and implement accessibility standards:
- By enhancing the site accessibility for (disabled) people, you are also making the page easier accessed be search crawlers;
- By implementing available tools to evaluate website accessibility, you will also find weak points of a site (from SEO perspective);
- By implementing accessibility standards, you put an end to questionable SEO issues.
Steps to enhance accessibility (source: W3 accessibility guidelines):
- Mind your images:
- Include descriptive alternative text and title for content-sensitive images (i.e. those that are integral part of the page content): alt text is what blind people will hear in place of the image. [SEO: alt text is viewed as part of search crawlable content].
- Don’t use alt text for decorative images (i.e. those that are meant to merely decorate the page). Assign an alt text to null value (alt=””) so that the image could be completely ignored by screenreaders [SEO: if images are purely for decorative purposes, alt text should probably be skipped] .
- Make sure your website provides written transcripts for all audio and video content – so that deaf people could understand what it says [SEO: written text is the best way to get search crawlers understand webpage content].
- Mind your hyperlinks:
- Make sure link anchor text makes sense out of context: blind Internet users often browse web sites by tabbing from one link to the next; thus if your site is full of “click here” and “this site” links, they won’t understand anything [SEO: this should put an end to an ever-lasting discussion if keywords should be included in external link anchor text: just make link text descriptive and useful].
- Add “title=” attribute to links especially for non-descriptive anchor text [SEO: if you can’t do without meaningless link text, link title tag is your best bet to explain both search engines and people what the linked page is about].
- Mark up documents with the proper structural elements :
- use markup rather than images to convey information [SEO: again, nothing is easier accessed by search robots than pure text];
- use heading elements to convey document structure [SEO: H1-H6 headings are used by search crawlers to understand page HTML semantic structure and its main topic].
- indicate language used either through mark-up (with the “lang” attribute in HTML and the “xml:lang” attribute in XML) or HTTP headers [SEO: this will also help you avoid any language related issues: see the discussion];
- provide explanations of abbreviations and acronyms [SEO: this will improve your chances to appear within define: search results and enrich your content].