SEO and Web Accessibility Come Hand in Hand

SMS Text

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].
  • Make sure the page content is clear with JavaScript and CSS disabled [SEO: any browser-enhanced functionality can cause problems for a search bot to access it].
  • Language:
    • 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].
Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty

Brand amd Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing,... Read Full Bio
Ann Smarty
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  • Kyle James

    I completely agree here. Accessibility and Usability are not mentioned enough in the SEO community. I went on a little rant about it a few months ago in my Blogging Manifesto.

    In many ways a search crawl bot is like a user that needs enhanced accessibility. Besides it’s all just good web standards to do SEO type things such as semantic markup, title for anchor tags, optimizing pictures for load time and viewer use, and many other just good standard things.

    A search bot only downloads so much of a site before it moves on guys and if your images are 100K+ that’s valuable crawl time your loosing. Optimize those suckers for the web!

  • SEMaven

    This is a very timely post for me. Just yesterday I used SEO and accessibility in the same sentence and received a very strange look. I had to explain how the two go hand-in-hand. Wish I this post to send them to yesterday.

  • Doug Heil

    Nice post Ann!

    I think the problem comes into play because assess issues are a huge pain in the ass to implement. The main things are easy, but in order to fully comply with things, they get very strict and detailed. It’s not worth it to most developers as it stands right now, so it’s just not out there in the main stream because of that.

    Very good post.

  • Software Testing Training

    Thanks for Article……

    Good Article Writing

    Software Testing Training

    Our Software Testing Partner

  • Vahur

    The “lang” attribute its not mandatory but i think its very useful especially when you mix different languages at one page.
    For example this multilingual dictionary, there are terms and definitions in 2 languages and i have defined languages for both.
    lang=”de” xml:lang=”de” and lang=”et” xml:lang=”et”.

    And the default language of the page (defined in “html” tag) is still “en”.