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- Understanding the benefits of accessibility and SEO
- Evaluating screen readers for Windows and Mac
- Installing browser development tools
- Comparing sites that are SEO-friendly and SEO-unfriendly
- Defining a language for a page
- Creating better semantic markup with HTML5
- Marking up images and links properly
- Creating an accessible menu with an unordered list
Skill Level Intermediate
The whole internet is built around the concept of the hyperlink. Therefore, it's surprising to realize that the majority of hyperlinks, or links, on the web are not properly marked up. There are many reasons for this, most notably that even if a link is not properly marked up, it'll still work. But regardless of the reasons why, the poorly constructed link is not very functional. When you add a link to a web page you're doing it for one reason only: to get people to click on that link. And for them to click on the link, you need to make sure you give them enough information so they know where they're going.
This is where the title attribute comes in. The title attribute lets you add additional information to the link, so you can provide additional information about where they're going. The accessibility benefit of marking up your hyperlink properly is obvious. If you mark it up properly and add a title tag to it, then people will be able to hover there mouse over it and get more information about where that link is going. Or if they're using a text-to- speech browser, they'll be able to focus on that link with their Tab key, and then hear the information about where that link is pointing.
And this is where the premise of accessibility techniques and SEO going together comes together for real. The accessibility benefit equals the SEO benefit because, as I said earlier, a search engine is a blind reader; it can only read what you display. So when the search engine sees a link, it immediately looks for the title tag to explain where this link is pointing. The basic hyperlink markup is very simple. You start with an anchor tag or an <a, you then add the href or the hyperlink reference, which points directly to wherever you're pointing.
This can be either an absolute link, like what you see here, it can be a root relative link that points to a file or a page inside your site, or it can be a link to a place on the page that's currently open. After you've added the hyperlink reference, you add the title tag. The title tag is a descriptive tag that explains where this link is pointing. In this case, since I'm pointing to lynda.com/morten, I have put in the title tag, lynda.com courses by Morten Rand-Hendriksen. This is more descriptive and tells the user where they're going.
Now when I say more descriptive, I'm talking about more descriptive than what the hyperlink wraps. In this case, the hyperlink wraps the simple word My courses, which doesn't say anything. If you left it just My courses and didn't add a title tag, then the only Google search that would result in this link would be a search for My courses. Whereas, if you search for Morten Rand- Hendriksen's courses, you wouldn't find it. Now that we know how to markup a hyperlink properly, let's do it in the page, so you can see some general principles around it.
If I open the example project in my browser, you'll see that we have a lot of hyperlink going on here. We have a hyperlink wrapping this header image, we have all our menu items and we have the sidebar menus, we also have one inside the text itself, and we have the images that are hyperlinks, as well as in the footer. So what I'm going to do is change some of these hyperlinks so that they're properly marked up, and then you can do the rest of them yourself, because it's a fairly simple principle. The basic idea here is to add a title attribute to each of the hyperlinks to explain further where you're going, because, for instance, the word Home itself doesn't actually tell you anything about where that link is going. And unless you add a title attribute, Home is just a link to Home and if you go on Google and search for Home, you get something like 39 billion answers. You want something more specific.
So I'll go in and edit my markup in the index.html file. If I scroll down, I'll find my first menu link here. You'll see it starts with the list attribute and then it says <a href and in this case it just says pound key, because I'm just pointing it back through the current page. If it was pointing somewhere else, I would add a proper link to it. Now I want to add a title attribute, so I'll make some space and I'll just type in title= and then Home page of Hansel & Petal Flower Company. I'll end that quote, save the page, reload it in my browser, and now when I hover over the Home button I get that pop-up that says Home page of Hansel & Petal Flower Company, which means this is now what's being indexed, and this is what the search engine sees.
More importantly, this is also what a text-to-speech reader would read out. It would read out link Home, Home page of Hansel & Patel Flower Company. When we look at images, it is a little bit different. You'll remember down here we have these three images and each of them is a link to a page on Wikipedia about this plant. When we look at these three images, when I hover my mouse over them, you'll see that each of them is a link, but right now I don't know where they're pointing. The reality is each of these images is actually pointing out of this website to Wikipedia and a page about that particular plant, but because I didn't provide that information, a user who clicks on it will probably be surprised to learn that they jump out of the website and go somewhere else.
So adding a title tag here becomes extremely important. So I'll go into mark up again and scroll down to where I have my images. Here they are in the gallery lists. I'll find my anchor tags, and then I'll add a title tag. And I'll say Bougainvillea, which is the plant, on Wikipedia.org. I can do the same for the two other plants. So I'll go and add a title tag here, title="Chrysanthemum on Wikipedia.org", and finally, this one, Golden Barrel Cactus on Wikipedia.org.
When I save this and I reload the page, you'll see that as we hover over each link, we get a message saying, that this is a link to the plants on Wikipedia.org. So now we provide enough information for the person visiting this site to know whether or not they want to click on this link and follow it, or whether they want to wait and do it later. Without the title tag, they would not know where this link is leading and would probably assume it's leading to just a larger version of the same picture. Adding a simple title tag to your links can make a huge difference, both in how your visitors understand your content, and also how search engines index your pages for future visitors.