Join Morten Rand-Hendriksen for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding the benefits of accessibility and SEO, part of Using Accessibility to Improve SEO.
When I bring up accessibility with web developers, I often hear comments like, "why bother?" or "that sounds tedious," and when the conversation goes to SEO, the consensus is generally that it's a specialized science for the initiated few. In both cases, the topics seem to be less regarded as important additions than annoying options or stuff other people can do. What I say and what I want to convince you of is that accessibility and SEO should be at the top of your list when you build websites, and here's why.
Accessible content means people can access your info in new ways. Think of having your phone read a website back to you while you're jogging or navigating a website while driving your car, and you get the idea. Voice commands and non-visual browsers are becoming more mainstream, not just the realm of the visually impaired. We are also entering a brave new world of devices that open for new possibilities. Yes, the devices we currently have interact with the web in much the same way that our old desktops did, only the interaction is different, because we are now may be using our fingers to point at things or we're talking to the devices.
But this is just a tip of the iceberg. As we move forward in time, you'll see more and more devices get introduced with more interesting user interfaces, and that means you need to build your sites to prepare for this kind of interaction. An interesting side benefit to building sites with accessibility and SEO in mind is that your content becomes easier to read and understand. When you write code with accessibility in mind, you write markup that's easier to parse for computers and when you write content with SEO in mind, you write content that's easier to parse for people.
As a result, you get pages that are easier to understand for everyone. Another benefit is that accessibility forces you to follow web standards. As a result, you get cleaner and more semantic markup, which means, again, your sites will validate, they will be easier to understand for computers, and they will be easier to push out on the Internet. The whole point of search engine optimization or SEO is to increase the findability of your sites in search engines. But what a lot of people don't know is that if you write your content with accessibility in mind, you also write content with SEO in mind; they go hand in hand because the more accessible your content is, the easier time the search engine has in understanding that content.
You also increase the shareability on social networks. By coding for accessibility, you make the sites easier to parse for social networks. So when people share links to your sites on Facebook or Google Plus, or other social networks, these sites can then go in, pick up the information they need, and display it in the preview windows, so that when people see the links to your site, they don't you see the link, but they see a little piece of preview text with a title and a description and maybe even an image. This is all thanks to the code you put into the site and the more standards- oriented and accessible your content is, the easier it is for social networks to share that content out, and you get new visitors.
More than making your sites accessible to the visually impaired, accessibility standards makes your sites accessible in new ways for everyone and combined with basic SEO techniques, your sites will be easier to process, understand, and share with the world.
- 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