Accessibility and Search Engine Optimisation

accessibility seo

What is the real link between accessibility and SEO?

I often read that accessibility and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) are linked but rarely does the item go on to explain how. As search engines become more sophisticated and algorithms change to take greater account of quality the link to accessibility will become even stronger. A consequence is that the imperative is greater for organisations to embrace both SEO and accessibility.

Accessibility – what it is

We define Accessibility in our glossary and in the context of online as “the ability for any person, in any circumstance, using any device to access content on the web, including people with disabilities and is of increasing concern to organisations for financial, moral and legal reasons”. When considering accessibility, there is a tendency to think only of people that are registered disabled, but as relevant is the large number of people who don’t consider themselves to be disabled and yet suffer from various impairments that affect how they interact with the web.

Sight, hearing and cognitive problems affect various people and particularly older people. A few years ago I heard business author and speaker Tom Peters comment that there were only two markets that companies should worry about: Women; and old people. His perspective was that these represented affluent groups and in the latter case a growing population.

The key components of an accessible website are:

  • Provision of alternatives that are equivalent to visual or audio content
  • Not to rely on colour alone
  • Use of style sheets, markup and structure so that for example a header isn’t used to change a font size and the predominant natural langue is identified
  • Clear navigation, documents, tables, content
  • Provide user controls

An ‘accessibility audit’ is one way of finding out if a website or app is accessibility and to what level. Contrary to popular wisdom it isn’t expensive to make a website accessible it just requires some focus.

Providing an accessible website is a sure fire way to ensure that people can engage with your organisation if, through age or infirmity, they find it difficult to interact in conventional ways and particularly if they are less inclined to leave their homes. Given the value of this market segment there is a massive commercial reason for investing in accessibility. But when the commercial benefits accrued via SEO are also added it is as Kevin Bacon says – “a no brainer”.

In part two we will look at SEO and how it is linked to Accessibility. In the meantime if you would like to know more about website accessibility for mobile or desktop please get in contact with us.

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