The Overlap between SEO & Accessibility

Excerpts from my latest article at Resource Interactive’s weThink blog: “Better Accessibility, Better SEO.”

Mention web accessibility and digital marketers tend to sigh, flashback to alt attributes on images and envision a small handful of vision-impaired people using screen readers. In reality, accessibility standards benefit nearly 12% of the U.S. population, from people with hearing and vision impairment to people with repetitive motion disorder, developmental disabilities or ADHD. And the growing population of senior citizens online represents another important reason for brands to embrace accessibility standards, with 53% of American adults age 65 and older using the Internet.

As an added benefit, what’s good for accessibility is also typically good for search engine optimization. The accessibility standards that focus on providing textual alternatives and navigational guidelines have the most overlap with SEO because the search engine crawlers that index the Internet for ranking are traditionally bound by similar restrictions as screen readers.

The most obvious example of overlap between accessibility and SEO is the need to provide textual alternatives for non-textual content such as images, audio and video. On the SEO front, alt attributes are not a very powerful keyword relevance signal, but they do have a small benefit. When combined with other SEO best practices, using relevant alt attributes that agree with the keyword signal on the page when it’s possible will give the page an extra boost. Following the following guidelines will enhance both web accessibility and the keyword signals that feed SEO….

Read the article in full at Resource Interactive’s weThink blog »

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

How to Benefit from Googlebot-Mobile’s New Smarts

Excerpted from my latest article at Practical Ecommerce, read it in full here.

Google’s mobile crawler Googlebot-Mobile has traditionally focused on content designed for feature phones and their extremely limited browsers. Google recently announced, however, a new version of Googlebot-Mobile that crawls using an iPhone user agent, enabling it to discover content designed for smartphones, which are more robust than feature phones.

As an avid searcher and a search engine optimization professional, I’ve been disappointed in Google’s treatment of smartphone search results — I addressed here a few months ago, in “Google Says Smartphone Sites Aren’t Mobile.” When a searcher takes the time to tap in a query on their smartphone’s keyboard, the search engine should reward that searcher’s effort by favoring smartphone content over desktop content. Instead, Google has left the task to each individual site to detect smartphones and serve the appropriately formatted content — with mixed results.

Read on to see how one major retailer flubs smartphone usability and potentially misses out on mobile search sales.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Whose Definition of Great User Experience?

Google’s SEO liaison and head spam cop Matt Cutts is repeating his mantra on user experience every chance he gets these days. But who’s to say what that great user experience consists of?

Search Engine Journal quoted Cutts at Inside Search:

“Google is trying to figure out what users want. And so rather than you as an SEO chasing after Google, and Google chasing after what users want, if you chase directly after what users want, then both you and Google are trying to get to the top of the same mountain in some sense.”

In principle, I agree. SEO changes frequently. Quick tricks that worked last year don’t work now. Stop looking for the easy way to game the engines and focus on what matters long term. But Cutts isn’t saying that SEO is dead (sigh). He’s saying that the kind of SEO that looks for loopholes to exploit is shortsighted and SEOs who rely on those loopholes are just asking to get smacked down by whatever the next Panda-esque update is.

But back to the focus on user experience focus rather than SEO. Put 10 people in a room and you’ll get 12 different opinions on what great user experience means for single site. I work with a lot of people who are certain that great user experience means AJAX-y navigation and personalization. As a user I tend to agree. However, if a site focuses solely on that lovely user experience and doesn’t provide a crawlable alternative, how exactly is that going to equate to great organic search visibility?

As with all SEO advice, the key is in moderation. You have to have both SEO and user experience. You can’t focus on one strategy, tactic, trick, fad, news item. SEO is a moderate blending of all the cool stuff you read in SEO blogs, filtered through your experience, webmaster guidelines, and analysis of your unique site’s data and business requirements.

So, abandon all SEO and read up on a bunch of UX books? I wouldn’t. Instead, think about what aspects of SEO might have a positive or negative impact on user experience and vice versa:

  • Keyword stuffing vs unique, engaging content
  • Shallow synopsis of other sites vs unique, engaging content
  • Link stuffing vs intuitive and relevant cross linking
  • Bait and switch tactics vs giving users what they expected when they came to your site
  • Spamming up forums and comments with irrelevant links vs thoughtful community participation

The core goals that SEO and search engines share still come down to valuing unique content, earned links and crawlable sites. These three values create a positive user experience. And that positive user experience increases the likelihood that you’ll earn more quality links. That’s what ethical SEO is all about.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.