Accessibility and
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

See how making an accessible website has helped these businesses get high search engine rankings

There was a time when I knew little or nothing about accessibility. So I would be the last person to judge anybody on their knowledge of accessibility issues and would rather have someone willingly adopt accessible features and understand why they are important, rather than force the issues upon them.

When I talk about accessibility some people just think of wheelchair users or the blind. Which from a non-disabled perspective is the most accessible, visually available image we may have had for many years. Our social sphere and education may not have either brought us into contact with or educated us about the challenges faced by a wider variety of people with disabilities such as people with hearing difficulties, learning difficulties and restricted movement.

Restricted vision, hearing and movement is something that effects us all - and if not today, then most likely one day it will. That is because we all age and grow old and our bodies deteriorate. We can contract illnesses that lead to disabilities, like diabetes effecting our vision and arthritis affecting our movement.

So you see, accessibility is something that affects us all in the end and it is something your business should plan for.

There was a saying many years ago that made the rounds in web development - "Content is King", and it would be fair to say that the saying rings true today. For if a business relies heavily on it's web presence and it's visibility in search results, then content can really be the decider in the rankings which is what SEO is all about - optimising your position in search engine results.

By content I mean meaningful and relevant content to a specific search result - usually based on a ranking by the search engines (the most common of which is Google).

Ranking in search results can depend on a few things:

  1. How visible and accessible your content is
  2. How relevant the content is
  3. How much relevant content you have
  4. How many other users on the web link in to your content

There are probably more issues that can effect ranking, but they are most likely to be bespoke SEO solutions, affiliations and advertising which probably include some hefty financial investment.

The four features above are the free features that your business can have control over. You can determine how many or how few of these features you implement and to what extent.

1. How visible and accessible your content is

Probably the most important thing to understand is the accessibility of your content. By accessibility and visibility I do not mean that you can just 'see' the information - you must be able to hear it and feel it.

Many people with disabilities need to use adaptive/assistive devices in order to be able to navigate and digest information of web pages. For example, blind users can use either braille readers - that convert the textual information into braille that they can run their fingers across or a screen reader that reads aloud the text on the page. Users with low vision can use magnification programs or physical devices. Users with restricted movement can use tabbing (using the TAB key on the keyboard) instead of a mouse - or adapted keyboards and joysticks, there are also blow tubes, sensors or switches for users with severely restricted movement.

All these devices rely on converting the code on the page and the text as well as text equivalents to something meaningful for the end user. The search engine use small programs called robots or spiders that crawl through the content of your website and log the information in a database on which the searches are carried out. These robots and spiders are essentially machines that respond in much the same as an assistive device.

How accessible, visible or meaningful the content becomes is entirely dependent upon the effort put in by your business when constructing the code of you web pages along with your understanding of the techniques used to interpret the information.

As an individual commissioning someone to undertake your website development you don't need to know all the ins and outs, but you do need to be able to understand the need for accessible web development.

You need to understand that a well designed and coded website to web standards and employing accessibility features will help your business rank higher in search engine results, which means your business could be found more than a competitor.

2. How relevant the content is

One would hope that the content of your website would always be relevant to your business. That through your website you could communicate thoroughly your business, it's products and services and how you can be contacted. Beyond that it is a case of detailing information that is useful - and not just marketing waffle.

Determining key words/phrases that you want to target and keeping a consistent flow of those key words/phrases throughout your content will be key to increasing the density, and therefore the ranking of pages that include them.

3. How much relevant content you have

Detailing you products and services and other information will be key to increasing how much of that relevant content you have. For example, listing your products and having detailed information (even if duplicated BUT relevant) will help increase the numbers. Remember it has to be relevant and not perceived as keyword saturation for the sake of it.

4. How many other users on the web link in to your content

Then you need to create links with other business - cross links, take part in online discussions that feed back to your website, become a voice on the internet in your field - offer advice and drive traffic back to your website and any associated pages/articles.

The web - though many perceive as a lonely journey of people locked away in rooms typing away is in fact becoming a democratised social engine as people make decisions on what website to visit and what information to trust either from experience or word of mouth/recommendation. So it is important to be a part of the virtual network.

Successful websites

Below are results that appear on the first page from google.co.uk for websites that I have designed and built .

The Window Centre home page.

The Window Centre (Bradford) Ltd

URL: http://www.thewindowcentre.net

Last udated 06/01/2009
Keywords Page 1 position
window frames bradford 1
quality window frames 4
window frames 8
hardwood window frames 9

The Window Centre home page.

ECIL (Ealing Centre for Independent Living)

URL: http://www.ecil.org

Last udated 06/01/2009
Keywords Page 1 position
ealing disability 1
independent living ealing 1
disability connect 1

The Window Centre home page.

Academy Badminton

URL: http://www.academybadminton.co.uk

Last udated 06/01/2009
Keywords Page 1 position
letchworth badminton junior 1
badminton academy 5
badminton academy hertfordshire 8

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