In what is a progressively digitally-fluid world, the fight for Google’s top spot is becoming increasingly challenging as Google’s twice-daily algorithm updates keeps SEO’ers on their toes – from the most recently coined ‘Fred’ algorithm and beyond. Thus it is imperative that website owners take a proactive rather than reactive approach towards their search engine optimisation (SEO) to ensure their website is keeping up with the competition.
So what is SEO?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) looks at how you can affect your website’s search ranking through organic search results (Chaffey, 2015) and use this to improve your ranking against your competitors. It is generally accepted the higher your rank on the search results the page, the more visitors you will receive to your website (Chaffey, 2015).
The bottom line is: the better your website is built through copy and structure, the better it will perform in the search engine.
Interestingly, Sussex based company Access by Design audits a website’s SEO performance as if they were blind. Google, although a savant-of-sorts algorithm machine, is, for all intents and purposes, also blind.
Be the Change
“Accessibility is a human right” Eve Andersson – head of Google’s accessibility engineering programme.
By considering your website’s SEO from a blind person, there is also the flipside that you are extending your website’s accessibility to a blind person too – in the UK alone, two million people have sight loss to some extent, and almost half of blind and partially sighted people feel ‘moderately’ or ‘completely’ cut off from people and things around them (RNIB, 2017).
You are also heeding the law – the application of the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 was made to websites in 1999, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were developed in 1999 and again in 2008 (Ribera, 2009).
It also means you are ahead of the game and could avoid hefty penalties – The Business Disability Forum has checked the accessibility of sites since 2008, and during that time 70% of the sites reviewed were assigned ‘red’ – defined as ‘significant potential commercial, PR or legal risk’ – purely because of their lack of accessibility.
Here’s a few ‘do’s’ to ensure your website is optimised for SEO and improve your website’s accessibility:
- Are your Alt tags and Title tags labelled correctly? Google cannot read an image.
Google cannot read an image, however it can read the correct label. Known as the Alt tag, (short for Alternative tag) this is the description which provides a clear text alternative of the image for screen reader users (Arlitsch and O’Brien, 2013).
Google wouldn’t know what the image is if it’s named img157b.jpg, but name it ‘Golden Retriever’ and you’re telling Google and anybody else who is blind is that it is actually a picture of a Golden Retriever!
Combine this with making sure that the Title tag – this is the information that pops up when you hover over the image (McShaffrey and Graham, 2013) – complements the Alt tag, and this will rank your website positively against competitors as Google will be able to read the images, and then know that a blind person will be able to fully understand what the pictures are too.
Google themselves confirm this – when crawling pages they “process information included in key content tags and attributes, such as Title tags and ALT attributes” (Support.google.com, 2017) so this is a good, sure fire way to make sure your website is optimised for SEO and get those extra points from Google.
If time constraints means you are only going to do one type of tag, Alt Tags prevails over Title Tags, as both are useful for visitors, however Alt Tags are also useful for SEO (Arlitsch and O’Brien, 2013).
Are all your links working? Google cannot follow a broken link.
A broken link is a link which once clicked on, cannot retrieve the desired document (Spencer, 2011) and affects both inbound (links within your website) and outbound links (links to other websites).
The way Google ‘crawls’ your website is by making a list of all the links on your website to crawl, and then travels link to link. So as well as giving poor UX, this is also bad for your SEO.
It is a relatively simple and quick fix. A good free website to check your broken links can be found here.
Are there errors in your website’s coding? Google cannot understand poor coding.
Coding is the ‘language’ used to create software, apps, and your website (McShaffrey and Graham, 2o13). If the coding is poor, this will affects Google’s view on it as it crawls your website, and ultimately affect your SEO.
This is something a good, SEO fluent, Web Developer would either do in the design stage of the website, or get a second party to check it post-production.
As Access by Design puts it: Make sure that your website is friendly to all of your blind visitors, one of whom is Google!
Is your website responsive? Google likes adaptability.
Responsive design is how adaptable your website is to screen size, platform, such as mobile and tablets, and orientation (Oritz and Prado, 2010). Your website should display equally well across all.
Gone are the days of pinching your mobile screen to zoom in on text and images, and your website now risks being hurt by not have an incorporated responsive design into your website. Google rolling out an algorithm last May now means your website’s SEO is affected if they are not mobile friendly.
Don’t know if your website is responsive? Check out Google’s test to check if your website is mobile friendly.
Arlitsch, K. & OBrien, P.S. 2013, Improving the visibility and use of digital repositories through SEO, ALA TechSource, an imprint of the American Library Association, Chicago.
Chaffey, D. 2015, Digital business and e-commerce management: strategy, implementation and practice, Sixth edn, Pearson, Harlow, England.
Co.Design. (2017). How Designing For Disabled People Is Giving Google An Edge. [online] Available at: https://www.fastcodesign.com/3060090/how-designing-for-the-disabled-is-giving-google-an- edge?utm_content=buffer4b01f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer [Accessed 25th Nov. 2017].
McShaffry, M. & Graham, D.(.p. 2013, Game coding complete, 4th edn, Course Technology, Boston, Mass.
Nielsen, J., Glass, B. and Fogg, B.J (2001). Restoring broken links using a spider process.
Ortiz, G. & Prado, A.G.D. 2010, “Improving device-aware Web services and their mobile clients through an aspect-oriented, model-driven approach”, Information and Software Technology, vol. 52, no. 10, pp. 1080-1093
Ribera, M., Porras, M., Boldu, M., Termens, M., Sule, A. & Paris, P. 2009, “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0”, Program, vol. 43, no. 4, pp. 392-406.
Spencer, S. 2011 SEO Myths: Link Building, Access Intelligence LLC, Rockville.
Sullivan, D., 2013. Google still world’s most popular search engine by far, but share of unique searchers dips slightly. Search Engine Land.
Support.google.com. (2017). How Google Search Works – Search Console Help. [online] Available at: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/70897?hl=en [Accessed 29th Nov. 2017].
Transversal, A. (2017). How many people in the UK have sight loss? – RNIB – supporting blind and partially sighted people. [online] Help.rnib.org.uk. Available at: https://help.rnib.org.uk/help/newly-diagnosed-registration/registering-sight-loss/statistics [Accessed 29th Nov. 2017].