A well-optimized site isn't only search engine friendly, it's user friendly, too. Strategic design and navigation will open your site to people with disabilities and users of mobile devices -- potentially attracting thousands of new visitors.
Section 508 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires federal agencies to ensure that all electronic and information technology used is accessible for people with disabilities. This includes Web sites. Though the public sector has no such requirement, a site designed for accessibility will broaden your audience and improve your market share, because accessibility is not only beneficial to disabled users but also to the growing number of users with electronic devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), cell phones, and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) devices.
The more accessible your Web site, the wider your potential audience. Think about it: Can you afford to lose the 28.2 million potential prospects who are color blind (predominantly men) because you haven't considered the effect of color on their ability to use your site? Can you afford to inconvenience people who access the Web from different browsers, diverse environments, various devices or platforms, or low connection speeds? An accessible site is user friendly because of emphasis on content, structure, and ease of navigation -- a big plus for users. Few things annoy Internet users more than not being able to accomplish their objectives effortlessly when visiting Web sites -- be it the ability to find information or the ease of processing that information. Reaching a wider audience and accommodating customer needs are good reasons to consider accessibility.
Enhance Accessibility and Improve Usability
Search engine optimization (SEO) of your site for search engines enhances accessibility and improves usability, but benefits go further than that. It's smart to ensure that your site is viewable and navigable from a wide variety of Web clients and for people accessing the Web from a variety of different environments. Here's why:
Add it up. Inaccessibility takes a toll in lost opportunities for prospects and sales. It's important to plan ahead, taking the time to identify your site goals, intended audience, content, design, and SEO services. This will save money in the long run and makes the updating and maintenance of your site easier.
If your site is already up, have it audited (Bobby is a free service to help identify and repair accessibility barriers), then prioritize improvements by level of impact to meet the basic accessibility standards.
SEO Content Optimization and Accessibility
Content optimization and accessibility are complementary processes. When optimizing a site for search engines, a good SEO provider will analyze the site's code, structure, and page layout, looking for any elements that might prevent a robot from indexing the site. Content optimization resulting in search engine friendliness also helps accessibility.
For example, a Flash site can benefit from creating a static mini-site of a few pages with good text, providing links to the Flash site on each page. The mini-site is accessed as a static page from the main site. It may not be as visually engaging, but the text is readable without Flash. Compensating for "bells and whistles" makes the site crawlable by search engine robots and gives users who can't view Flash the ability to access a low-bandwidth alternative.
The W3 Web Content Accessibility Guidelines' Table of Contents tells you how to make your site accessible. Each issue is described in detail, and examples are provided. The guideline headings are:
It's advantageous to make your site accessible to broaden your audience. Enhancing accessibility with SEO services makes sense because good positioning helps improve market share and branding.
More Accessibility Resources
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Paul J. Bruemmer is CEO of Web-Ignite Corporation, a search engine optimization (SEO) and positioning provider. Founded in 1995, Web-Ignite has helped promote over 15,000 Web sites and was recognized by ICONOCAST as one of the top 10 most reputable SEO firms. Services include optimization, submission, registration, positioning, monitoring, maintenance, paid-inclusion, and paid-placement management for fixed monthly fees. Recent client testimonials report search engine traffic increased from 150 to 500 percent.
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