WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Re: Can SEO and Accessibility coexist?


From: Terry Brainerd Chadwick
Date: Jan 21, 2005 4:52PM

At 11:22 AM 1/21/2005 -0500, design wrote:

>We've discussed alt attributes and what they're for and how to make them
>accessible. And I try to build my sites that way. Enter the SEO
>specialist... "Keywords must be used in alt elements and the first three
>alts should have the most important keyword at least three times."

Disclaimer: I'm a search engine optimization specialist.

I don't know your SEO specialist is, but fire him/her! No ethical SEO
specialist would say that.

A good search engine optimization specialist is going to make sure that a
site has valid code and content, and that means using Alt attributes correctly.

What your SEO specialist should have said is that you should include
important keywords within your Alt text where relevant. Which makes sense
because people are trying to make sure that the page they are reading is
relevant to them and they want to see the keywords they searched for in the
content on the page. An image should be relevant to the page. If it is,
then the short explanation of the meaning of the image that goes into the
Alt attribute ought to be able to contain relevant keywords.

You should definitely not repeat a keyword at least three times anywhere on
a page. That's called spamming and can get your site penalized. You should
also not keyword stuff a transparent image, check mark, or anything else
that you would normally use a empty alt attribute, alt="", for. That also
is spamming.

BTW, there is a very good reason for SEO if search engines form even a
portion of your traffic. Or if you want to get traffic from people who look
for products and services through search engines. About 70% of people using
search engines click only on the organic (non-paid) listings, and few of
them look further than the first 30 or so results.

In fact good SEO can help accessibility, particularly in those cases where
it is difficult to monetize accessibility efforts. (You know, the old "we
don't have any blind users" excuse.)

A lot of sites, especially those using a lot of JavaScript, Flash, and the
like, can't be indexed by search engines. They can'be be read by screen
readers either. I spend a lot of my time making sure that the web sites I
work on have visible links and content that can be read humans regardless
of ability, screen readers, spiders, etc.

Generally an accessible site is very search engine friendly. Tell that to
your SEO specialist. Accessible sites use plain text for content, clearly
identify links and make sure the links have good descriptions, have good
descriptive titles, headings, and alt text. Accessible sites provide text
alternatives for PDFs, audio files, Flash, etc. And all of that is great
for search engines.

Terry Brainerd Chadwick
Search Marketing, Accessibility, and Overall Website Performance Specialist