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Website Coding Errors that affect Search Engines

You may find this somewhat strange, why would we include Search Engines when assessing the accessibility of a website?

Well, the answer is straightforward. If a website is not friendly to search engines, it will have poorer rankings and less people will be able to find it, including those with accessibility needs, so it is therefore very much an accessibility issue! Search engines are, in effect, blind and they have to rely on the automated processes to assess the build quality (or otherwise) of a website. If their criteria are not met, it is to everyone's disadvantage.

Let us illustrate this with a simple example: Meta Tags for images. There will be the ability within most Website Content Management Systems (known as CMS) to add alternative text, a caption and a description to each image on a website. The alternative text is read out by screen readers, the image description is what the search engines display when people perform image searches, so you can see how both search engines and accessibility are intertwined.

It is worth noting that, unlike many areas of website accessibility where extensive recoding may be required, adding meta tags like alternative text, captions and descriptions is straightforward to do and requires no programming skill, just some time to complete. The time you spend doing this will bring you long term benefits that you could never imagine.

The other point to remember is that, as far as search engines are concerned, everything is relative, not absolute. Search engines are comparing the pros and cons of your website against those of your competitors and, if your website "ticks more boxes" than your competitors, you will be placed above them in the search engine listings.

To give another example, there should be a setting in your CMS that should allow you to set what is known as your Locale setting. This tells Google where your locality is. The default setting for this is either the United States or it is set to None. Unless your business actually is in the United States, having a locale setting that places you there is a major accessibility issue because your browser (and any assistive technology such as a screen reader) will behave in a different way than if it was set to the United Kingdom. Not setting it at all (as was described in the second example), is even worse because it gives your browser and/or screen reader no guidance at all on how to behave.

If you are concerned that your website does not currently meet the standards required by search engines, please get in touch with us for a free 15 minute consultation by following this link.