Search Engine Optimization Summarized
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the term used to describe how a page is built in such a way so that it ranks well on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for the keywords or keyword phrases that it desires to be found. For example, if you are a dental office located in Sacramento then you’d want people who are searching for a dentist in your area to find you before finding competing businesses/search results.https://www.w3.org/Consortium/
Your site is “optimized” by following the proper HTML markup defined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), which “is an international community where Member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards.” [https://www.w3.org/Consortium/]
Additionally, your site ranking on the SERP depends on rules provided by the search engine itself, which is primarily Google. Google’s expressed intent with their search engine is to provide users with the most relevant results. They provide these results by adherence to proper development techniques (i.e. HTML markup), proper design and UI techniques (we’ll get into this in just a second), and by reviewing the written copy that is on the page.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Help your SEO
Although WCAG is primarily designed to serve those with disabilities, there is also a large amount of room for your page to increase it’s position on the SERP… and it really makes a lot of sense why this is the case.
Why does it make a lot of sense? Two reasons: (1) It is the proper HTML structure as recommended by the W3C and (2) it helps ensure the content on the page serves the most amount of users.
As an example, imagine if you were visually impaired and were accessing a page, but not of the images provides descriptions of what they were. If the images were important to the content being provided this would make the page inaccessible to you. I’m using this example because it’s one of the easiest things to fix and also one of the most common that needs to be fixed (there’s a lot more to WCAG than this).
Black Hat Techniques that Ruin WCAG & SEO
Everyone wants their site to rank best or at least as best as possible. As a result many website owners become frustrated over time as their website doesn’t rank as well as they had hoped.
This is where web administrators or contractors they hire try to “trick Google” with the use of keywords. There are a lot of ways that I’ve seen “SEO Experts” do this over the years, but a majority of what I’ve seen in the more recent years have primarily involved spamming keywords they want the site to rank for.
As an example, let’s say there’s a bakery in Sacramento trying to sell more pink cakes and they have 5 different kinds. The photos need alternative text for visually impaired users and this alternative text holds SEO value. Proper use of this text might be something like “pink cake with strawberries” or “pink cake with vanilla”, but the business really wants to rank well in Sacramento. A common black hat technique is to stuff some extra keywords that in no way help describe the image to someone visually impaired… example would be “pink cake with vanilla bakery, Sacramento, ca”.
My WCAG Prediction
First off, this isn’t as much as a prediction as it is something I believe has already been set in motion, but I do still predict that it’s going to become more important moving forward vs less important. That prediction being that Google is going to reward and punish sites at an increasing amount based on their proper use of WCAG recommendations.
The good news – most of these recommendations are very simple to follow and don’t take loads of extra work. Another good thing is that developers are aware of this and many of the most common web design platforms (i.e. WordPress) already have plugins built to help increase support for this at no extra cost.