Search Engine Optimization Through Web Accessibility

I got a nice e-mail recently from Carmen Mardiros at Big Mouth Media suggesting that I might be interested in a paper that she had recently written entitled Search Engine Optimisation and Web Accessibility. Its subject is how designing for accessibility can provide important benefits in search-engine placement — another good reason to keep accessibility in mind (if you needed one).

I read Carmen’s paper and was pretty impressed by it. It’s got lots of good, specific points it makes, but I thought the best thing about it was a general statement it makes near the beginning that may be one of the clearest statements I’ve seen recently of what makes Web marketing different from traditional marketing:

This is the crux of the difference between traditional and search engine marketing; offline marketing attempts to persuade a disinterested, passive audience, whereas online marketing attempts to find and engage with an already interested and active audience. Therefore, the most important characteristic a page should posses to be successful is not persuasiveness – but clarity – anything else merely serves to frustrate the user. And a major component of clarity is accessibility.

In other words — lose the cute, sales-ey language, you don’t need it. Sales-ey language is useful when you’re trying to convince someone you’ve assaulted at random with your message. But people on the Web aren’t selected at random — by and large, they found you by searching for you, making the seduction and googly-eyes unnecessary. This is a great way to explain the Cluetrain Manifesto!

So, in short, my thanks to Carmen for taking the time to suggest her paper to me, and you should probably take a glance at it if you build Web sites, for a living or as a hobby.