The issues of website accessibility and search engine optimisation (SEO) need not be considered in isolation, it has been claimed.

Traditionally, businesses separate their search and web design functions but the two are becoming increasingly intertwined, according to Ann Smarty of Search Engine Journal.

Enhanced website accessibility for disabled users also generally means that the site is easier to access for the search engine crawlers or spiders that trawl the web indexing websites for inclusion in listings, she explained.

This is something that may need to be taken into consideration by some of the UK’s biggest retailers following a study conducted by Retail Bulleting and Sitemorse suggesting that both SEO and accessibility is a problem for many retail organisations.

According to the research, one of the biggest offenders, the Co-op, failed all of Sitemorse’s accessibility tests during the month of July, while some of the most common problems detected in low-performing websites related to SEO.

These retailers may do well to follow some of Ms Smarty’s tips on how to integrate accessibility and SEO to provide the best user experience.

She advises organisations to include highly descriptive alt tags for images that play an important part in the website’s content so that visually impaired users know what is in them when they use screen-reading software.

It is also important to offer written transcripts for all video and audio content to assist those with visual or aural impairments and to use markup instead of images to display information, Ms Smarty said.

Following such tips will help businesses to not only get their content across to disabled internet users, but will also make it easier for search engine spiders and crawlers to discover more about the website and determine how highly it should rank in the relevant listings, she commented.

It may also be a good idea to conduct usability testing with real consumers to ensure that the steps taken to enhance SEO and accessibility work well with the overall user experience.

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