wooden puppet facing unknown endings from non-descriptive links

Hyperlinking for AODA and SEO

Hyperlinks have become ubiquitous online, for good reason. Smooth, streamlined text that gets rid of a messy looking url is the hallmark of websites. A simple “click here” or “download” can string users along your site without breaking up the paragraph flow, and can even be inserted within sentences for an unobtrusive experience.

Except when hyperlinks can bring you farther away from AODA compliance, and worsen your SEO.

wooden puppet facing unknown endings from non-descriptive links

Bad Links

A bad link is, simply, a link that doesn’t provide context within the hyperlink text. While it’s very tempting to use these, since they’re the least obtrusive, they aren’t AODA compliant.

Examples of bad links include:

  • “Click here”
  • “More info”
  • “Continue reading”

While they look fine in context of a paragraph, links are often not read within the context of their paragraphs. As a result, people who use screen readers will come across link text that gives them no information for what they are about to click, rendering your website frustrating to navigate at best.

Google also doesn’t like blank links without a description, and while it will follow the link to rank your content, it won’t give any extra points for making the link difficult to understand when taken alone.

 

Good Links

Thankfully, it’s rather simple to turn a bad link into a good link. It’s simply a case of adding context to the link itself.

Examples:

  • “Click here to…”
  • “More info on…”
  • “Continue reading about…”

By filling in the blank about what you’d previously discussed in your content, you make the link stand on its own. This means anybody or anything that comes across the link will know exactly what it leads to.

This makes your site easier to navigate, and you can get a few more points in search in the process. While it can be tedious to go through and check every hyperlink to make sure it can stand on its own, the peace of mind knowing all links are compliant is worthwhile.

Image credit: a-poselenov

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How to Write Alt Text

Alt text, short for “alternative text”, is text in the metadata of images that shows up either when the image doesn’t load, or for screen readers. If you’ve ever had an email full of images have the space replaced with, say, a coupon value, you’ve seen alt text.

While it appears simple, alt text requires time and effort to get the hang of.

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Why should you put in alt text?

In short, it makes the graphic content of your website readable. This is useful for:

  • SEO
  • People with slower/limited internet connections
  • Individuals who use screen readers

If you’re in Ontario, you might be facing down the legal requirements of AODA, which requires all graphic information to be accessible in text. This is in accordance to WCAG, the international standard for web accessibility that is becoming the norm worldwide. While this is a laborious task, it reaps many rewards outside of disability circles.

By utilizing alt text to the maximum capacity, you can reap a rich keyword benefit that won’t visibly clog up the page (but don’t overdo it, as Google will still penalize you for keyword stuffing), and make your site available to a larger demographic.

Implementing alt text on a WordPress site is as easy as installing Yoast (for SEO) and allocating the hours to writing the material.

How to put in alt text

Simple images: describe the image in the “alternate text” window provided when you go to edit an image on your website. Sometimes, you need to go into the image’s properties to find this window. If the image has a caption associated with it, make sure the caption and image are vaguely related— the image might not be read with the caption!

Complex information: Diagrams that show a company’s organization, pie charts, and other images that present information graphically must also have alt text provided. It can be tricky to know how to tackle these, because usually you do graphics to make complex information more easily digestible.

For things like pie charts or flow charts that don’t show many steps, you can still describe the image in the alt text window. Just be extremely clear what information leads to others. For pie charts, descriptions should include what it’s for and the percentages per allocated slice. An example is:

Pie chart for [diagramed information] displaying: 49% of funds went to rent, utilities, maintenance; 32% to programs; 16% to staffing; 3% other.

Flow charts can be done much the same way:

Chart shows [item] at head, displaying four branches labeled 1, 2, 3, 4. Down the 1 branch, we have items A, B, and C. Down the 2 branch, we have L, M, N.

For larger pieces such as infographics, consider having a transcript of the whole chart that is available at a well-described link, such as “Click here for transcript of infographic.” (making sure your links are descriptive out of context is also required for WTAG compliance!)

Regardless of how you write the descriptions, making sure to include key terms you want to rank for (when appropriate) will boost your overall SEO. It is a heavy time investment, but the rewards are numerous— including people knowing your company is thinking about multiple types of web users.

Image credit: oatawa

Stethoscope on laptop keyboard

5-Minute SEO Check You Can Do Yourself

Give this a try. Google personalizes search results to individual searchers so the results of your test won’t perfectly scale up to all the possible real-world searches, but it will provide you with an idea of where you stand and where you want be.

Stethoscope on laptop keyboard to diagnose seo

Keywords You Should Be Winning

Write down five keyword phrases you feel that your website should absolutely be found for other than branded terms like your company name or product names. Be specific. If you sell regionally, include your region. If your product addresses a specific need, describe it. For example, “monitoring software” is too general because it doesn’t describe what’s being monitored. “Network monitoring software” would be much better, but one could even go further and add more descriptors such as “free”, “home” or “open source”.

Type Them Into Google

Perform your search and look at the first page of the search results. Are you one of the top three search results? If not, are you elsewhere else in the search results?

If your website is not on the first page, ask yourself if your website has content relevant to this search. If it does, why isn’t it showing up? If you don’t have relevant content, and the keyword phrase is truly important, then you’ve just isolated content that needs to be created. After all, you’ve got to have content about a topic if you wish to be found for that topic.

Are your competitors doing better than you in the search results? If so, you’ll need to find out what they’re doing right so you can act to better compete against them.

Does the search results page feature ads either above the normal results, or along the side? Are your competitors advertising there? If they are, they’ve likely done the math and consider it a good investment. You should consider throwing your hat in the ring as well; otherwise they’re getting visitors that you could be getting.

Does the first page search results page feature any Google+ page results? If so, is your Google+ page listed there? Are your competitors? If you own a local business, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a properly setup Google+ for local business page so you can be featured prominently in this scenario.

Happy With Your Result?

For the searches where you are on the first page, read your website’s search result listing. Do you feel the wording is relevant? Do you feel it will compel people to click on it? Is it more compelling than the other search results?

What specific web page are people being brought to within your search result? Is it the page you’d expect? Is it the best page on your website for your target audience to land on? Does this page satisfy their search and provide them with an excellent experience? Will they likely do what you’d like them to do, such as making a purchase or providing their contact info?

Improving Your Result

If you found deficiencies in your website’s SEO performance, they need to be discussed with your team. There may well be legitimate reasons for what you’re seeing, and that can be part of the conversation. If there truly are problems, shedding light on them opens up the possibility for generating ideas on how to overcome them. If you don’t have in-house SEO staff to handle this, consider getting outside help. A SEO expert can look at your SEO check, further develop the keyword list, conducting searches in a way that isn’t influenced by Google’s personalization of search results. This evaluation will provide you with a much better idea of your website’s SEO performance, and from there you can create a roadmap to get to where you want to be.

PHOTO BY SCANRAIL/ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES

Hand-drawn image that says Time to Update

7 Reasons Why You (Probably) Need a New Website

I spoke with the owner of a manufacturing company recently who asked “why should I invest money in a new website when I already have good clients and I don’t deal with the public?”

 

In another discussion, a client stated, “We need to keep our costs as low as possible, so perhaps we’ll look at a revamping the website next year.”

 

As an experienced marketer, I found it incredible that seasoned and capable managers could have these viewpoints. Obviously, if times are tough and you need to choose between a new website and paying your staff and suppliers, marketing should take a back seat while you hunker down and prioritize payments. However, if you are simply waiting until your cash flow is particularly flush before addressing your website, waiting for the “right” time may be your downfall.

 

An effective website is a crucial piece of your marketing arsenal and shouldn’t be put-off or overlooked as an effective conduit for sales. Despite management’s best intentions, very few websites are actually designed to facilitate the sales process. Simply listing what you do and including a map as to where you are, won’t cut it anymore. The real role of a website is to interest and engage those who aren’t already sold. To educate those who don’t know about your product/service or how it can benefit them. To position your company and product/service favourably with customers and prospects. To initiate or nurture strong relationships.

 

Here are seven reasons why your website is important, and deserves your attention:

 

1) Powerful Prospecting

 

Whatever you sell and whoever you sell it to, your market is doing its research online. Prospects are clarifying product info and qualifying your company as a worthy supplier. If your website isn’t designed and edited to engage viewers and facilitate the sales process, you’re losing potential sales.

 

2) Create Caring Customers

 

We all understand the value of our customers and the importance of nurturing those relationships. Websites are an opportunity to always have the porch light on and the welcome mat out. A warm place where customers can be reminded of what you do, as well as learn about services they had no idea that you provide. It’s easy to take existing clients for granted, so review your website every now and then with a customer-centric point of view and ensure you’re addressing their needs and affirming their decision to do business with you.

 

3) Engage Employees

 

Using your online presence to motivate and retain employees is an important aspect that should go beyond a website application form. Featuring your team online, highlighting social outings, participating in blog articles… there are many ways to involve company staff in the website and welcome them as part of the family.

 

4) Build Brand

 

Brand sets the tone and positions your organization in the minds of your audience. Your website should be a hub for your brand. The design, messaging, and functionality combine to deliver a user-experience that will either support or malign your brand. A strong brand will help you gain sales, recruit talent, attract solid suppliers and please the public; so how is your website supporting your brand?

 

5) Supercharge SEO

 

In order for people to do business with you, they have to first of all, find you. Your website is not only your opportunity to tell your story, but it can serve as the magnet to attract viable prospects, too. Properly setting up your site for SEO and having strategically written content will lead to more traffic based on relevant organic searches. This increases your website’s potential to deliver qualified leads.

 

6) Responsive Design

More and more people are searching the web on their smartphones. In fact, this past Christmas season, Amazon shipped over 3 billion packages and 72% of those orders were made on a mobile device. Whether you have an e-commerce site or a blog, making your website easy to navigate and read is critical. A responsive website adapts to the screen size so laptops, tablets and smartphones can all provide an enjoyable user-experience. It also helps with your Google rank, as the search engine giant appreciates sites that adapt to the users’ screen, and penalizes websites that don’t.

 

7) Accessibility

In some states and provinces, having a website that is accessibility by people with a disability is regulated. In Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) outlines how your website must comply (based on WCAG 2.0 criteria). It covers colours and contrast, size of type, consistency and ease of navigation, Alt text for all images… there’s a long list of design and technical considerations to optimize the user-experience for a variety of users with different abilities. Not only is it good sense to make sure your website can be used by the entire populatin, but now it’s the law.

There are more reasons good reasons to look at what your website can be doing better for you; such as providing fresh content, facilitating administrative actions, creating process efficiencies, polling and intelligence gathering… what would you add this list?

Hand-drawn image that says Time to Update

Image Credit:  IvelinRadkov / Getty Images

Content Creation for Link Building

I’ve spoken about blogging for qualified SEO before, and blogging is an important part of increasing the traffic to your site. However, simply generating the content isn’t enough to be ranking in search. On top of the creation, you have to integrate the content into your website. A simple way to do this is link building.

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credit: gl0ck / gettyimages

Benefits of Link Building

Link building basically means linking your content internally among your own pages. While it’s important not to go overboard— Google will penalize you for putting in too many links, as it realizes you’re trying to trick its algorithm— placing links in relevant portions of your website helps their ranking and drives leads deeper into your website, reading more of your material and, as a result, qualifying themselves.

When you combine link building with a visitor tracking system such as SharpSpring, you gain valuable insight to your website traffic almost impossible to gain without link building.

 

Content Creation Strategy

Link building needs to be a part of your overall sales strategy. Since the primary purpose of producing content is to drive sales, it’s important you work link building into all your online content. This covers your blog posts, along with social media and even the text on your website.

A good link building strategy will holistically address how links fit in everywhere your website, outside of pushing links to social media and inter-linking blog posts. It sets up content management as part of your overall marketing efforts, which, in turn, helps keep you constantly up to date.

 

Maintenance

Now here comes the tricky part— finding time. While the initial effort to do a strategy might be a daunting effort, the resulting maintenance doesn’t have to be. It’s more a case of being aware that it will continue to be part of your link building process.

As you generate content, establish how and when links will be shared, and develop a system where you regularly review what content you want to promote within your website. Depending on how quickly you generate content, you could be looking at reviews every month or every six. Whatever you decide, make sure you use the time to take an inventory of what you’ve produced, how it supports your sales, and adjusting as necessary.

PROSAR content marketing graphic on blackboard

5 Reasons to Use Content Marketing

Content Generation and Content Marketing are current buzzwords and part of a leading marketing trend, but the concept has been around since the dawn of commerce. Content marketing is simply using information strategically to communicate with your market. What has changed since the first messaging merchants is the complexity and scope of that communication and its delivery. So buzzwords or not, a more focused and strategic approach to getting your message out is now critical.

Here are five reasons why you should be taking a structured approach to your content marketing.

 

1. Myriad Touchpoints

The ad guys in Mad Men had it comparatively easy; they could focus on a killer ad campaign knowing that a high percentage of their market would absorb their newspaper, TV and radio ads. Since the halcyon days when a campaign brainstorming required a brain-numbing amount of whisky, the Internet has given the information and communication world a whole new environment. This new landscape is vast, cluttered and omnipresent.

A minority of small companies are treating their websites as strategic communication hubs (unfortunately most are still virtual brochures with a link to their dormant Facebook page). And even if you are paying attention to your website, simply keeping it up-to-date isn’t sufficient. Blogs, online communities, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+… there are myriad touchpoints where your existing and potential market could connect with you. A strategic content marketing plan will determine which are best for your company and what needs to be done to properly support them.

 

2. Consumers Want More Info

The Internet has empowered consumers like never before. They now expect to easily find online all required info about any product or service, as well as reviews, user comments, instructions, how-to videos… in essence they want it all and they want it now. A strategic plan helps you to determine how you can most effectively provide that information in a compelling way.

Early advertising guru David Ogilvy understood the importance of content marketing. He maintained that “the more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.” Ogilvy helped the industry to appreciate the value of understanding your market and providing the right information in an appropriate manner. And even in those simpler times, this Mad Man realized that “Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image.” The fact that the communications and marketing world has become all the more complex underlines the importance of Ogilvy’s insight.

 

3. Open Lines of Communication

In addition to providing you with countless ways to connect with your market, social media and blogs also enable a two-way communication. This may seem daunting but it can be an incredible opportunity. A dialogue with consumers is a direct means to learn from your market and gather valuable information.

Ensure that the bulk of information about your organization online is under corporate stewardship.

 

4. Your Brand is Linked to Your Content

While you are putting good content out there, it is important to also listen to what is being said about you. Scanning the web for mentions and responding swiftly and appropriately has become an important aspect of brand stewardship. Whether you are thanking someone for kind words or a helpful suggestion, or addressing a misperception or mistake; dealing with it publicly and honestly helps you earn loyalty.

Essentially, it all reflects on you (or your organization if you really don’t want to take this personally). I believe that a company’s brand is now formed as much by the unofficial and/or unpaid content online as it is by the paid media and carefully crafted PR. Online, everyone hears you scream — the Internet hears everything said about your company and saves it for anyone to read. Your brand is living 24/7 online and you are probably unaware as to how it’s doing.

 

5. Much of the Content Online is Crap

This proliferation of information on the Internet has bred a lot of poorly researched, badly written and pathetically self-serving crap. (Yes, yes, there is also a ton of really good content, but when you research a purchase online, what percentage of the information is both helpful and well-written?)  So users need to sift through the garbage to find what they are looking for. If you’re churning out less than stellar material, you could be doing more harm than good and actually tarnish your brand.

Conversely, if you are actually producing relevant and readable material, you can help to define your brand as trustworthy and a valued online resource. This positioning moves you a whole lot closer to a buying relationship.

Writing compelling content is not easy, heck, just writing good informative content is challenging. With professional guidance, a strategic plan determines what content you should be producing, what you should be writing, what your staff can do, and what professional marketers/writers should create for you, as well as a schedule to make sure it actually happens. And this structured process makes it much easier to deliver good content.

What would you add to my list of reasons to approach content marketing in a professional manner?

Photo Credit: Getty Images : Cacaroot

man typing on keyboard with ideas floating around his head

Blogging for Qualified SEO

SEO is important for any business, but determining how to best improve it can be a tricky task. One easy way to improve your website, short of an SEO audit and a website revamp, is to regularly blog. Regular blogging gives prospects a reason to return to your website, and can improve your ranking— so long as you purposefully plan your content. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your blogging.

man typing on keyboard with ideas floating around his head
credit: Federico Caputo / getty images

1. Set a goal and a strategy

Start with your end goal in mind. In a sentence or two (or less!) you should be able to explain exactly what your blogging strategy is supposed to accomplish. How is this content helping reach your business objectives? Talk with your team and do what you can together to ensure the goal is as clear as possible. No piece of content should be random or lacking purpose, even if it’s a short blog. Really examine your sales process to determine how you can use blogging to support it, and how you want to drive people through your funnel.

 

2. Make sure the pieces support the goal

Higher ranking SEO might get more people to your website, but that isn’t as important as getting the right people to your website. If you’re blogging just for the sake of it, without putting your sales goal to the forefront, your SEO efforts won’t provide as much return as they could. Have benchmarks and review points in place to adjust your blogging strategy, and make sure to review every piece so it does the best job it can.

 

3. Use inbound marketing techniques to further your sales

Once you’ve written the content that gets more qualified buyers to your site, you have to continue nurturing them along your sales funnel. If you’ve properly set up goals, you should know where to drive your leads for the next stage of the buying process. Setting up CTAs is the easiest way to do this, but depending on your overreaching content strategy, you could use individual blog posts in a multitude of ways.

 

4. Continue improving the rest of your online presence

Blogging is only one part of a content strategy, which, ideally, covers everything you produce— from website pages to social media posts. While blogging can generate an improvement, you need to make sure all of your content strategy is optimized to drive qualified leads to your sales team. You can do this yourself or hire an external agency, freeing up your resources to work on further nurturing those sales instead of trying to keep up to the constantly-moving target that is SEO.

The ABCs of SEO: A Project Manager’s Perspective

To say that there is a lot to know about SEO is quite an understatement. For not only is there a great deal of knowledge, skill and experience required to be truly competent at planning and managing SEO campaigns, but the rules keep changing. Google is constantly changing the landscape, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically, but each new algorithm can drastically influence the effectiveness of your efforts. Mastering SEO is like going to school, and the class never ends.

That being said — and acknowledging upfront my ignorance to the wild inner-workings of Google’s algorithms and how to tame them — this article deals with a top-level approach to SEO.

Whether you work for an agency, a small enterprise, an international conglomerate, or a non-profit organization, SEO is one of the tools you use to improve your online presence. If it isn’t, it should be. Virtually every organization these days benefits from a strong online presence, and SEO is an integral part of the online marketing mix. But what do you know about SEO and are you confident in how to approach it? Hiring knowledgeable people is an excellent first step, but you still need to be able to manage these people, as well as your company’s expectations.

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We’ll start with a quick clarification, SEO can include the following tactics:

– Organic: Writing strategic content (web pages, blogs, white papers, social media, etc.) to help your website rank higher in searches.

– PPC (Pay Per Click): Paying Google (and other search engines) for keywords and ads to drive interested traffic to your website.

– Advertising: Paying other websites and online publications for banners and other online ads to drive interested traffic to your website.

[NB  Paid efforts can also be referred to as Search Engine Marketing or SEM.]

Here are three important criteria for project managers when considering SEO. Your staff, contract workers or agency should be able to explain and address each of these areas to your satisfaction.

 

Accountability

First and foremost is getting results. So what do you need to provide I order for your SEO efforts to be successful? Your agency, or inside team need guidance and information to direct their strategy and tactics. Consider the specific campaign objectives, areas of focus, targeted markets (demographic, geographic, industry), content, keywords and budget.

Then, what should you expect from your agency or staff? They will quantify your objectives (how many leads, submissions, page views, clicks, etc. are required to meet your objectives), perform keyword research and assessment, create/edit targeted content, design/write ads, create an implementation plan, provide ongoing monitoring and reports with recommendations. Working as a team, you will constantly refine and add to the tactics and work closer to your objectives.

Note that SEO is not a quick fix. Attracting new traffic with content is essential and long-term, but may take months to have a measurable effect. Even PPC and ads, which can generate traffic quickly, typically take some time to consistently drive the right audience to your website. Moving the new web traffic through your funnel, or nurturing the desired behaviour (e.g. register for a course, ask for a quote), is also a process that takes time to prefect.

 

Benefits

A marketing rule of thumb is that no-one does anything with receiving some form of benefit. It may more altruistic than “What’s in it for me?,” but there needs to be some form of gratification or reward to encourage action.

Consider how your targeted markets will benefit from engaging with you and articulate that clearly and in a compelling manner. Look at each action you would like your new web traffic to take (e.g. clicking through to website, clicking on a CTA/banner, signing up for your blog or e-newsletter, asking for a quote) and provide some incentive to help them along the path.

 

Congruency

Some see the ultimate objective of SEO to drive more traffic to your website; of course, it’s more sophisticated than that. Increasing traffic is a step towards developing business, so certainly it is important, but you need to attract the key audiences that fit your ideal personas. So, if you’re an organization that is focused on serving parents of elementary school kids, you’ll only be successful if a good portion of that new web traffic fits that demographic.

Beyond the audience you attract, your SEO initiatives must represent, and ideally promote, your brand (which should already take into consideration your mission vision, etc.). Organic, PPC or advertising all revolve around content. Ensure that the tone, vocabulary and information presented all embrace your organizational brand and culture. Even if one of those parents mentioned above does not click through to your website, you’ve had an awareness and branding opportunity to positively position your organization in their mind; maybe next time they will click through.

And, of course, your SEO efforts need to flow with any other marketing and advertising campaigns your organization is running. Not just from a brand perspective, even theme. You may be able to increase the effectiveness by leveraging the theme from an existing campaign.

What would you add to this list of important criteria for a project manager to consider when employing SEO? Add your thoughts to comments below.

SEO Plugins: Do they Help or Hinder?

What if the only thing your tax accountant could do was add?

What if the only thing your auto mechanic could do was change spark plugs?

What if the only thing your doctor could do was provide band aids?

I ask you these questions so you can consider how important it is to recognise limitations and to be careful about not getting lulled into a false sense of security. SEO plugins are very popular. Many people believe SEO plugins are all that’s required for SEO success. Although it’s true that SEO plugins are helpful when used properly, there’s a danger they’ll hinder the effectiveness of your SEO, and possibly of your overall marketing efforts.

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Photo Credit: Thinkstock-482951451

SEO Plugins Are Good for Helping with Specific Tasks

Many content management systems, such as WordPress, don’t give you ready access to control the properties of your website that could help you influence your performance in the search results. That’s why there are SEO plugins. They provide you with this extra functionality.

With them, you can do things at the individual page level such as:

  • Implement a title tag that’s different than your page title.
  • Implement a meta description tag without having to go into the html code

Some SEO plugins also provide advanced options such as:

  • The creation of XML sitemaps so search engines can more easily discover your entire website
  • The creation of specific instructions for how search engines are to crawl and index your website

SEO Plugins Don’t Replace SEO Strategy and Actual Work

To create an effective SEO strategy, one needs to understand what potential clients are searching for. This involves an understanding of their needs and how the website’s offerings meet those needs. Then keyword research can be done to bridge the two. Without keyword research, the keywords implemented into your on-page SEO elements are baseless and possibly ineffective. Skipping the keyword process and jumping to on-page SEO elements is like putting the cart before the horse.

SEO plugins often provide feedback, such as scores, that are meant to reflect a web page’s SEO strength. This is fine as long as we remember to recognise the limitations. This tool can’t factor in how the page is meant to fit within an overall SEO strategy. Case in point: People often forget that you not only want your search result to appear in front of a lot of eyes, you also want a lot of people to click through to your website, and to be satisfied with what they get when they arrive. An automated SEO score may give you a poor score for not putting your keyword in your meta description, but the true priority of the meta description is to provide the best possible sales pitch to entice people to click on the search result and move on through the sales process. This can be done with our without the keyword.

There’s something else you need to be aware of.  Be very careful about using the advanced features of SEO plugins. Changing these settings could cause serious unintentional consequences, such as making your website invisible to search engines. If something like this were to happen, and it’s not immediately traced back to the SEO plugin setting, a lot of time and money may be spent trying to resolve the problem.

SEO Plugins Can Hinder Marketing Efforts

As mentioned, the lack of proper keyword research before implementing on-page SEO elements can cause problems. Here are some more:

  • Time gets wasted – If the person who gets tasked with this doesn’t have a decent understanding of SEO, their time will be spent trying anything to get a good score or a green light. This is time that would be better spent doing other marketing activities.
  • Marketing messages get restrained or derailed – the person tasked with this could make changes to page content that will end up disrupting the journey you intend the visitor to make towards becoming a customer.

Nobody wants to see bad scores or red warning lights, even if there’s a reasonable explanation. This, as we can see, can lead to problems. It helps in moments like this to take a step back and look at the big picture. Truly successful companies know that every decision and every action must properly align with the overall mission of the business. If they don’t, then why do them? Will fussing to make all the SEO plugin’s lights turn green contribute to the success of the company? I think not.

So, Help or Hinder?

SEO plugins have the potential to do either, or perhaps both at the same time. Therefore I recommend using them to do specific tasks, but take their “analysis” or “advice” with skepticism. Don’t take it literally, or you may compromise actual quality.

Keyword research is so fundamental to effective SEO, it really ought to be done by someone who knows what they’re doing. In regards to on-page SEO, if you don’t have access to a SEO professional, it’s a good idea to provide your staff with a guide regarding on-page SEO best practices so they can have the proper context for the various tactics.

Alphabet Soup: SEO and AODA

The web can often feel like a sea of acronyms, and this is no different. SEO might be slightly familiar as Search Engine Optimization — making your websites more visible when people search for key terms— but AODA is a new kid on the block for Ontarians. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act sets to make companies think about disabled individuals and how to expand their accommodations to suit various needs, including how easily understood websites are.

All web content must be accessible by January 1, 2021, and private companies with over 50 employees must have all their content accessible already. Outside of legal reasons, accessible websites are good practice in general. The disabled population is a viable and untapped market, and an accessible website can be the difference between reaching that market and not.

Complying with AODA doesn’t just help you reach new markets — it helps your SEO, as well. In fact, screen readers and Google use pretty similar processes for navigating websites. Google’s commitment to accessibility means they favour sites that go the extra mile.

Here are three ways to use SEO to reach AODA compliance:

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1- Site Maps

Creating a site map means screen readers know how to reach the page their users want to reach the most quickly, and are an SEO goldmine. By having a site map, you give everyone an easily read path to where they want to go, and people become less frustrated navigating.

While it can be heavily involved to make a site map, the payoffs are huge both on the accessibility and the SEO front. If this is on your ‘later’ list, consider pushing it up.

2- Alternate Image Text

Images are everywhere on the web, from buttons to coupons. While they provide engaging visual interest, they are completely unreadable to both search engines and screen readers. If you neglect to add alternate text, then search engines have less content to use in evaluating your site, and individuals could miss out.

Again, this is another heavily involved task, which means prioritizing is key. You don’t need to provide alternate text for all your images, but focusing on submit buttons, coupons, and images that click through to other pages or downloads will get you the most bang for your accessibility and SEO buck.

3- Descriptive Headings and Custom Page Titles

Search engines love custom page titles, because it proves relevancy for the content in the header. Screen reader users love them for the same reason — they know what they are clicking on as it is being read to them. This lowers frustration and allows people to use your site more easily.

Takeaway

Complying with AODA benefits everyone. By following three simple steps, you boost your SEO, and help make it everyone can enjoy using the internet. If you’re using WordPress for your site, you can follow tips outlined in this article to do even more for people with disabilities.