Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Googlebot : accessibility in SEO clothing

You might think this an odd title.  I'm currently doing a makeover for a clients website.  At the end of four hours of CSS tinkering I was very proud to say the site looks exactly the same.  That is, of course, until you disable the CSS and see a lovely clear page of sequential text and links.  The original site looked pretty much the same with the CSS on or off and that was the problem.  This change isn't the consequence of my clients new born interest in accessibility.  It would be unfair to say my client doesn't care about accessibility but it would be fair to say he would find it hard to justify spending money to make the site more accessibile.  What my client has become very interested in is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).  This is where you focus on changes to your website that will provide a better page ranking in Google.  The client thought SEO was important enough to engage a company that specialises in this dark art.  My changes to the site are the result of the SEO's report.  What I found fascinating is that most of the issues raised in the report are exactly the same issues that I would raise from an accessibility perspective.  That is they are about semantically correct HTML.  That seemed a little odd until I realised that Google's official site auditor is blind.  The Googlebot can't see your site.  It can only read your site and interpret what it thinks the site is about.  The sad fact is that most of the worlds successful websites only care about one blind user : the Googlebot.  Therefore if Google did nothing else to promote site accessibility than provide the world with a search engine then it is doing more for accessibility than any other company in the world.  For the rest of us we can stop trying to get our clients interested in accessibility.  Instead we can work on getting them excited about SEO knowing the outcome will be exactly the same.

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