Web Accessibility is the First Pillar of SEO

Find out the secret sauce to website accessibility in the first of Smart Marketing's new podcast series: The Six Pillars of SEO.

by Jason Bagley

Inbound Marketing | Podcast | SEO

| 7 min read

In this episode of the Smart Marketing podcast, Jason Bagley and Justin Lester discuss the importance of accessible websites for SEO.

From our discussion, you will learn about CMS, sitemaps, robots.txt files, crawlability, and site searches. If you’re starting out and have a new website, this episode will help you understand the fundamentals of search engine crawlers and optimizing your site for accessibility.

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About the Smart Marketing podcast

Whether you’re a business owner, seasoned marketing professional, or just starting out, the Smart Marketing podcast will help advance your knowledge by sharing the latest in SEO, paid advertising, email marketing, content marketing, social media, and conversion optimization.

Your hosts — Jason Bagley and Justin Lester — bring you regular, actionable digital marketing tips, tactics, and strategies that you can use to improve your marketing. 

Jason Bagley is the VP of Digital Strategy for SiteCare and Justin Lester, the founder of Ruby Digital, a digital marketing agency from Cape Town, South Africa.


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Full Episode Transcript

Justin:
Hi Jason.

Jason:
Hey Justin, how are you doing my man?

Justin:
All good brother. All good. So today, we’re going to be talking about the first and most important step of SEO. So this is kind of the first part in a six-part series. We spoke before about the six pillars of SEO and how SEO could really be summed up in one simple idea.

Justin:
And this is really the first pillar. And as we spoke about, the first pillar is making sure that your website is accessible. It sounds simple, but the reality is, if Google can’t access your content and access a website, you can’t be considered to be put in the search results. And the way that we do that is… What’s the first one, Jason?

Jason:
Okay yeah, so I think the thing just to preface this is to say, it doesn’t mean just because you can type in your URL into your browser and you could see your website, doesn’t mean that Google can see your website. Just remember there’s a distinction there, okay? But the key though, so let’s get into this in terms of making your site as accessible as possible and making sure it can be found. So I think the keys, the first one here we’ve written is obviously using a well-known CMS, which is a content management system, which is what you use to build your website with. Obviously WordPress being the biggest, it’s power is about 35% of the web. There’s a whole bunch of others, there’s Wix and Squarespace and Webflow and, and, and. It goes on and on and on. But obviously, if you’re going to take SEO seriously, and you’re going to be focusing on it a lot, WordPress is obviously a really good platform to do that with.

Jason:
So, yeah, I’d recommend starting there, but the others are also just as good. But I think WordPress, you do have the most control over in terms of how to go about SEO and a whole bunch of other things. So that’s number one: having a CMS that you can make changes to in order to make your site accessible. So that’s the first part, which ties into the next one, is you need a site map. So the site map is legitimately just a list of links or a list of pages that is on your website, which is a site map. And Google uses that to know which pages you have on your website, simple. And the easiest way to do that, there’s a plugin for WordPress called Yoast. It’s like toast with a ‘W’… I mean with a ‘Y’, sorry.

Justin:
Woast.

Jason:
I always think of toast when I think about Yoast, but anyway.

Justin:
Me too, it’s weird.

Jason:
Yeah, so the Yoast plugin, everybody knows it from an SEO perspective, that thing, you install it, it’s free. There’s a button, you click the button, it says “generate sitemap”. It’ll keep that sitemap up to date, so it will keep on generating that file, so as you add new blog posts or new pages, that sitemap file gets updated automatically for you. And that’s what you would use, which Justin will touch on in a bit: what to do with it.

Jason:
And then, I think the last part of this sort of entry point with this Yoast plugin, it has a whole bunch of things, but the first part being one’s sitemap, the second one is it can help you create a robots.txt file. Also, a very simple file that sits on your website that also Google…It’s like the rules. It’s the rules that Google will follow when looking at your website. So there are websites that people do not want Google to index and show anything on their search results. And you would use your robots.txt file to say, “Hey, Google, do not list my site in your results.”

Jason:
Obviously, we’re on the opposite, we want them to do that. So Yoast will have a very easy way to edit your robots.txt file, but also just make sure you’ve got one, so that Google can be like, “Okay, this is good. Let me continue doing what I do.”

Justin:
Yeah. I mean, an example of why is, let’s say, if you’ve got something in the backend, like behind the login portal, you don’t want to be able to have Google show that. Or if you’ve got a special landing page or duplicate landing page, you don’t want it to access that either, so yeah…

Justin:
The next one is to be mindful that Google can’t read images, so if for some reason you decide you’re going to put text into images or display text in the form of images, bear in mind that it’s not just about accessing your website, but able to also access the content. So just factor that in, it’s something we still see websites do, strangely enough.

Justin:
The next one is to install Search Console. Search Console, it used to be known as Webmaster Tools, this is really the centralized portal that you’re able to communicate with Google. [It] allows you to communicate with Google, and they’ll also provide you with if there are any issues with being able to access your website and it guides you there. In order to install Search Console, going back to Jason’s point, Yoast really, really facilitates this and makes it super easy. So again, I would definitely recommend that.

Justin:
And then, once all of that is said and done, if you want to just double-check and make sure that you’ve done everything correctly, the way to ensure that everything’s worked, go into Google, type in site, colon, your website name [site: ‘your website name’], and what you do is you just check to see that Google, it’ll tell you, X number of pages results found. I mean, you should have a good idea of how many pages you have on your website and just make sure that those two numbers are accurate. And if they are, then you have followed and executed on the first and most important step of SEO, which is Google being able to access it. And that is that. All right.

Jason:
So to sum that up, just quite simply is: make sure you’ve got an easy to use platform that you can edit your website with. Make sure you have a sitemap, so Google can find your pages, make sure you’re not blocking any pages, or you’re not blocking your site with the robots.txt file and to have a good communication, to have good comms with Google, make sure you use Google Search Console. And I think if you start with those, most important things, checking the most important things, you should be off to a very good start.

Justin:
Cool. All right, guys. Well, listen, if you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, you know what to do, thumbs up, all the good stuff and yeah, we look forward to you guys joining us for the next episode. We will be discussing the second pillar. Thanks a lot.

Jason:
Peace.

Jason Bagley | Vice President, Digital Strategy