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The links between accessibility and search marketing are frequently explored: creating a universally accessible website has a number of significant benefits for search marketing. After all, many of the features which make a website accessible (using text instead of images, ensuring the ability of non-visual tools to fully access content, etc.) are also characteristics of a website which has been optimized for search.

However, there’s a huge difference between search engine optimization and search engine friendly. What most accessible developers create are search engine friendly sites, not optimized sites.

Stoney de Geyter wrote on this issue from a search marketing perspective at Search Engine Guide today, commenting that:

A good developer can do that job well, but mostly they do it to function for the user, not perform for the search engines.

This is very true, and it absolutely describes the kind of development I focus on. I do have a pretty extensive knowledge of search engine optimization, and absolutely incorporate aspects of optimization when I develop a website. However, what I’m actually creating is a search friendly document.

5 Differences between Optimized and Friendly

1. An Optimized page has carefully researched and tested page titles and descriptions which perform well in search engines. A Friendly page has well-written unique page titles and descriptions which explain the page simply and accurately.

2. An Optimized page has content carefully written to incorporate key phrases which, on the basis of research, will help the site convert search visitors better. A Friendly page has content which has been carefully written to be clear and understandable to the widest possible range of people.

3. An Optimized page is designed to influence visitors to follow navigation paths which drive them to accomplish conversion tasks: sales, registrations, or sales queries. A Friendly page has made certain that all navigation paths are followable by a search engine to make certain that all important pages can be indexed.

4. An Optimized site is the product of months or years of research into what provides the best results for search visits and conversions combined. A Friendly site is the product of a development process which has taken all the technological issues which could reduce search relevance into consideration: robots.txt, correctly formatted redirects, etc.

5. An Optimized site is the result of extensive research. It requires a statistical basis which keeps track of user behavior. A Friendly site is the result of technical expertise which takes into careful consideration the many issues which can get in the way of optimization.

These are crucial distinguishing points. As an accessible web designer, I make a point to prepare a website which is search engine friendly. It is not part of the process to optimize the site, however. That is a separate, long-term task which, although it depends on “friendly” web construction, is ultimately based on statistics. Accessible or search-friendly design, while influenced by existing knowledge of what helps optimize a website, is based on criteria concerning the ability of users (or devices) to access the site.