This blog is written by Jess, one of my team’s intrepid interns.
Individual websites are a valuable tool for politicians to reach many constituents as possible, offering the most accurate and updated information on their work in office in a way that’s quick and easily accessible for anyone with an internet connection. One of the projects I’m working on this summer is increasing accessibility of Jo’s policies and ideas through her website, both by adding content constituents have asked to see and by working on the more technical side to make the site more searchable.
We heard from constituents that navigating the co-sponsored bills page on the Massachusetts Legislature website was confusing and dense, which made the content inaccessible. Responding to those concerns, Jo’s co-sponsored bills have now been categorized by issue (and in some cases, split by House and Senate) and added to their respective issue pages, alongside existing links to her sponsored bills.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engines work by using algorithms to sort, understand, and rank web pages to give users the most relevant results. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, simply means creating a website with a format and code that’s easy for search engines to find and understand, and in doing so ranking your website higher in search results.
SEO is an ongoing process; in finding this website, you may have noticed that many basic search phrases like “Senator Jo Comerford,” or even “Jo Comerford website” bring up either her campaign website or articles talking about her or her website, rather than this website itself. In fact, you hardly ever see this website on the first page of search results without including very specific terms (think “The People’s Blog,” or other niche pages). When the most comprehensive website is virtually un-searchable, this is a problem when it comes to reaching constituents and keeping people informed.
I have been hard at work behind the scenes to optimize pages, their keywords, and their descriptions to make this website, with the most relevant information, the easiest to find. While it’s not perfect yet, Jo’s office and I hope to make use of this technology to increase accessibility to Jo’s ongoing work in the Senate.
Interested in learning more about SEO? Check out this website!
Alt text, like SEO, is another method to make content both easier to find and more accessible to everyone. Alt text is an attribute embedded in the image’s code that describes the image in more detail than just the title. In cases where the image cannot be displayed, the alt text will take its place, allowing visitors to the site to see a description of what the image would have been. It also allows individuals using screen readers to hear the image described to them, even if they cannot see it.
Search engines can also pick up on alt text, so a good description will allow their algorithms to parse an image’s content much faster and subsequently rank it higher in searches. Having images appear higher in search results is generally good for website traffic, and ensuring that content is understandable to all is an important accessibility measure. Like SEO, describing a backlog of images is an ongoing process, but we aim to have all images appropriately described as soon as possible.
Interested in learning more about alt text? Check out this website!
If you have any questions or suggestions for the website, email Sam at email@example.com.