The alleged SEO benefits of webfonts

Anyway, I went to the breakfast presentation for webfonts Saturday morning. There were some stuff in the first half of the presentation that I didn’t know before (such as the need to tweak the actual outlines to adapt fonts for web use — something reiterated by Jonathan Hoefler later in the afternoon). However, one thing specifically caught my attention: the mention of the “SEO” benefits of webfonts.

I was thinking: seriously, if any site found any “SEO benefits” after deploying webfonts, then they had not done images right in the first place. If they had done images correctly, then webfonts should provide no “SEO benefits”.

(Since doing images right is really a requirement for HTML 4, not doing images right really means having (semantically) invalid HTML. If the HTML is invalid, then of course the site will have SEO issues. Webfonts then can be thought of as a way to force the site owner to replace the invalid HTML with something valid; but saying that it, per se, confers some sort of SEO benefit is just silly.)

Perhaps they had mentioned also Flash — I was eating and wasn’t particularly paying a lot of attention. But personally I consider Flash to be usually outright wrong. If Flash was the issue, then they had more than SEO to worry about.

Really, unless we are getting into the black-hat stuff, SEO issues really are just accessibility issues. As such, thinking in terms of SEO really is the wrong way to think about the problem. The correct way to think is in terms of accessibility: How we should adapt a web site so that it can be made accessible to the widest possible audience? When this is done right, the site will automatically be made accessible also the web crawlers as well.

I personally have nothing good to say about SEO. I wouldn’t say relating webfonts and SEO is wrong per se, but claiming webfonts to provide SEO benefits without elaborating on the details is, let’s say, certainly somewhat misleading.


This is just a random jotting down of a couple of short comments; I am posting them here only because they are too long for Twitter.