How Making Your Website Accessible Improves Your SEO
A common misconception that prevails about website accessibility is that it gets in the way of SEO. This, however, could not be more untrue. Web accessibility and SEO actually overlap in many ways, and by prioritizing accessibility, a website can even improve its own rankings while opening up to differently-abled internet users.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are specific legal requirements that a website must fulfill to be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust for users with different audio-visual, motor, or neurological abilities.
There have been multiple cases in the recent past of businesses, big and small, getting sued by internet users with disabilities for not following the WCAG compliance guidelines and providing a suitably accessible experience.
Google has a set of guidelines that explain how site structure and content can be made more accessible. Here is how these guidelines can help your SEO too:
This refers to the order in which different tabs, buttons, and menu items are laid out on your website. For visually impaired users, navigation typically happens via keyboard rather than a mouse or touchscreen, which means that they have to count on the logic of site hierarchy to navigate with keys such as “Tab” (to move along a menu or toolbar), “arrow keys” and “Return/Enter” (to select their preferred option).
This might sound like a many of work for your web designers, but it is actually just basic logic that will improve the browsing experience for any user, differently-abled or not. For instance, does the order of items on a dropdown menu make sense?
How easy is it to navigate essential pages such as Checkout, Product Catalog, or Contact Information? Google’s algorithm uses crawlers that check for all of these things and more and accordingly give your site a rank based on how easy navigation is.
For this reason, it is crucial to focus on not only an individual page’s content but also the role the page plays in the overall structure of the website.
1. Page structure
This refers to the use of meaningful subheadings and a clickable table of contents to quickly get to a specific subhead. Phrasing these subheads in simple language is essential, as many users count on screen readers to help them read through a site.
However, this also has SEO implications, optimizing your subheadings for keywords and using unambiguous language that tells site crawlers exactly what the subheading is about, improving your rankings.
To generate a clickable table of contents, you can use plugins that automatically create it for you based on how you have used H2 and H3 subheadings. Tables of contents generate “Jump to” links in your website’s search snippet, thereby increasing the click-through rate.
2. Audio/video transcripts
For audio-visually impaired users, high-quality video transcripts that tell them precisely what is happening in the video are critical parts of the browsing experience.
Besides, transcripts tell the site crawlers what your video is about (as they cannot analyze the video itself) and help them conveniently determine whether the video is relevant to your site content.
Be sure to upload transcript files that play along with what is being said on the video screen and be downloaded to read at their ease. Several tools can automatically convert your audio/video content into transcripts.
3. Alt text
Alt text explains to users with a screen reader what the contents of a particular image are. Moreover, just like video transcripts, alt text helps site crawlers understand what the image is about and whether it is relevant.
Be sure to add intelligible alt tags to all your images, including relevant keywords wherever possible. An excellent way to test how comprehensible the alt tags are is by navigating the entire site with a screen-reader and seeing whether the alt tags make sense in the context of the rest of the content.
If going manually from page to page is complicated, AI-powered tools can do it for you. And if there are any purely decorative images, you can set the alt tag to null (alt”) so that the screen reader (and the site crawler) ignores it.
4. Links and anchor text
That broken or spammy links negatively affect site SEO is commonly known, but anchor text plays a big part in this too. Anchor text explains to users navigating with a screen reader what a particular link is about.
So, instead of something vague like ‘Click Here’, good anchor text would go along the lines of ‘click here to read more about our sustainability practices’.
Apart from making things clearer for differently-abled users, anchor text also allows you to add keywords and thus help site crawlers give you a higher spot on that keyword’s rankings.
5. Site readability
Readability involves using clear, simple language to explain your website content, including short sentences, simple words, and clear definitions for any business terms or local slang that not everyone might know about.
While this certainly helps users with different neurological, verbal, and visual processing abilities, content accessibility also boosts your SEO rankings.
Your chances of appearing in Google’s featured answers at the top of search results go up, as do your voice search rankings (which call for easy wording and sentence structure to transfer the message intelligibly to a human listener).
Some websites already have content readability perfectly integrated into their structure, such as content creation platforms that match client requirements to different writing styles and levels. This plays a massive role in improving their SEO.
So, an excellent place to start is by adding readability level plugins that assess your content for difficulty levels and point out ways to simplify it. Yoast, for instance, has a free readability assessment tool. However, it is essential to remember that stuffing your content with keywords will hurt your rankings, so be sure to keep your sentences coherent.
Wrapping it up
Ultimately, web accessibility is nothing but making your website easier to understand and easier to navigate – which is essentially what SEO is about too. There is thus a clear business case for making accessibility a priority in your website management today.
About The Author –
Gaurav Belani is a senior SEO and a content marketing analyst in Growfusely, a content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO. He has higher than seven years of experience in digital marketing. He likes sharing his knowledge in a broad range of domains ranging from eCommerce, startups, social media marketing to human capital management, and many more. His work is featured in many authoritative SEO and business publications. Connect with him on Twitter @belanigaurav