The concept of web accessibility has been gaining traction among web developers and digital marketers alike.
With 1 in 4 Americans living with a disability, it’s imperative to ensure that your website is accessible. Otherwise, you’ll be alienating a huge chunk of your target demographic. Also, it could land your business in a legal quagmire, involving expensive lawsuits and penalties.
Despite understanding the importance of having an accessible website, many marketers and business owners hesitate to take the plunge.
You might be under the assumption that making your website accessible to visitors with disabilities could drive other users away. That, in turn, could take a toll on your website’s traffic, conversion rates, and search engine rankings.
What you don’t realize is that accessible web design doesn’t require any extra steps. Everything that you do to make your website more useful for visitors and search engines could also enhance accessibility.
On-Page SEO and Accessibility: What’s the Connection?
The ultimate goal of on-page search engine optimization (SEO) is to improve the content, layout, navigation, and other aspects of a web page to attract and retain organic traffic.
On the other hand, accessible web design focuses on ensuring that people with visual, auditory, sensory, or mobile impairments can browse your website, and take the necessary actions.
If you’ve already outlined an on page SEO template, chances are you’re already working on the following aspects of your website:
- Content structure and hierarchy
- User experience
- Site speed
- Structured data
- Website navigation
Each of the above elements also makes your website more accessible to people with disabilities.
For instance, straightforward site architecture and detailed XML sitemap help screen readers navigate your website. That, in turn, lets people with visual impairments understand and utilize the contents of a web page.
Similarly, adding structured data to a web page helps both search engines and assistive devices identify individual elements.
So, how do you go about making your website accessible and search engine-friendly? Let’s find out.
Accessible Web Design and Its SEO Benefits
Building an accessible website isn’t rocket science. It involves simple changes that make your website easy to understand, navigate, and utilize.
If you’re just getting started, here are a few techniques you can use to enhance web accessibility:
1. Focus on User Experience (UX)
High speed, straightforward navigation, and a simple layout – these are the first things that’ll come to your mind when you think about great UX design.
All these elements are important from an accessibility perspective too. The key is to simplify your website’s UX, so that users with visual, sensory, and motor impairments can browse it.
Use large font sizes that are easily readable on small screens (smartphones and tablets). Maintain a high contrast ratio between the text and background.
Judiciously utilize white space to highlight important information. Avoid flooding a web page with too many striking visuals.
Top-notch UX is one of the founding pillars of a successful on-page SEO template.
Nothing turns away visitors faster than a poorly designed web page that takes too long to load. Similarly, illegible text, unresponsive visuals, and complex navigation can take a toll on your website’s engagement rates.
Improving website UX helps you grab the attention of visitors, and improves metrics, such as bounce rate and pages per session. That, in turn, amplifies search engine rankings.
2. Add an Alt Text
The alt text or alt tag is a textual alternative to visual web elements, such as images, animations, GIFs, and videos.
Screen readers read out the alt text to help people with visual impairments understand the content of a picture/information.
That emphasizes the importance of adding descriptive, easy-to-understand, and concise alt text to every visual element on your website.
Make sure the alt text clearly conveys the subject matter of the corresponding image/video/animation.
Meaningful and keyword-rich alt text is integral to every on-page SEO checklist. As with screen readers, the alt text helps search engine spiders understand what an image is all about.
That, in turn, helps them evaluate the relevance of an image to a keyword and feature it in the respective search results.
It’s a simple and effective way of making it to rich results, image search, and the knowledge graph on Google.
Image via Google
3. Include Transcripts for Audio and Video
Much like the alt text, video transcripts go a long way to make your website accessible to people with partial or complete vision loss.
Similarly, they help visitors with impaired hearing understand the content of video and clips on your website.
Transcripts contain vital information about all the dialogues, actions, and sound effects in a media file.
Make sure every audio and video clip on your website is accompanied by a downloadable transcript. Alternatively, you can turn the file’s content into a detailed blog post.
Here’s how Moz utilizes video transcripts for their Whiteboard Friday series:
Image via Moz
Transcripts are beneficial to on-page SEO for the same reasons as alt text.
Unlike subtitles, transcripts can be interpreted by search engines to understand the subject matter of a video/audio clip.
That, in turn, helps improve your content’s relevance to a particular topic and keyword.
4. Prioritize Content Structure
Clever use of subheadings is content writing 101. H2s, H3s, H4s, and so on help divide your content into meaningful sections. They enhance readability and scannability for visitors using screen readers.
Before writing web content, make sure you outline a concrete structure with hierarchical subheadings.
Use each subheading to convey what the corresponding section is all about. Keep the subheadings short, crisp, and easy to read. Follow a logical sequence of H2, H3, H4, etc.
Subheadings are used by search engine spiders to scan your content and understand its meaning. Well-optimized subheadings also improve keyword prominence and density.
The best part is subheadings are often used to generate featured snippets in Google search results.
Image via Google
SEO and Web Accessibility: Final Takeaways
The fundamentals of accessible web design are the same as those of an on-page SEO checklist. From alt text and transcripts to user experience and content structure – making your website accessible directly translates to more traffic, better engagement, and higher rankings.