Founder and CEO of Equally AI, a world-class, secured, convenient, and modern web accessibility experience for beneficiaries and businesses.
Web accessibility compliance has a strong business case. I dare say search engine optimization ranks highest on the list of benefits it offers.
Simply put, SEO is a set of activities that increases traffic to your website from major search engines such as Google or Bing. Having a website that follows SEO best practices is a big part of increasing organic traffic.
These best practices, which range from quality content to design best practices, are likewise recommended practices in web accessibility compliance.
This article looks at how you can improve your web accessibility compliance and, in turn, help your website rank higher in search engines.
1. Use descriptive alt text.
Alternative, or “alt,” text refers to text that describes the content of an image. It provides context to search engines by revealing the purpose of the image and what it displays to the user. Search engines can rank your website higher when they understand your content and believe users will find it useful. This is also really great for accessibility.
People who are blind often navigate websites using screen readers. Screen readers are a sort of assistive technology that reads content from a screen to the user. For the content being read to be coherent and intelligible to someone who is blind, it has to be descriptive. That’s where alt text comes in handy.
Good alt text also ensures search engines can accurately categorize the content surrounding the image and perhaps the page itself, thereby helping your SEO.
2. Consider accessible design best practices to improve the user experience.
User experience on a website is key to retaining customers and maintaining a reasonably low bounce rate. Does a good UX directly improve rankings on search engines like Google? Probably not. But the better your UX, the more time people will spend on your web pages, which can signal to Google that your website most likely satisfies searcher intent. This is what can help you earn a boost in your search rankings.
Accessible websites should aim for intuitiveness and affordances that come from standard practices, such as:
• Using responsive designs;
• Placing your logo at the top left of a page;
• Optimizing web pages to load quickly.
3. Add video transcriptions to improve your chances of being indexed.
Videos are an increasingly important content marketing type. A video transcription is a written version of a video file. Transcriptions are like the video equivalent of alt text, if you will. Video transcripts are great for accessibility because they make videos accessible to a broad range of individuals, including:
• People with hearing and visual impairments;
• Low-bandwidth users;
• Visitors who are photosensitive;
• Individuals in noisy environments.
As explained in the alt text section, video transcripts should provide a full description of video content. This makes it easy for search engines to categorize and index web pages with videos.
4. Use good heading structures.
The use of proper heading structure (H1 to H6) ensures that web page structures are clearly defined in order of importance of sections. A web page can typically have only one H1 element. Subsequent headings might range from H2 to H6.
Clear headers can help people with cognitive disabilities or poor reading ability select which portions are worth reading and which they should skip. Also, website visitors who use screen readers can rely on a structured header flow to have a good website experience. This is because screen readers enable them to skip through headers to the more important sections of a web page.
5. Leverage Semantic HTML and ARIA to provide context to search engines.
Semantic HTML refers to the use of contextually accurate HTML tags to mark up a web page. These tags—such as menu, nav, aside, section, header, etc.—give search engines a descriptive insight into what elements go in specified sections. This way, Google bots can categorically index such web pages.
ARIA stands for Accessible Rich Internet Applications. It is an extension of the contextual coding of HTML documents. ARIA allows developers to use HTML attributes to represent a variety of HTML semantic attributes. It also broadens how developers use HTML elements beyond what existing semantic HTML tags allow.
However, the first guideline with using ARIA is not to use ARIA if a native HTML element or attribute can provide the semantics and behavior you need. When properly used, semantic HTML and ARIA attributes allow people who use screen readers to quickly understand the content and structure of web pages.
Web accessibility and search engine optimization share a common goal: to help web users easily find and navigate through the content they need. Fortunately, the techniques to achieve web accessibility and SEO are quite similar, so it’s often a win-win situation.
Ultimately, the web was built for everyone, so it should be accessible to everyone, too. Therefore, SEO professionals, web designers and web developers should do their utmost to make sure their websites are accessible to all.