ADA Compliance and SEO: the Web’s Power Couple
We gather here today to witness the joining of a couple not everyone predicted would find happiness. Some said they weren’t right for each other, and many tried to keep them apart, but we know they are destined to be together. We’re talking about SEO and accessibility. Before you object, hear us out as we address how SEO and accessibility work together.
Too often, SEO and accessibility are thought of as separate elements of a website – the designers tackle accessibility, and the SEO experts work their magic on the search engines. By keeping them apart, you are missing an opportunity. How does it help if visitors can easily find your site, but a portion of them can’t understand what’s on it? On the flip side, who cares if your content is accessible if no one can locate it? Therein lies the reason why SEO and accessibility are so intertwined.
How Are Web Accessibility and SEO Related?
Why is accessibility important for SEO? Does accessibility affect SEO? Fundamentally, SEO, or search engine optimization, and accessibility work toward the same goal – they are tools to help as many people as possible know and interact with your brand. SEO means optimizing the content on your site so it appears higher in search engine results. A designer’s or developer’s primary focus should be on their site’s accessibility, meaning they want all visitors to be able to use it, no matter their age, education, knowledge of technology, or ability, which is especially important for the estimated 1 in 5 Americans who live with disabilities.
Accessibility is not only a good and responsible business practice, it also keeps you out of legal jeopardy. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is federal legislation in the U.S. that prohibits discrimination based on disability. To be compliant, a website must be able to be used by those who use assistive devices. If your website is not accessible, it could be seen as discrimination, and therefore not compliant with the law. The Department of Justice (DOJ), the entity that enforces the law, has not outlined mandatory ADA guidelines so businesses aren’t subject to fines, but they may still be held financially liable in a civil court if their website is not ADA compliant. In the absence of regulation, the DOJ has said that the best way to avoid ADA non-compliance is to follow Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) standards, which cover a wide range of recommendations for making web content more accessible.
If those weren’t reasons enough for accessibility compliance, then here’s one more: accessibility is an SEO ranking factor. What gives a website operable accessibility (i.e., the ability to be read by machines) also improves its power to break through search engine algorithms, which is also dictated by machines. In addition, SEO accessibility improves a site visitor’s experience, and Google favors sites that provide a good user experience in its algorithm. Accessibility and SEO provide a lot of value to each other.
Accessibility SEO Best Practices
You can improve SEO accessibility by providing clear, concise, accurate, and comprehensive descriptions on your website content. Doing so helps both people with disabilities and search engines understand what’s there, and the more they understand your content, the higher they will rank it. It also gives you more real estate to add SEO keywords. By focusing on these elements, you can improve both web accessibility and SEO:
- ALT text
- Titles and title tags
- Heading structure
- Link text
- Video transcripts and captions
- Uniform Resource Locators (URLs)
- Anchor text
You can also improve SEO accessibility by giving users varied ways to find your content, including a site map, table of contents, and a search bar. It will also help to use text instead of images when possible and spell out or define abbreviations and acronyms.Simultaneously meeting your ADA and SEO goals can feel like a tumultuous relationship, but your website traffic will thank you if you “forever hold your peace.” But you don’t have to nurture it alone. At Paradigm, we are the matchmakers for SEO and accessibility. We partner with ADA-certified accessibility auditors who are dedicated to thoroughly evaluating the sites we develop to ensure compliance, support any necessary remediation efforts, and constantly monitor the website accessibility environment for any changes that may affect our sites. Our SEO optimization services can help your company expand lead generation, increase brand awareness, identify strategic partnership opportunities, and much more. Contact us today to get started.