In the matter of accessibility, it happens that everything that is not seen as having direct benefits is ignored. It is like people who do not recycle because they are not informed of the benefits to our environment.
That’s why sometimes it seems like it doesn’t matter if you try to explain the importance of web accessibility or even encourage people to improve accessibility, even with one click, even with Divi, there are people who, if they don’t see a direct and immediate benefit, simply won’t spend a second of their time on this issue or any other.
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The worst excuse about accessibility
Of all the excuses I’ve heard about accessibility, from developers or web administrators, perhaps the worst is that making their web accessible makes them waste time that could be spent improving their web in another visible, palpable way, with direct results.
Are you telling me that you can’t spend 5 minutes of your life making life easier for people with disabilities to read your content or buy from your online store? Do I have to remind you that you can start by installing a simple free plug-in and offer accessibility improvements immediately?
Have you thought for a moment about how difficult it is for people with disabilities to navigate a non-accessible website? About how much time you make them lose from their lives by not making a single effort – once – on your part? So let’s go and learn how it is even good for us and our website.
How does accessibility improve your SEO?
Having said that, and so that there are no excuses, I am going to cite some of the benefits for SEO of having an accessible website.
Why not talk about benefits for something else, why for the SEO? Simple, because it is one of the most cross-cutting issues, desired and sought after by anyone who has a website. We all want to improve the SEO of our website.
And yes, accessibility can improve the SEO of your website, let’s see how…
Google takes accessibility seriously
Ah! Didn’t you know? Didn’t they tell you?
Yes, some time ago Google adapted the engine of its web performance analyzer to incorporate the Lighthouse engine, in which one of the parameters it takes into account when measuring and evaluating your web is accessibility.
You can measure the accessibility of your website at any time using this Google tool from the development window of the Chrome browser(right click on any part of your web->Inspect).
And in a few seconds it will show you which tests you have passed and which you have not…
It goes without saying that, like any tool, it is not perfect, but – also like any tool – it can guide you in improvement steps.
But, above all, you should know that Google already uses accessibility parameters for the ratings it makes of websites, and that it takes more and more into account for the SERP rankings.
Offers easier and more consistent navigation
The importance of user experience and usability in today’s Internet age is very important, and having a disability does not mean that access to a website has to be difficult or exclusionary.
For example, websites should be navigable using only the keyboard and the order of the tabs should be considered.
In addition, it is necessary to ensure that there are many points of reference in the code so that users with screen readers and other assistive technologies can navigate correctly without having to listen to all the text on the page.
Therefore, if you take into account the rules of web accessibility, your site will be more easily navigable, compliant with web standards and easier to use for all types of users.
In fact, the principles of usability (UX) are tremendously important for SEO.
Just take a moment to consider the importance of site speed, web structure and mobile experience to Google.
When you design and create with accessibility in mind it naturally leads to a better user experience, and search engines care about the user experience first and foremost.
These are just a few examples of accessibility elements that can be useful for any visitor:
- Color contrast
- Keyboard navigation
- Descriptive headings
- Logical structure
- Clear Language
If you create thinking about accessibility that generates a better user experience, and search engines care about the user experience.
Improve the SEO of your non-text content
Content such as images and computer graphics should contain descriptions of the content being displayed, usually in an alt attribute.
Alt attributes are important because assistive technologies rely on them to convey content to the user.
Instead of putting “WordPress logo” in the alt attribute, you should be as specific as possible to convey the information that someone takes away when looking at the image, i.e. “black and white WordPress logo with a pink heart integrated in its upper-right side”.
For video and audio, you will want to transcribe the content and provide subtitles rather than opting for those automatically generated by the platforms you are using.
Videos that have accurate subtitles and transcripts are preferred by YouTube and should be an integral part of your content development strategy.
Transcribing your visual and audio content into multiple languages is another way to increase the size of your audience.
Accessibility expands your audience
In the end, all this translates into an increase in your ability to reach more people.
When your site is accessible, easy to understand for search engines and designed with the user experience in mind, more search engines can find and use your site.
If you think in terms of metrics, you will also see a better bounce rate, more returning visitors, more time spent on the page, among other SEO parameters.
Keep in mind that people with disabilities are also consumers and, consequently, in addition to improving your SEO, you will also increase your sales.
How to optimize content at the same time for SEO and accessibility
Here are some very specific and practical tips on how to optimize your content for accessibility that also affects SEO positively.
Write a unique title for each page
The page title is what appears in the search results, on the tab of an open browser window, and often as a link in the navigation or a link in social networks. On the web, the page title guides all users and is often the first thing a screen reader hears. Use keywords in the title that make the essence of the content clear to everyone – prioritize clarity over cleverness.
Use real headings and use them in order
By “real headers” I mean the use of HTML tags of real headers (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>) instead of bold or other styles. Search engine and assistive technologies do not recognize styles as headings.
Use headings to separate blocks of text. This makes it easier for users to scan the content and find what they need.
Headings also communicate content relationships and hierarchies, so always use headings in order.
Use keywords in the headings to give users clues about the essence of a particular section.
A key tip: Assistive technology users have to use headings to navigate through content, so imagine listening to the entire page.
Highlights key information with lists
Lists are a great way to separate blocks of text and highlight important content.
Lists make it easier for users who scan the page to notice important information, and lists are a clue for both assistive technology users and search engines about the importance of the content.
As with headings, create actual lists rather than symbols, such as dashes or bars.
It creates an unordered list (<ul>) with bullets, or an ordered list (<ol>) when items in a list are sequential or hierarchical.
Write a meaningful alternative text for the images
The alternative text (alt) of an image serves one of three main purposes:
- It describes the image (how would you explain it to someone on the phone?)
- Relates the meaning or mood that an image conveys
- Defines the function of the image as a link (the alt text must be the link text)
Keep the alternative text concise and use a Google lighthouse logo.
- “Image of” or “photo of” – assistive technologies already tell users what an image is.
- Characters like “* ! #,” emojis and too many punctuation marks.
Avoid images with text. Images with text do not adapt on devices, and neither assistive technologies nor search engines can read the text inside an image. Logos with text could be almost the only exception.
Consider writing a caption for the image or explaining the text in the content or body of an article.
Write clear link texts
Write texts for links that make sense out of context and make clear the destination.
Descriptive link text helps all users. A page full of “learn more” and “click here” links negatively affects the usability of your site and the accessibility of your content, and is a missed opportunity for search engine optimization (SEO).
Instead of “learn more” for a link to a download page of a PDF document, type, “Access the full PDF document”.
Descriptive links are particularly important for screen reader users who would otherwise be listening to a list of links on a page without the context surrounding it.
Descriptive links are also important for visual users when they scan the page. Because of their design, links can stand out from the rest of the text, while the link text communicates the destination.
And finally, think strategically about the purpose and value of each link; more does not mean better.
Still not convinced?
Still not decided? These days you can’t predict where or how users will consume your content.
Consider, for example, how many users access content on a mobile device rather than a desktop computer. Following the best practices described above will ensure that your content behaves as intended on any technology.
You and everyone you know will benefit from these best practices.
We all experience situational disabilities that interfere with the ability to read, understand, and interact with a website.
Examples of situational disabilities include the inconvenience of reading a brightly lit screen, reading an article on a crowded and noisy train, or trying to book a plane ticket on a site that is bombarding you with pop-up ads (does anyone really like them)?
Think of all the ways and devices you use to access the content, and what makes the content easy or difficult to consume.
Remember that your website is not for you, but for your users.
It is the right thing to do
Honestly, this is the most important reason you should be concerned about accessibility.
Actually, accessibility and SEO overlap slightly in the scope of both, although where they do, it is obviously super important.
But adding accessibility to your SEO strategy can help you establish a long-term focus on both.
Accessibility must be considered when creating a site, optimizing it, creating content, adding elements to your site, changing the code… you get the idea.
It’s never too late to prioritize accessibility and incorporate it into your strategy.
You’re probably already doing some of the work; your next step is to make accessibility another part to incorporate into your strategy, and learn as much as you can about how to differentiate your website from the rest by being totally cool and accessible.
Read this post in Spanish: Motivos por los que la accesibilidad beneficia el SEO de tu web