Anyone interested in having a successful and effective website in 2022 will most likely already have an eye on both web accessibility and SEO. But how do the two interact, and does good web accessibility always equal improved SEO?

What Is Web Accessibility?

First things first, what is web accessibility? Well, put simply, web accessibility refers to the design and development of websites, tools, and technologies so that they can be used by people with disabilities.

Most people will be able to empathize with the experience of a slow-loading website, for example, or trying to navigate a web page on your phone that has not been properly optimized for mobile use. While such occurrences are certainly irritating, they are nothing when compared to the obstacles regularly faced by disabled users online.   

In fact, for those with disabilities, the difference between an accessible experience and a non-accessible experience is not merely the difference between a smooth experience and a bumpy one. Instead, it can quite literally mean the difference between having access to an experience and having no access whatsoever.

But what does this have to do with SEO? Well, before we get into that, let’s first take a quick look at what SEO is and what it is used for.

What Is SEO?

For the uninitiated, SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, refers to the practice of orienting your website to rank higher in search engine results in the aim of receiving more traffic. Websites will typically aim to rank on the first page of Google results for search terms that mean the most to their target audience.   

SEO is a long established and necessary marketing technique for websites looking to attract organic, non-paid traffic by leveraging high quality, relevant content. 

However strong your SEO efforts are,you will find that your search engine rankings and subsequent traffic will inevitably suffer if your website is not accessible.

With this in mind, let’s dive into how good website accessibility can improve SEO, and identify some key areas where the two subjects are deeply interconnected. 

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How Web Accessibility Impacts SEO

A number of recent studies have found that websites with more accessibility features have significantly better SEO rankings than those without them. But why is this the case? 

Well, there are a handful of ways that web accessibility directly affects SEO. In recent times search engines such as Google have explicitly stated that accessibility is taken into account when ranking websites. This means that websites will effectively be penalized if they are deemed to be inaccessible. 

Also, it is a simple fact that inaccessible websites are more likely to attract negative reviews and have higher bounce rates, both of which negatively impact SEO.  

When it comes to the following website elements in particular, web accessibility and SEO absolutely work hand-in-hand: 

Page titles- Ensuring that your page titles are meaningful will positively impact both SEO and accessibility by making them fundamentally more understandable for both screen readers and search engines alike. 

Headings- Well written, informative headings not only improve website accessibility, but can also improve SEO by allowing a greater number of people to navigate your content more easily.     

Lists- Properly marked up lists can benefit both accessibility and SEO by making them more visible to screen readers and giving the content more weight with search engine results. 

Descriptive links- Descriptive link text allows users, including those with certain disabilities,  to understand a link's purpose before they follow it. Descriptive link text also has the added benefit of helping search engines to understand what your website is actually about. 

Breadcrumbs- Breadcrumbs can be very helpful for users with disabilities, as they can allow visitors to determine where they are on a website. Breadcrumbs are also beneficial for search engines, as they provide them with valuable information about how your website content is structured. 

Text equivalents for images and other non-text content- Providing text equivalents for images and other non-text content is crucial for accessibility, as it gives non-sighted visitors the ability to interact with it. As text equivalents are taken into account by search engines, they therefore also serve to add more context to the contents of your web pages. 

Transcripts and captions- Just as text equivalents of visual content are crucial to ensuring an accessible website experience, so too are captions and transcripts for audio and video content. Properly applied transcripts and captions can also help your content get indexed more quickly and rank more highly in search engine results. 

Readability- Ensuring that your content is not overly complex or jargon filled can immediately help improve accessibility, particularly for users with cognitive or learning disabilities. Many studies have found that using plain and simple language improves the user experience, which, in turn, will have a positive impact on your SEO. 

The above examples, while not comprehensive by any means, clearly show that SEO and web accessibility are not just related, but very often deeply interconnected.

Does Accessibility Actually Improve SEO?

So, does web accessibility improve SEO? The answer is a definite and resounding yes!

The simple fact is that there is a considerable overlap between the things that improve website accessibility and SEO performance. This effectively means that taking care of one will often result in a positive impact upon the other.  

At the end of the day the lesson here is really quite straightforward - ensuring that your website is accessible for all potential visitors will increase your chances of being discovered in an online search in 2022 and beyond. 

Want to see how your website stacks up in 2022? Book a demo to see how our Accessibility and SEO Modules can help you achieve your goals and stay compliant.