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The Link Between Accessibility and SEO

Written by Ben Leach on

They might not be the most obvious pairing, but implementing SEO changes could actually help with your website’s accessibility.

Web accessibility is a growing concern, with more than 1 in 5 people having some kind of disability or impairment. Here at HeX, it is something that we are very passionate about. Creating websites and digital services that are accessible for everyone is incredibly important and beneficial, not only for your brand reputation but also for your bottom line.

Something else that a lot of businesses understand to be important is search engine optimisation (SEO). Every company wants to be the top result in Google. More often than not, SEO and accessibility are seen as entirely separate entities.

What if implementing accessibility techniques could also help with your search engine visibility? But how can you achieve good accessibility while improving your ranking?

User experience

Good UX design puts the user first – accessible design does the same. But why does improving accessibility improve SEO? Because lack of accessibility equals poor user experience, and poor user experience equals poor SEO ranking. Google has written a 160-page document that talks about quality content and how websites that are providing users with a good experience will have more search visibility.

Notably, “User Experience” is not a factor that improves SEO, but elements that make a good user experience are also factors that will enhance SEO: 

  • Page load times – research suggests that 40 per cent of people expect a page to load in 2 seconds. 40 per cent will then leave the site if it doesn’t load in 3 seconds. Experts at Google suggest that after 2 seconds, crawlers will limit the number of URLs they request – which could limit web rankings.
  • Mobile Responsiveness – Nobody wants to be pinching in and out of their mobile screens to use a website that’s only been made for desktops. More than 50% of people now browse the web on a mobile device. Google now consider your ‘main’ website as a mobile site.
  • Site structure and navigation – a full-page menu or too many pages can mean it is often a complicated affair navigating around some websites and finding the place you want to get to. Not only is this a nightmare in terms of accessibility, but SEO spiders will not crawl through the website as effectively.

Title Tags

Title tags are a fairly fundamental part of creating a web page. The page needs to be titled, but crucially it needs to have title tags. This tag is available in two places: the tab at the top of the web browser and the search engine results page. A good example of title tags is here.

For SEO purposes, the title tag determines what is displayed on the results page of the search engine. This means that writing a title tag such as ‘Have a look at this blog it could change your life…’ could be detrimental – it adds no context for screen reader users, and it doesn’t really help from an SEO perspective.

The accessibility case for creating title tags; those that are visually impaired use screen reading software. Those screen readers will read the title tags of the page before anything else, giving the user a good idea of the context of the page. For example, the title tag of this page is ‘How SEO links with accessibility – HeX Productions’ – it gives the user a good idea of what is on the page before they skip ahead to the content.

Alt Text

If you’ve never heard of alt text, it is used to provide a textual alternative to any visual elements of a page. In simple terms, if there is a picture of a brown cat laying on a mat, the alt text will be along the lines of ‘brown cat laying on a mat’. This is, however, is different to a caption; captions are visible to those who are able to view the image, whereas alt text is only available to those who are unable to see the visual element (i.e. those using screen readers.) Moz has a great example of alt tags.

From an accessibility point of view, alt text is vital for adding that context for those who are unable to see the visual element. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which are a set of international rules for accessibility best practice, states: “non-text content that is presented to the user needs a text alternative that serves the equivalent purpose.”

From an SEO perspective, a search engine’s algorithm can’t ‘see’ images in the way that we see them, this means it needs to gather up contextual data from the image. By adding alternative (alt) text, you’re allowing the search engine to better label the image, which means that it is likely to rank a lot higher; similarly, it allows your image to be displayed in the ‘images’ section of Google. This increases the chances of someone clicking through to your website.

Video Transcription

With Cisco predicting that, by next year, 82% of time online will be spent watching rather than reading, video is very much the future. By adding a transcription to any videos you create, a text-based description of a video file, you are helping SEO and accessibility, and in turn, increasing your return on investment.

It goes without saying that in terms of accessibility, those who are deaf or hard of hearing are helped by having transcriptions, so they are able to understand what exactly is being said in the video. If you are able to, implementing British Sign Language (BSL) is preferable for those who are Deaf or who have a hearing impairment.

So how exactly does this help SEO? Think of the alt-text example above. If a search engine algorithm can’t look at your image, it certainly can’t watch a video and listen to everything that is being said. The captions help the search engine build a good contextual picture of what is discussed in the video, helping it rank in Google’s ‘videos’ search section.

Let’s talk!

Want to know more about accessibility and SEO but not sure where to start? We can help you through your accessible journey, ensuring that user experience is at the heart and SEO principles are included throughout the process.

If you want to learn more about accessibility or SEO, get in touch or call us on 0115 888 2828. To find out how accessible you are, we are offering a free accessibility health check of your website.