How website accessibility can positively impact SEO
Across the world, 15% of people are living with a disability. That’s a large number! In fact, it’s 1 billion people. In the UK, 7 million people have digital access needs. These are needs which arise because of the effects of their disability when interacting online. Accessible websites help people with disabilities to access and use digital content. It improves their user experience, and can make them feel more welcomed by your brand.
Web accessibility makes a huge impact in the online experiences of many. The importance of accessibility in business also has a huge impact for brands.
There’s a considerable overlap between features that improve accessibility and SEO performance. By making your web pages accessible to everyone, you’re also boosting your chances of being found in search.
Google Lighthouse is a tool for improving web page quality. Accessibility is one of the metrics they check alongside performance, best practices, and SEO. You can be sure that if Google is measuring accessibility that it must be important!
The newest accessibility standard that accessible websites aim to meet is the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1.
How does a meaningful title tag help SEO?
A page’s <title> tag is what’s shown on the results page of search engines as the clickable link. Adding meaning to a page’s title benefits accessibility, and also helps search engines to better understand what your page is about. After all, both accessibility and SEO are about getting the relevant content to users.
In this example, you can see that the results shown include the exact terms used in the search query ("web accessibility" "SEO") in the titles. If your <title> matches the subject of your page, your page is more likely to be found in search.
As part of SEO best practices, Google’s guidelines on titles say that Page titles should be clear and descriptive.
Avoid vague descriptors like "Home" for your home page, or "Profile" for a specific person's profile.
Also avoid unnecessarily long titles, which are likely to get shortened when they show up in the search results. To avoid this, it’s recommended to keep to a maximum of 60 characters.
You can use relevant keywords in your <title> so that search engines understand what your web pages are about. But don’t overdo it.
For information about creating accessible headings, check out our guide on ‘Creating Accessible Content’.
How do lists help SEO?
As you’ll know, search engines give organic results in a number of ways. As Marketers, we aim to appear on the first page of results, but hope for more. To get that featured snippet would be a dream.
By marking lists up correctly, you’re letting Google know that there’s a list within your content. Search engines know that lists are useful for certain queries, so it’ll help give your content some weight. Here's an example.
Google has rewarded our blog with a featured list snippet when someone searches for 'free online reading resources'. Again, we can see the benefits of accessibility playing a part in SEO.
How do descriptive links help SEO?
Using descriptive links isn’t just beneficial for accessibility, SEO can be supported too. Good link text, which SEO pros call anchor text, helps search engines understand what a site is about.
SEO experts from Moz say that link text should be succinct and relevant to the target page. Links that aren’t descriptive will fail Google Lighthouse’s SEO audit.
See the list of generic link text that fails the test.
For information about creating accessible hyperlinks, check out our guide on ‘Creating Accessible Content’.
How do breadcrumbs help SEO?
Search engines like breadcrumbs because they help them understand how a site is organised.
How do text equivalents help SEO?
Search engines recognise the information in alt attributes. It’s not a big ranking signal but it does contribute overall. After all, it adds some more context around the content of your page.
However, don’t feel tempted to stuff your keywords into alt text. This is bad practice for both accessibility and SEO.
To help you create transcripts and captions, check out our guide to creating accessible content.
How does consistent navigation help SEO?
Search engines take note of how visitors behave on your website. That’s why factors like session time, bounce rates, and conversion rates matter in SEO. A well-structured website that’s consistent helps visitors to navigate a website easily. That means they’re more likely to stay on a website, and engage with content. This tells search engines that your visitors are happy. As such, they’re more likely to ‘recommend’ your pages. In other words, list your pages as a result to a user query.
How do sitemaps help SEO?
Sitemaps help search engines to crawl your web content much quicker.
Sitemaps usually contain a website's most important pages, in hierarchical order. Search engines look for sitemaps to find the most important information that relates to a user’s search query. As you add new web content, updating your sitemap with that content will help search crawlers to find and index it much quicker. Therefore helping to boost SEO.
That being said, as you work on your SEO strategy it’s important to follow SEO best practice.
Just because providing alternative text has benefits for SEO, doesn’t mean you should use alt text to stuff keywords. Web accessibility and SEO can be positively linked, but you must consider the best practices of both to achieve this.
To help, we’ve created a guide on creating accessible content. It’ll help you to consider a lot of the factors you’ve read about today.