Improving your website's accessibility comes with a suitcase of touted benefits—lawsuit protection, access for all your customers, and an expressed empathy to build brand recognition. But there’s more to accessibility than meets the eye. Website accessibility is also interwoven into a variety of key business objectives that are likely a top priority for your organization in a digital-first consumer world. At the top of that list—SEO.

Think about it this way. SEO and accessibility are both invested in the same thing: providing your users with the unique, concise, easy-to-find and navigate content that they need to interact with your brand. Thinking about them as a unit can bring unexpected efficiencies.

Graphic showing ways accessibility and SEO benefit each other including reduced efforts, increased ROI and efficient asset allocation.Capturing SEO wins through your accessibility efforts

When it comes to accessibility, think POUR. POUR stands for perceivable, operable, understandable and robust, the foundation of your accessibility efforts.

But how do you actually put these elements into action? Through foundational SEO building blocks: titles, headings, alt text, link text and semantic elements. Let’s take a closer look at how each of these content basics can help deliver more effective joint SEO and accessibility practices.

  • Titles. Titles serve a dual purpose supporting both SEO and accessibility. Not only does an accurate, descriptive page title give screen readers more information to provide to a user about the contents of a page, but it also delivers a powerful set of keywords to help the web crawler accurately index and call out pages that match the search terms. For example: “Homepage — Solutions Page, Product Page, Features”
  • Headings. Similar to titles, the headings should give both assistive technology users and web crawlers an idea of what content is on the page. Combining the right keywords in your subheadings can also improve webpage visibility in Google’s search rankings. But remember, subheadings are also critical for navigation when a user does arrive on the page. Use subheadings to group topics together and improve the assistive experience.
  • Alt attributes. Alt text is a direct, written substitute for an image. As you can imagine, when a user cannot physically see your webpage, this alternate text provides valuable context to the user experience. Additionally, it gives your webpage another chance to add valuable keywords to improve searchability. To provide the best impact, however, focus on the image’s purpose and intent, rather than keyword stuffing.
  • Link text. Descriptive links provide great anchor text for internal linking. It can help describe the purpose of each link for assistive technology users who prefer to read a list of links on a page to help them navigate. Here’s an example: “A Guide to Creating Descriptive Link Text.”
  • Semantic elements. When an assistive device scans a web page, it sees the HTML structure of the page, but it can’t read the styling built into the page’s code – what are the main sections of the page vs callouts, menus or footer text. These create a much stronger experience for search engines to understand the design and elements on a page as search continues to evolve—especially voice search.

Always remember that when you build for the search engine crawlers, you’re also building for assistive technology. Inputting these elements manually can help improve performance over time.

You can also create content that drives benefits for both SEO and accessibility by using lists in the HTML, writing in plain language that is easy to understand, and creating the same consistent functionality across all the webpages in your website.

Setting up a long-term accessibility and SEO strategy that sticks

When many organizations first look into addressing accessibility on the web, they feel inclined to turn to quick fixes that allow them to experience some of the SEO benefits of accessible functionality more quickly.

Taking this approach is usually a mistake.

Simple accessibility overlay solutions are controlled by a third party, which means your IT and marketing teams won’t necessarily be able to make changes or even gain visibility to the changes that have been made. Meanwhile the control panels provided by these tools for users maybe inaccessible themselves—or not customizable.

Be wary of solutions offering:

  • Auto-generated alt attributes. This is a common feature in many accessibility overlays or SEO tools, but it can sometimes lead to a false sense of security. These tools tend to miss out on context. For example, a photo might show two people smiling and sitting. But what the machine-learning robot can’t decipher is that the photo includes two employees at an annual work event. These are important details that provide valuable context for users that come across this image during their web search.
  • Page experience and accessibility. Page performance is a big piece of the Google user experience report. This includes loading, interactivity, and visual stability. So, when an organization lazy-loads the overlay and its corresponding selector, it not only creates an input delay that would make it difficult to toggle the control panel, but it could also affect the cumulative layout of the page after content has loaded. These can both damage a website’s standing with both Google and users with disabilities.

Enhancing your SEO and accessibility together

These days a website with accessible design is no longer a “nice-to-have.” It is a foundational part of building a user-friendly web experience. And if you create this experience effectively enough, your SEO metrics will enjoy the benefits as well.

Looking for more ideas to improve accessibility and promote seamless SEO experiences at the same time? Dig deeper in this webinar