User experience (UX) is one of the most important determinants of online success today. The fact that user experience can yield you an ROI as high as 9900 percent is proof enough of this fact.
Every business talks about offering a premium user experience. But have you really gone beyond the usual? It’s time to take a hard look at your user experience again.
Have you worked on improving your website’s accessibility? If your answer is yes, think again. A survey done on 10,000,000 websites reveals that most websites on the internet are not entirely accessible. This is alarming, considering the fact that one out every four Americans lives with disabilities.
Google has always prioritized user experience. If your website is not accessible by 25 percent of visitors, Google is not going to rank your website well.
In this post, let’s dive deep into website accessibility, what it is all about, and how it can affect your search engine rankings.
What Is Meant by Website Accessibility?
Website accessibility simply refers to the ease with which people with disabilities can access your website. This includes accessing and engaging with every part of your website, just like any other person without a disability would be able to do.
This stems from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was signed in 1990. The Act stresses providing equal access to every person, irrespective of their disabilities.
Disabilities can include hearing impairments, visual impairments or other physical disabilities. It can also include emotional and mental disabilities. Elderly people who face such impairments are also considered in this category.
People with disabilities sometimes require certain aids, such as screen readers, to access your website. Website accessibility measures will ensure that these aids can access your website.
How Does Accessibility Affect Your Website’s SEO?
Website accessibility clearly has a significant impact on your website’s rankings. Often, the steps that are involved in ensuring accessibility compliance coincide with your usual SEO strategies.
Let’s look at some of the ways website accessibility and SEO go hand-in-hand.
1. Improves UX Signals
By now, you know that web accessibility clearly affects your website’s user experience. Around one out of every four visitors on your website is going to have a bad experience if you don’t implement proper accessibility measures.
And guess what? UX signals are considered as one of the most significant ranking factors by Google’s algorithms. In fact, Google’s Page Experience update, scheduled for May 2021, will make these UX signals carry even more weight.
Some of the most important UX signals considered by Google are:
- Bounce rate: A user is said to have “bounced” from your website when they exit your website without taking any action. If users find it difficult to access your site, they are going to bounce immediately, and your website will have a higher bounce rate.
- Dwell time: This refers to the time that a user spends on your web page before returning to the search engine results page (SERP). Dwell time will, again, be on the lower side if your site has accessibility issues.
- Pogo sticking: This is similar to dwell time, and refers to when a user visits several pages listed on the SERP, looking for the answer to their query. Users are going to move on to the next result on Google Search if they struggle to access your website.
Even if you are ranking in the top three positions on the SERPs, bad UX signals are going to be detected by Google. This will eventually lead to a drop in your rankings.
2. Ensures Better Site Structure and Readability
Elderly users or people with cognitive disabilities often use assistive technologies such as screen readers. In order for users to understand the context of a web page using screen readers, it is very important that a website follow a proper structure.
For instance, having descriptive titles is very important for screen readers. This is because the title is the first thing screen readers analyze to help people understand the context of a page’s content. And, as you know, title tag optimization is SEO 101.
Similarly, the good hierarchical structure of a page – accurate headers, bullets, numbered lists, etc. – are also important for users with cognitive disabilities who use assistive devices. Proper page structure is another factor that helps with on-page SEO.
Moreover, accessibility also includes improving the readability of your website content. This includes having shorter sentences and paragraphs, avoiding unnecessary jargon and using a conversational tone. These factors improve SEO as they help with featured snippet and voice search optimization.
3. Involves Image Alt Text Optimization
Users with visual impairments understand the context of an image only through the alt text you provide for the images on your site. This means alt text which doesn’t make any sense won’t work in favor of accessibility guidelines.
For accessibility, image alt text optimization is a must. Without adding descriptive alt texts that describe the image, your website would not adhere to the ADA compliance guidelines.
Image alt texts also play a major role in SEO. On-page optimization involves adding target keywords to your alt texts so that your images rank on Google. Alt texts may even help your images rank on coveted featured snippets.
By adding descriptive image alt texts for web accessibility, you will automatically be adding SEO keywords to it – another way fixing accessibility helps with better search engine visibility.
4. Includes Video Transcription
Video transcription, again, works the same way as image alt text optimization. Video transcripts are nothing but text-based descriptions of your videos. Adding transcripts to all your videos helps screen readers understand your website content better.
Video transcripts are good for SEO because search engines also use the keywords found in video transcripts to rank your website content.
5. Involves the Use of Natural Language
The main goal of web accessibility is to help each one of your users understand your website content. An important part of this is the use of natural language. Natural language is content that all of us would understand and comprehend easily without the usage of any unnecessary words.
The same helps with SEO, too. Google doesn’t support practices such as keyword stuffing and inserting unnecessary links that do not appear naturally in the content. Hence, using natural language automatically helps with SEO as well.
How to Improve your Website’s Accessibility
Now that you understand how website accessibility can have a profound impact on your Google rankings, let’s look at how you can work towards improving it.
1. Get Clarity on Website Accessibility Guidelines
Before trying to fix your website’s accessibility issues, it is super-important to understand them. The main reason most of us do not stress web accessibility enough is that we are ignorant about it.
Using resources such as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), start educating yourself and your team. Understand what it truly means to make your website completely accessible.
2. Audit the Current State of Your Website’s Accessibility
The next step is to audit your website for accessibility issues. Even if you have worked on accessibility before, you must do one round of audit again, just to make sure you haven’t missed out on anything.
You can take the help of W3C’s Markup Validation Tool to get a good idea about your site’s markup structure. You can also conduct a manual audit by running through random pages of your site and assessing the web page elements.
3. Invest in a Powerful Web Accessibility Solution
Although accessibility is closely related to SEO, it is not something your SEO experts should work on. Website accessibility includes a lot of specialized aspects that are best left to the accessibility professionals.
Another thing to note is that web accessibility is not a one-time, done-and-dusted thing – it is an ongoing process. As you keep adding new pages to your website or updating your existing content, you cannot be sure that your website will always be entirely accessible.
Fixing accessibility manually can be quite a daunting task, and there is always the probability of manual errors creeping in in the process. You don’t want expensive ADA lawsuits coming your way, so it’s best to go for an AI-powered automated web accessibility solution.
An AI website accessibility tool like this will automatically scan your website for accessibility issues and fix them, meaning you never have to worry about accessibility again.
4. Encourage an Environment of Inclusivity
Lastly, try to encourage an environment of inclusivity in your company. Website accessibility should not be a choice; it should be a necessity. It is your moral responsibility to make your website accessible to everyone, irrespective of their disabilities.
Only when you encourage inclusivity and empathy will you start incorporating accessibility into your daily business operations. If accessibility is encouraged right from the design phase of a website, half of the issues will be automatically eliminated.
Start Implementing Web Accessibility to Gain Better Rankings
By now, you have a good idea of why website accessibility is something you cannot afford to ignore. Search engine visibility is vital for any business’s long-lasting success, and website accessibility is quite impactful in determining your search engine rankings.
Don’t waste any more time: Start working on your website accessibility today. It would be a relatively small investment against the benefits that you stand to gain in the long run.