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SEO and Accessibility: Are They Compatible?

If you’re looking to optimize your website for search engines, accessibility plays a considerable role. In fact, there is so much overlap between these two fields that it is nearly impossible to discuss one without mentioning the other.

What is accessibility? It’s a process that allows people with disabilities to access content on the internet. In other words, it’s about making sure that your website is easy to use for everyone. For a site to be ADA-compliant, it must be straightforward to browse and comprehend, regardless of the ability of the website user. Since site structure is also a significant SEO factor, examining accessibility and SEO together makes sense.

SEO and accessibility go hand-in-hand because both rely on user experience (UX) design principles. If a site is well-designed for all types of users, its UX will be high-quality, and Google will reward it by ranking it higher in search results.

Accessibility: Why So Important?

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), a collection of standards that developers may utilize to construct accessible websites for individuals with disabilities, are critical to a site’s compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA was instituted in 1990 to ensure that persons with disabilities have equal access to public areas and services.

Websites are included.

In 2018, the Department of Justice said that websites are deemed public accommodations that must comply with ADA Title III. WCAG 2.1 AA is the accessibility standard many companies strive to satisfy. So, if you want to be ADA-compliant, your website must also be WCAG-compliant—and vice versa.

Can Accessibility Ever Have a Damaging Impact on SEO?

On the contrary, accessibility and SEO complement one another. When errors occur, it is generally due to not understanding accessibility principles or incorporating obvious keyword stuffing.

It’s critical to remember that you’re creating a website for humans, not web crawlers. And, if your site isn’t easily navigable by both humans and search engines, it’s simply not going to perform well. Search engines are constantly evolving, so businesses need to stay up to date on what changes or updates may affect their website rankings.

It’s also worth remembering that people who violate accessibility rules, such as those established in the ADA, may face legal consequences.

What Features Characterize an Accessible Website?

Including accommodations for individuals with disabilities in your public technological space is valuable on many levels. And although accessibility seems to be a very complex issue, it is basically about simplicity.

According to WCAG 2.1 AA guidelines, all online content must be:

  • Perceivable. Users can recognize a site’s components.
  • Operable. Users may effectively utilize a site’s buttons and other interactive features if it is operable.
  • Understandable. Users can understand how to utilize the site’s layout.
  • Robust. The website complies with industry requirements.

Remember the acronym “POUR” to help you recall these characteristics.

Ensuring that your site integrates these standards not only ensures its WCAG compliance but will also significantly impact your SEO health.

In addition to WCAG, another SEO-related accessibility web standard is called Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA).

If your site is JavaScript-based or contains non-HTML applets, making these components available to assistive technology guarantees that screen readers have no trouble comprehending your content.

ARIA, like WCAG, includes a Quick Reference guide for understanding and designing accessible rich internet applications.

The Importance of Visual Stability

Google Page Experience recently received an upgrade that included modifications to its Core Web Vitals, including speed, responsiveness, and visual stability measures.

Visual stability, in particular, is an accessibility standard by definition. The Google Page Experience report includes a visual stability score, which is based on the percentage of content that is visible after scrolling. By default, this is set to 50 percent. The higher your score, the more stable your page and its components are during user interactions, such as scrolling down or clicking links.

If a user utilizes a screen reader, would your site still deliver all the material without requiring them to scroll down? This is significant because inaccessibility in this regard might result in ranking penalties from Google and other search engines.

What SEO Factors Are Associated with Accessibility?

A better user experience may result in greater time spent on your site and improved click-through rates. Furthermore, since Google’s ranking algorithm is increasingly centered on human behavior, correct structure is required if you want a successful SEO plan.

SEO and accessibility both need attention in the following categories:

  • Site and page layout. Your site’s page structure makes it simple for search engines crawling it to figure out what it’s about. Similarly, screen readers will also crawl your site to enable visually impaired users to interact with your content. Poor page structure not only reduces the readability of your site but may also make it inaccessible to persons with disabilities. So, it’s in your best interest to divide your pages into distinct parts using appropriate header tags.
  • Content readability. One of the most important factors in accessibility is content readability. If your website is difficult to read, it will be hard for people with visual or cognitive disabilities to navigate. This can make your site inaccessible to these users.
  • Image alt text. Images are a powerful tool in your SEO arsenal. They can boost your click-through rate and increase the overall number of pages indexed by search engines. But you need to be sure that images have been properly optimized for search engines and screen readers. Alt text is the text version of a graphic image used by visually impaired users or those who view websites with images disabled. So, good alt text for each image on your site is vital so that it remains accessible to all users.
  • Captions for video. It’s not just text that needs to be accessible. Video content on your site should also be captioned for screen readers. If you have multiple videos on a single page, each one needs its own caption file so that screen readers can read them separately.
  • Offering keyboard controls in interactive sections. If you have interactive sections on your website, such as drop-down menus or slide-out panels, it’s important to offer keyboard controls so all users can navigate them easily.

These essential technical SEO guidelines have the dual purpose of ensuring usability and are also taken into account by search engines when calculating rankings. Failing to fulfill basic accessibility requirements might result in your site being buried in search results.

AI ADA Widget: A WCAG-Compliance and SEO Solution

DCM understands that developing and maintaining a WCAG and ADA-compliant website means avoiding liabilities and ensuring that the experience of engaging with your website is as easy as possible for all online users, including those with disabilities.

One method we use to achieve these interconnected goals is to offer an AI-powered accessibility widget that can make any site ADA and WCAG-compliant.

While accessibility is our major emphasis here, websites using the widget enjoy the added benefit of improved search results.

Our widget quickly improves the accessibility of your website without the need for expensive and time-consuming resources. Your site can be enhanced with an interface that includes tools for modifying your site’s contrast, text size, and color saturation quickly, all while maintaining an accessible layout.

Because of the way Google’s search crawlers read its code, the widget boosts SEO results. Crawlers can quickly identify the purpose and structure of each page since the widget was designed following standard practices for ARIA markup. It’s also a bonus because you’re allowing site users who use screen readers to access more of your site.

The AI-powered widget is the first step in making your website more accessible and ranking higher.

Other Helpful Steps

Countless techniques enhance your site’s accessibility for persons with vision, hearing, mobility, and other disabilities. These methods may or may not improve your SEO results. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work to include them. Updates occur regularly, so it’s reasonable to be sure your site stays current.

Keep your website optimized to include the following:

  • Interactive features that users can operate by using the keyboard
  • Content functions that continue proper operation when zoomed in
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Readable text with an appropriately contrasted backdrop
  • Minimal or no material that can only be accessed by sight, sound, or color
  • Minimal or no site components that move around the screen or play audio automatically

Accessibility and SEO: Vital Functions That Enhance Your Site’s Performance

Google has clarified that it wants to provide users with the best possible experience. It knows that an accessible site will perform better for everyone, which is why it is constantly working to make its own sites more accessible.

Google also recognizes that SEO benefits from accessibility improvements, so your efforts will help you achieve higher rankings and greater visibility in the search results.

Our AI ADA Widget, along with other accessibility solutions, can help you be certain that your site has incorporated everything needed to ensure WCAG 2.1 AA compliance and accessibility for all users.

Contact us now to start working toward increased accessibility compliance and, as a result, enhanced SEO performance.

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