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  • Writer's pictureAdela Popescu

7 Ways SEO and Web Accessibility Work Together

SEO and web accessibility on multiple devices
SEO and web accessibility on multiple devices

What is SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing qualified organic traffic from search engines to a website. It is known that Google prioritizes sites in search results (SERP) that offer a great user experience (UX), so ensuring having a user-friendly website is key.

What is Web Accessibility?

Web accessibility is the practice of developing a website to be accessible (or user-friendly) for as many people as possible. This includes people with disabilities such as those with vision and hearing impairment, but also people using mobile devices or those with slow internet connections.

SEO and web accessibility are inseparable as they both focus on achieving the best user experience on a website.

Read further to find out 7 ways SEO and web accessibility work together, and the features they have in common that shouldn't be missed if you want to provide a great user experience on your website:

1. Colour contrast

Writing interesting content on your website means nothing if visitors cannot read it.

Because some people cannot read text if there is not enough contrast between the text and the background, and for others, bright colours are not readable, choosing the right colour contrast is a key element for website accessibility.

For SEO is the same: Providing the right contrast means paying attention to colour selection and contrast ratio to make sure the website content is visible and user-friendly for as many people as possible.

For example, grey text on a white background can be hard to be distinguished and read by many users. Because text with low contrast can be challenging, this issue can negatively affect the SEO performance of a website.

Grey text on grey background - hard to read text
Grey text on grey background - hard to read text

Tip: Use Google Lighthouse to perform audits for accessibility and search engine optimization for your website.

2. Font size

Especially on mobile devices, many people leave a website as soon as they land on a page just because the text is too small to read.

For SEO, a minimum of a 16px font ensures the site will be mobile-friendly, which is crucial in the mobile-first index.

For web accessibility, fonts should not be smaller than 9 pt (=12px) as smaller sizes may be illegible on mobile platforms.

Tips: There are simple rules for colour contrast and font size:

• The text that has the font size of 18 pt, or 14 pt and it is bold, needs a contrast ratio of 3:1.

• All other texts need a contrast ratio of 4.5:1.

3. Headings

The header structure establishes the content hierarchy on a page. There are six levels of headers (from H1 to H6) that need to follow a logical sequence on a page. Because both Google bots and screen readers follow the same logical sequence, choosing the right headings for texts on a site is paramount both for SEO and web accessibility.

Good Header Structure vs. Bad Header Structure
Good Header Structure vs. Bad Header Structure example

4. Title Tags

Title tags help screen readers and Google searchers read vital information about a web page. Although invisible on the website page per se, they appear in lots of different places: search results, browser tab titles, bookmarks, and even on social media shares.

Example of title tags on Google Search
Example of title tags on Google Search

For web accessibility, title tags are important as these are usually the first item a screen reader would read to a user visiting a web page. Since title tags influence the visitor's first experience even before landing on a web page, they are also essential for SEO as these help a user decide whether to visit the website or not. Needless to say, optimizing title tags for SEO is key to attracting the right visitor to the website.

5. Responsive designs for mobile devices

According to Google, 50% of web traffic comes from mobile devices, and 63% of smartphone users are more likely to purchase from companies with mobile sites that offer products of interest. Thus, from an SEO perspective, this information alone is enough to realize why having a mobile-friendly website is key for a business looking to grow its business online.

Responsive design on a mobile device
Responsive design on a mobile device

As responsive design for mobile devices involves a layout’s ability to adapt to screen size, responsive design can be sometimes challenging in terms of web accessibility. Thus, to have a responsive design that is also accessible, common sense and simplicity are key; this includes simple navigation menus, color contrast, less cluttered mobile versions, the use of scroll bars where the content is not displayed entirely on the screen, and more.

6. Alternative text (also called alt text, alt tags, or alt description)

Alternative text is an HTML attribute, which is an invisible, alternative text version of an image rendered by computers in case the image would not load. As alt text provides both image description and keywords, it is important for both SEO and accessibility.

For SEO, alt text is considered a ranking factor, especially for Image Search. As alt texts offer opportunities to include target keywords – another practice known to influence ranking in search engines -- SEO importance for alt text is even higher.

In regards to web accessibility, people with impaired vision rely on alt text to understand the content of an image as the description of a picture is read out loud to them by screen readers.

Tip: Visit NV Access and download for free a screen reader to understand how this program works for people with low vision.

7. Video captions and transcriptions

Video captions (closed captions or subtitles) and transcriptions are textual representations of a spoken video or audio; they can appear within the video itself as synchronized text with the audio track (video captions), or as a stand-alone text on the page (transcriptions).

As Google bots cannot see videos or hear audio files, both captions and transcriptions play essential roles in SEO as they inform Google about the topic of the video; once Google knows the content, the keywords, and the topic of the video, chances for the media file to appear in search results increase. That is why adding captions and transcripts to videos is a good strategy for improving SEO and search rank, as well as getting views and engagement.

In regards to web accessibility, both video captions and transcriptions provide accommodations for individuals with hearing impairments and for those who speak English as a 2nd language; as well, they can compensate for poor audio quality or noisy background; and, be useful in a sound-sensitive environment like a doctor’s office or workplace.

Conclusion: SEO and web accessibility work together as they both have a common goal: enhancing user experience (UX) on a website. Designing a website with the user's needs in mind means building an accessible and inclusive website, which is always a good SEO strategy.

Adept Marketing Solutions helps businesses with search engine optimization while integrating web accessibility when building, designing, or maintaining websites. If your website is in need of a complete revamp to reach your target audience, don't hesitate to contact us today.


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