In the ever-evolving landscape of search engine optimisation (SEO), one factor is gaining unprecedented prominence: digital accessibility. Not only it is an ethical responsibility but optimising for accessibility is also a strategic move that can significantly impact search rankings. In a world where 1 in 6 Australians grapple with disabilities, providing an accessible online experience isn’t just a nice-to-have – it’s a must-have.
Ensuring that your website is user-friendly for all can not only improve user experience but also foster a stronger sense of belonging to your brand. This means that there is a wider audience that can be reached by making websites accessible. In this article, we will look into the realm of Inclusive SEO, exploring ways to optimise websites for users with disabilities.
Understanding Inclusive SEO
In simple terms, inclusive SEO is the practice of optimising websites for all users, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. This includes using clear, concise, and inclusive language, providing alternative text for images, and making sure the website is accessible to screen readers and other assistive technologies.
Having inclusive SEO strategy is important for a number of reasons. First, it can help to improve the user experience for everyone. When a website is accessible to all users, it is more likely to be used and engaged with. This can lead to increased traffic, conversions, and sales. Second, inclusive SEO efforts can help to improve your search rankings. Google has said that it is committed to making its search results more accessible to people with disabilities. This means that websites that are more accessible are more likely to rank higher in search results.
It’s about breaking down digital barriers and making your content universally accessible through inclusive web design. Not only does this align with ethical principles, but it also aligns with search engines’ commitment to providing the best user experience possible.
Optimising for Accessibility
Start by employing semantic HTML tags to structure your content. This aids screen readers and search engines in understanding the content hierarchy and relationships.
Here are some examples of semantic HTML tags:
<header>: Indicates the header of a document
<article>: Indicates an independent, self-contained piece of content
<section>: Indicates a section of a document
<aside>: Indicates content that is aside from the main content of a document
<footer>: Indicates the footer of a document
Alt Text Optimisation
Craft descriptive alternative text (alt text) for images, providing context for visually impaired users and search engine crawlers. Consider using keywords naturally, but avoid keyword stuffing.
Ensure that your website is navigable using only a keyboard. This is crucial for individuals who rely on keyboard navigation due to motor disabilities.
How to navigate on keyboard:
Use the Tab key to navigate through the page. The Tab key is the most important key for keyboard navigation. It allows users to move from one focusable element to the next.
The arrow keys help to move within a focusable element. The arrow keys can be used to move up, down, left, and right within a focusable element, such as a link or a button.
The Enter key is to be used to activate a focusable element, such as a link or a button.
Use the Spacebar to check or uncheck a checkbox or radio button. The Spacebar can be used to check or uncheck a checkbox or radio button.
Use the Esc key to close a dialog box or other pop-up. The Esc key can be used to close a dialog box or other pop-up.
Transcripts and Captions
For multimedia content like videos and podcasts, provide accurate transcripts and captions. This not only aids those with hearing impairments but also enhances the discoverability of your content in search results.
Readable Typography and Color Contrast
Opt for readable fonts and maintain proper color contrast between text and background to enhance readability, benefiting users with visual impairments.
ProTip: you can use tools such as Toptal, which is a colorblind web page filter that allows you to test URLs against main color-blind anomalies.
Make forms user-friendly by including clear labels, providing error messages, and offering alternatives for CAPTCHAs, which can be challenging for some users.
(or <h> tags) guide users through content sections, aiding in scanning and comprehension. Following a logical heading hierarchy enhances the user experience and satisfies accessibility requirements. Although SEO’s relationship with headings is less clear-cut, the focus on structured content aligns with search engine preferences.
When we talk about web accessibility, headings are the building blocks of navigational clarity. An intelligently structured heading hierarchy breaks down content, enabling users to swiftly locate relevant information. This logical arrangement caters to various users, including those who rely on screen readers to navigate. Abiding by the principles outlined in WCAG’s Success Criterion 1.3.1, you create an inclusive environment where content is digestible for everyone.
In the realm of SEO online environment, structured headings mirror the essence of user-friendly content. While search engines may not place emphasis on heading tags, their presence contributes to content organisation. Search engines appreciate high-quality content that’s easy to understand and navigate, mirroring the principles of web accessibility. By maintaining a coherent heading structure, you align with search engine preferences and enhance the user experience.
Descriptive links offer clarity to users, enabling them to grasp the link’s purpose even before clicking. Accessibility demands meaningful link text, while SEO benefits from informative anchor text that reinforces content relevance.
In an era where links thread the digital fabric, accessibility advocates for clear, concise link text. Screen reader users rely on link descriptions to understand their purpose without the context of surrounding content. By offering descriptive links, you extend an inviting hand to users, guiding them effortlessly through your content.
For SEO specialists, descriptive link text doubles as a strategic advantage. Search engines scrutinize anchor text to discern content relevance. Thoughtfully crafted anchor text provides additional context, signaling to search engines the content’s theme. By merging the principles of accessibility and SEO, you craft content that’s both user-centric and search-engine friendly.
Breadcrumbs, a navigational aid, benefit users by revealing their position within a website’s structure. The accessibility boost comes from aiding users with cognitive differences. SEO-wise, search engines appreciate well-structured websites, and breadcrumbs contribute to coherent site mapping.
Imagine the user navigating through your website, equipped with breadcrumbs as their compass. These unobtrusive yet effective navigation aids provide context, letting users trace their digital steps. For individuals with cognitive challenges, breadcrumbs are akin to breadcrumbs in a fairy tale, leading them back to familiar territory.
From an SEO perspective, breadcrumbs offer a systematic blueprint for search engine crawlers. These virtual trails enable search engines to comprehend your website’s hierarchy, contributing to a seamless indexing process. As search engines value structured content, incorporating breadcrumbs aligns with their indexing preferences. Thus, embracing breadcrumbs for accessibility inadvertently harmonizes with search engine optimisation strategies and assures you higher search engine rankings.
Sitemaps offer an alternative navigation path, aiding users with diverse needs. From an SEO perspective, sitemaps expedite content indexing, enhancing search engine visibility.
Picture a sitemap as a comprehensive map of your digital terrain, assisting users in navigating your website’s expanse. While essential for all users, sitemaps provide an alternative route for those who may find traditional navigation challenging. Screen reader users, for instance, can access a simplified list of links, streamlining their interactions.
From an SEO standpoint, sitemaps hold strategic significance. Search engines, hungry for relevant content, scour websites for information. A well-structured sitemap serves as a treasure trove of essential pages, beckoning search engine crawlers to index your content efficiently. As search engines value timely content discovery, updating your sitemap as you add new pages accelerates indexing, translating to quicker search engine visibility. Here, accessibility’s focus on navigation harmoniously blends with SEO’s indexing priorities.
Conclusion – The Impact on Search Rankings
Inclusive SEO isn’t merely a trend; it’s an imperative facet of modern digital strategy. By optimising for accessibility, you’re not only fostering a more inclusive online environment but also enhancing your website’s potential for improved search rankings. Remember, search engines reward websites that prioritise user experience and cater to diverse audiences. In the journey toward optimal SEO performance, inclusivity is an avenue you can’t afford to ignore.
In the dynamic landscape of digital presence, the marriage of accessibility and SEO becomes evident. Crafting an inclusive environment isn’t just a gesture of goodwill; it’s a strategic move that enriches experiences for users with disabilities. Simultaneously, this commitment to inclusivity aligns with search engine preferences, propelling your content toward favorable search rankings.
As you embark on the journey of creating an accessible digital realm, remember that the principles of accessibility and SEO share common ground. Through meaningful page titles, structured headings, descriptive links, breadcrumbs, text equivalents for images, transcripts, captions, readability, consistent navigation, and sitemaps, you weave a tapestry that caters to diverse needs and delights search engines alike.
By embracing the interplay of accessibility and SEO, you forge a path that resonates with the heart of digital evolution – a space that’s welcoming, navigable, and inclusive for all.