SEO and Accessibility: 4 Things You Need to Know

When developing a new website, businesses often think about mobile responsiveness and aesthetics, however accessibility is also a critical part of the design process and will affect search engine optimization (SEO).

Designing and developing a website for accessibility may seem like a daunting task but it’s not complex. Here’s a video to demonstrate the types of features you need to think about.

The first step is to determine the exact requirements for your organization. A good place to start if you are a business based in Ontario, Canada is here. Not meeting required standards can lead to legal issues.

AODA Compliance

January 2021 is the website compliance deadline facing many organizations under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA). The new AODA website requirements have been in effect for government-based organizations since 2012. However, larger organizations must comply with Level A requirements after January 1, 2014 and with Level AA requirements after January 1, 2021.

Compliant sites will meet WCAG 2.0 guidelines which provides text alternatives for any non-text content to facilitate conversions into alternate formats such as large print, braille or high contrast visuals to enable those with sight limitations to use the website. Accessibility standards exist to assist visitors with visual impairments, allowing them to more easily read content or distinguish certain colours, in addition to text to speech options where content is made audible. It also includes accessibility for the deaf through closed caption video.

SEO

Accessible websites and SEO

Even if your business is not required to meet these standards it is still good practice to offer an accessible website for people who might have disabilities. Accessibility optimized websites offer simpler navigation and cleaner interfaces (see video above), which will improve overall user experience, customer satisfaction and drive brand loyalty. With better navigation and an improved user experience, bounce rates decrease and better conversions can be realized.

How Accessibility Enhances SEO

  1. Universal accessibility = higher traffic, lower bounce rates, better conversions
  2. Alt tags and descriptions
  3. Skip links
  4. Closed caption video and keyword content

Accessible websites require proper alt tags and descriptions for images and content so that your website will experience increased traffic through search.

There are other benefits such skip links. Skip links are mainly used by screen reader users for bypassing or ‘skipping’ over repetitive web page content. Their purpose is to give alternative technology users (people using keyboards and screen readers) the ability to actually skip through blocks of content. These internal links are important because they help search engines better understand and navigate your site which is important for indexing.

Closed caption video increases website visitor watch time and accessibility. Video transcripts offer the flexibility to generate SEO content around effective keywords which Google rewards from an SEO perspective.

When designing for accessibility, your business becomes universally accessible creating a positive user experience that is not only good for your brand but also for SEO.

For more information about designing and developing AODA-compliant websites and SEO, please click here.

For more information about AODA guidelines and deadlines, please click here.