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Accessibility & Search Engine Optimization: What marketers need to know

Accessibility & Search Engine Optimization: What marketers need to know

Accessibility in web design has been tracked by Google since 2017, and many believe the next Google Page Experience algorithm update will include it as an important measurement. But what does accessibility mean when it comes to a website? What changes will need to be made to reach the benchmarks, and why does accessibility matter? Glad you asked.

Why Does Accessibility Matter?

When you think about accessibility in relation to websites, you might think about blind or visually impaired people who rely on screen readers. And while this may be a large percentage of users, there are many other users who need accessibility measures as well. This can include people who have:

  • Low vision
  • Color blindness
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Deafness or hearing loss
  • Learning difficulties
  • Weakened motor function, fatigue, paralysis, or tremors

But just because there’s a lot of nuances doesn’t mean accessibility is all that difficult to achieve. In reality, accessibility is just a step towards a better user experience. Google has been driving towards more accessible websites for years, and it is on track to be a ranking factor in 2022. (Ranking factors impact where or if your website shows up on the search engine results page.)

If you design an accessible website, you’ve designed a more future-proof website. 

What is an Accessible Website?

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 are an internationally recognized set of guidelines for digital accessibility. These outline what an accessible website should look like and how it should function. They are composed of four main sections: Perceivable, Operable, Understandable, and Robust:

  • Perceivable if a user can’t access content in its original form
  • Operable without a mouse or without a keyboard
  • Understandable and readable content (text, imagery, video)
  • Robust experience with assistive technologies

What Can Search Engine Optimization Do For Accessibility?

Many of the above guidelines for accessible websites are already foundations of good SEO. Alt text for images, descriptive text for labels and buttons, unique titles for each page, logical sequence of headings - these are already used by most search engine marketers (SEMs) to create optimized websites. The A11y Project provides a comprehensive checklist that web developers and SEMs can utilize to ensure the websites they create meet the standards laid out in WCAG 2.1. This includes standards for your content, global code, keyboard use, images, headings, controls, forms, and more. 

While this checklist is great, it can be a bit daunting for small businesses. To make it simple, we recommend the following as the main focus for most companies:

  • Page titles that focus on the visitor, not the brand
  • Headings in a logical order with topical groupings
  • Alt Text that describes what's on an image, not just the keywords
  • Link Text that describes where it's going, with anchor text for internal linking

If you're looking to make your website more accessible and future-proof, contact CI Design to learn how we can help.

Amanda Horejsfield

Amanda Horejsfield

SEM Specialist

Amanda is an SEM specialist on our award-winning digital marketing team. She's all about putting data and creativity together to deliver fantastic results for our clients. (She also has a serious cast iron pizza game!)

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