Ryan Wieland

SEO Accessibility: 4 Quick Accessibility Fixes to Improve SEO

For any organization to be successful, it is crucial to make wise business decisions that yield maximum Return on Investment (ROI). However, when it comes to digital and web teams, accessibility has not been a top priority in the past.

Let’s consider, though, that it might just take a simple mind shift into considering the Return on Accessibility (ROA)

Of course, we could write about the legal ramifications to drive the need to ensure your website is accessible, but that is as equally a required insurance policy as it is ROA. 

Instead, let’s focus on one of the most highly budgeted and invested line items for most digital marketing teams – search engine optimization (SEO).

While digital accessibility and WCAG compliance standards might be foreign to many marketing teams, SEO is one of the cornerstones of their success in most cases. On the surface, SEO and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) may seem like two very different topics, but they are closely related. 

In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of SEO and WCAG compliance working together to improve the overall user experience of a website while driving ROA for any business.

How do SEO & WCAG Compliance work together?

Simply put, SEO and WCAG compliance are not mutually exclusive. In fact, one of the main focuses of both is to improve the overall user experience of a website – which shows they consistently work in parallel with one another. 

Unfortunately, most digital teams believe these competencies are separate issues with different goals, which reduces the impact of both for many websites.

WCAG compliance is often seen as only a legal or ethical requirement to ensure that websites are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. On the other hand, SEO is often viewed as a marketing strategy to increase visibility and drive traffic to a website. 

Ultimately, one leads to the other. 

Strong SEO helps lead a more diverse audience to your website; WCAG Compliance ensures that the entire audience can engage with your brand once users land there. 

How could they be more tightly knit for a website strategy than that?

4 WCAG Success criteria that improve SEO

For many teams trying to depict the ROA of engaging for an accessibility audit to leadership, it is crucial to connect WCAG success criteria specifically to SEO results. Here are just a few examples:

  1. Proper alternative text for images: WCAG 1.1.1 requires websites to provide descriptive alternative text for images. This helps visually impaired users understand the content of an image that impacts the user experience. However, providing descriptive alternative text for images can also benefit SEO by providing relevant text to search engines, which can help improve the website’s search rankings.
  2. Proper Content Headings: WCAG 1.3.1 requires websites to use headings to organize content. Properly structured content, including headings and subheadings, makes it easier for users to understand the content on a website. It also helps search engines better understand the website’s content, which can boost search engine rankings.
  3. Clear page titles: WCAG 2.4.2 ensures that websites provide a clear and concise page title on all pages presented to the end user. Clear and concise page titles can help search engines better understand the website’s content and drive better SEO results.
  4. Including descriptive link text: WCAG 2.4.4 outlines that websites must include descriptive link text. Descriptive link text can not only help visually impaired users understand the purpose of a link, but it can also help search engines understand the context and relevance of the link, inherently driving better search engine rankings.

How do SEO and Accessibility work together?

At this point, it’s likely easy for any moderately trained SEO leader to build the correlation between SEO and WCAG Compliance. 

Ultimately, teams looking to improve their SEO aim to drive higher time on pages, lower their bounce rate, increase keyword usage, and provide a better user experience to ensure their users stick and ultimately convert. 

The four examples above clearly define how any strong SEO plan should ensure WCAG Compliance is baked in.

By improving the user experience to ALL users, a brand can quickly and easily increase engagement and reduce a near-immediate bounce rate from roughly 20% of the US population living with a disability. 

If 1 of every 5 consumers bounces by default, driving a successful SEO plan will be an uphill battle. Additionally, through some of the most basic WCAG competencies, such as providing proper alt-text and descriptive links, digital teams can increase keywords while delivering a great user experience to every consumer – a win-win for digital accessibility and SEO.

Finally, I urge teams to consider a broader range of scenarios when striving for WCAG Compliance and the ROA to ensure accessibility rather than only focusing on extreme cases. 

Ultimately, a highly accessible experience is also a great user experience for every visitor. Many non-WCAG compliant websites are riddled with UX issues such as confusing user journeys, bad color contrast, or text over images, just to name a few I often see. This affects every website visitor, not only those leveraging assistive technology, and will holistically lead to a much higher bounce rate. 

Digital teams should recognize that WCAG and SEO complement each other and should not be treated as separate tasks. By working together, they can enhance each other’s effectiveness.