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How Accessible Websites Improve User Experience & Search Ranking

September 15, 2022

Online accessibility means websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them. Web accessibility is essentially inclusion. And what does that have to do with optimizing your website to rank well in search engine results? More than you may think!

Accessible, compliant websites allow all people accessing the internet to accomplish their goals. They help get people to the most relevant content related to their query, quickly and easily. And isn’t that what search engine optimization (SEO) is all about?

Want to rank higher in search results? Make your website accessible (to more than search engines). Learn more details about the interwovenness of SEO and web accessibility in this article.

Is Web Accessibility a Google Ranking Factor?

Google is hesitant to explicitly state what is and isn’t a ranking factor. That’s because the algorithms it uses are complex and ever-evolving (just like the humans using their search engine!). Website accessibility hasn’t “officially” been confirmed by Google as a ranking factor, but there are many indicators that it contributes to improved search rankings.


Indicators that website accessibility influences SEO:

  • An accessibility score is given in the Google Developers Lighthouse tool, which measures the quality of web pages. This indicates web accessibility is important to Google and it can be measured on a large scale.
  • Many tried and tested on-site SEO best practices are also key components of web accessibility. These on-site factors (such as heading tags and alt image text) make websites more easily accessible for those with visual and auditory limitations. This refers to both people and spiders that crawl websites!
  • On-site SEO best practices are helpful for those using assistive technology to browse the web and search engines. Similarly, sitemaps and breadcrumbs are helpful for both parties to understand the architecture of a website.

There are clear overlaps between SEO best practices and web accessibility compliance. Want to rank higher in Google search results? Start by improving the accessibility and WCAG compliance of your website.

Key Areas to Improve Both SEO & Web Accessibility

By taking proactive steps to improve your website’s accessibility and compliance, you’re simultaneously taking steps to improve your SEO. That means the content you put online can be more easily found and accessed by a larger audience of people. And who doesn’t want that?

Here are the top three areas to focus on in your quest to improve both SEO and web accessibility:

Content Accessibility & SEO

  • Heading Tag Structure
  • Image Alt Text
  • Link Anchor Text
  • Audio & Video Transcripts

Site Architecture Accessibility & SEO

  • Sitemaps
  • Breadcrumbs
  • In-page Linking (links to other pages on your website vs. an outbound link)

Meta Data Accessibility & SEO

  • Title Tags
  • Meta Descriptions
  • Open Graph Tags

This is not an exhaustive list of elements that make your website accessible and compliant with the latest website accessibility standards (WCAG 2.1).

For a free website accessibility scan, please visit AODA Online.

Improving Accessibility & SEO with UX Best Practices

Many best practices for a better user experience also increase accessibility to people using assistive technology to view websites. They allow search engine bots to crawl websites more efficiently, too.

A great user experience will keep users on your website longer, increasing dwell time and motivating more engagement. These actionable next steps can help you to reap a trifecta of rewards for UX, SEO, and web accessibility:

  • Page Speed: Ensure pages load quickly. This allows users and bots to view the entire web page, helping people move to the next step in their user journey with ease.
  • Responsive, Mobile-First Designs: Connecting customers with the information and products/services they need should be the primary focus of a website. It’s possible to find a balance of beautiful, unique website design and accessibility. But prioritize user experience and accessibility. Otherwise, you will end up having to pay Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn to send traffic to your website.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Content shifts as a page is loading creates a poor user experience, especially on mobile and assistive devices. When our intended target shifts at the last moment, it’s annoying at the very least, but for someone with a visual impairment, this can make websites very inaccessible.
  • Image & Text Contrast: One of the most failed accessibility compliance issues for people with visual impairments is the lack of appropriate colour contrast levels on websites. It’s important that the selection of foreground and background colours differ enough for the human eye to distinguish the content. Did you know that Google also sees low contrast text and background as spammy? That’s right: it’s bad for accessibility, user experience, and can result in manual penalties from Google.

Creating a Better Online Experience for All

There are many benefits to businesses, search engines, and humans by making your website more accessible and inclusive. It can drastically improve user experience and get you on the first page of Google’s search engine.

Above all, proactively pursuing web accessibility is the right thing to do. Let us know if we can help guide you.

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