SEO + Web Accessibility

A flashlight with "SEO" imprinted on it

Read time: 8 minutes


When it comes to creating a website, we do everything we can to ensure that it is fully accessible.

From alt-text on each image to creating light and dark modes, we make sure that every website is built with accessibility in mind. 

We don’t do this with any sort of “plug-and-play” feature either, as every site is custom fit with accessibility features that make sense for their website, its functionality, and their business goals. 

For many people, the benefit is clear:

Having an accessible website that anyone can use regardless of ability. 

This is especially beneficial for website owners who have people with disabilities as a primary demographic, such as Centers for Independent Living (CILs). 

And while many people focus on that, as well as having a fresh and clean website that better captures the business’s “essence,” there’s another benefit that many people may not think about:

SEO

When you have an accessible website, not only do you ensure anyone can use your site, but you also increase the chances of people finding your site through search engines like Google and Bing. 

How?

Although we can point to specific web-accessible practices that help contribute to strong SEO, that would be a long list. 

Instead, here are three consistent themes you’ll see among accessible and high-ranking sites, as well as one action item you can do today, to ensure your site is not only accessible but rankable.

It’s Easy-to-Use

A jar of pencils labeled with H and P tags

Regardless of what industry you’re in or what customers you serve, it’s incredibly important to ensure that your website is easy to use.

Now, “easy-to-use” is often thrown around as a blanket statement for users, with little explanation of what it means.

When we say “easy-to-use,” not only do we talk about simple things like page load speed and proper navigation (more on that later), but we’re also talking about:

  • Clearly defined web pages that explain the specific purpose of it.
  • Properly written content that utilizes sensible structure and organization.
  • Pages that offer options to “get what you need” and “learn more,” are all on one page.
  • Web pages that are optimized for mobile devices.

All of these factors play a big role in creating an easy-to-use experience for your users, as well as helping your site rank higher on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages)

So, how exactly does an easy-to-use website rank well on Google?

The two metrics that Google and Bing pay attention to are bounce rate and page dwell time, as these are general indicators of how long a user will stay on your site.

Bounce rate tells Google the percentage of users that leave your site after only viewing one page, while page dwell time lets Google know how long a user spends time on your website. 

When you have a low bounce rate and high page dwell time, it’s likely that your website will rank higher on Google.

And what’s a way to move towards that goal?

By creating an easy-to-use site.

What You Can Do

So, what can you do today to ensure your site is a lot easier to use?

Ensure that all of your pages follow a proper content structure. 

Whenever your content is laid out, it should follow the traditional H tag and P tag structure.

It would look something like this:

<H1>Title</H1>

       <H2>Subheading</H2>

            <p>Paragraph</p>

Notice how there are “levels” to how this content is structured? This is how you want to set up any piece of content on your website. There isn’t a limited number of H tags either, so you can go as far down as H3 and H4. Whatever is needed for your content.

Not only will this be easy to understand for users, but this is also exceptionally helpful for those who rely on screen readers, as these tools read through content following this structure. 

So the next time you look through your site for improvements, make sure your content follows a proper structure. 

Your users will thank you, and Google may reward you.

Provide a Quality Experience

A black and white photo of trees

Websites that rank well on SERPs do so because they offer a quality experience for their users, but seldom is the user experience built with SEO in mind.

In fact, strong SEO is an unintended (but welcomed) result of a quality experience.

What makes a quality website experience?

It’s not as complex as you might think.

While many people believe a quality website experience involves all the bells and whistles — such as video banner images and interactive maps — what many web users appreciate is simplicity.

Is your user, even with all the bells and whistles you may have on a site, able to find exactly what they need? 

Are they able to easily navigate through your website?

But along with everything mentioned, you need to keep accessibility in mind.

Does your site offer options to enlarge text for people with sight disabilities? 

Are users able to toggle between light and dark mode to better improve contrast? 

Can users fully rely on just a keyboard to navigate your site easily? 

These small things are critical to creating a quality experience for your users and ensuring they feel empowered on your website.

Too often, businesses want to “reinvent the wheel” and provide new functionality to a site. Although that may work for some websites, that certainly won’t work for all of them.

What You Can Do

Write alt-text.

A lot of the things we just mentioned — proper navigation, video banner images, toggling light and dark mode, etc. — take time and some back-end knowledge to implement properly and with accessibility in mind. 

But one thing you can do is write alt-text on all of your photos. 

Similar to captions, alt-text allows people who rely on screen readers to properly understand the photo and its context to the content. 

A couple of key things to note about alt-text:

  • Make sure you keep it to 125 characters or less
  • Don’t write alt-text for purely decorative photos
  • Don’t start alt-text with “A photo of…” or “An image of…”
  • Don’t “keyword stuff” your alt-text

Notice that last piece of advice? 

Yep, search engines actually take into account the alt-text you write for your photos, and they can have a positive impact on your website’s SEO. But, as we mentioned, avoid keyword stuffing and focus on describing the photo with as much detail as possible.

Finding Info Quickly

A street sign with arrows pointing in opposite directions

Whenever people land on your website, whether it’s on a blog page or on the home page, they should be able to quickly understand the structure of the site. 

From main and secondary navigation to the logo serving as the “return home” button, users should be able to understand all of this fairly quickly. 

You want to make sure that your site allows users to quickly find what they are looking for. Although it’s great to have users scroll and click through your website, you should never force them to do that. 

From an SEO standpoint, the best way you can track this is by evaluating your “Returning Visitors” data point, as this gives you insight into how many people are returning to your website. 

This is also why bounce rate isn’t always the “end all, be all” of your website. 

Many users visit a site with a specific goal in mind. If your site is able to provide that to them in one or two clicks, that’s a great sign of usability! 

The more returning visitors you have, the more Google is motivated to rank you higher in SERPs, as your website will be seen as a “valuable and reliable” resource.

What You Can Do

Now, this isn’t something that you’ll be able to implement today (unless you have some coding skills), but it is something we recommend you implement.

Especially if you have a deep website filled with various articles and products.

We’re talking about breadcrumbs.

Breadcrumbs not only allow your users to understand their own journey through your site, but also allows them to easily “retrace their steps” without having to rely on the back button. 

Notice the image below:

Best Buy breadcrumb system
Credit: Best Buy

See how Best Buy gives users a clear understanding of where they would need to go to find “Chromebooks?”

Although Best Buy gives you options to find certain products right from the homepage, it will always give you a breadcrumb trail to understand how you would get there if you had to click through the site.

So if you ever want to look at different laptops or even find tablets, all you need to do is follow the breadcrumb trail. 

Convenient, right?

From an accessibility standpoint, this is a fantastic feature for those that rely on keyboard navigation. Now instead of having to rely on the back button or toggle through the different options on the navigation bar, keyboard users can simply toggle through the breadcrumb options. 

And when your website is convenient for all users, you can imagine how Google will react to that.


Although our web-accessible practices are beneficial to SEO, we are by no means SEO experts. 

If you’re looking to learn more about SEO, we highly recommend the brilliant minds at Search Engine Journal. These experts are constantly providing new content to help you understand what’s going on in the world of SEO.

And if you’re looking to better understand web accessibility’s impact on SEO, we highly recommend this article: How and Why Accessibility Matters for SEO.

It’s well worth the read. 

And if you’re looking to learn more about web accessibility, come check out our blog! It’s filled with tips and tricks — for beginners and seasoned pros — that’ll help make your web more accessible.