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What is web accessibility?

Web accessibility is the general term used for various web elements that combine to provide users with access to your site and its content. This is primarily aimed at people with some form of disability, but it also has an impact on the overall user experience and SEO.

With about 15% of the world’s population suffers from some form of disability, it is important to take into account different aspects of accessibility on your site. This has been brought to the fore even more during the pandemic, as more and more users depend on online services rather than physical locations.

It is written in law in many countries that government sites must meet accessibility requirements, but it is also strongly recommended that private companies meet these requirements as well. There have been several cases of companies being sued for lack of accessibility and there is the obvious lack of conversions that can result from inaccessible sites.

What does this have to do with SEO?

As mentioned, there are many aspects of accessibility that relate to user experience and the list below of common issues is often cited to improve the overall SEO and organic performance of a website.

From the correct use of html structures to structured data and transcriptions, these SEO-optimized optimizations also translate into better accessibility. Responsibility over the past few years has been the responsiveness, speed and usability of the site, so there is a good chance that other accessibility features will be recognized ranking factors in the future.

Common accessibility issues

The points below are some of the main accessibility issues that can cause issues – from some aspects that don’t work as expected to whole sites that are inaccessible. Even a single aspect or just one of these affecting your site can block that potential 15% of traffic and conversions.

Excessive reliance on JavaScript

Still useful, but still a headache for search engine optimization – JavaScript is ideal for users who rely on its visual delivery. For those with eyesight issues, this can make websites virtually empty unless alternatives are provided.

Disabling JavaScript is pretty straightforward to do, so you can quickly see your site how many screen readers will see it. They are improving in this area, as are search engine bots, but it is still a problem for many users.

No suitable alternative when JavaScript is disabled gives a sliding scale of utility. We’ve seen sites that don’t return any code, right down to malformed menus and a lack of images.

The latter is fine in many cases, but you may need to work more on your internal links. Stores that lazily load content and products can inadvertently restrict user access to important pages.

Image alt text

Not only designed to give you a little more SEO clout and to gain traffic from image searches, providing appropriate alt text gives reference and context to users who can’t see the images.

This is probably the best example where accessibility options have been co-opted for digital marketing reasons and they can often be spam and not very good for users. Rather than « ticking a box » to make all of your images have alt text, make sure it’s actually useful. Describe the image and do it ideally in relation to each page it is on.

Headers and structure

As mentioned earlier, the basic html structures of a site can go a long way in indexing, formatting, and organizing information. This is true for screen readers, crawlers, and general accessibility.

Header tags, paragraphs, tables, bullets, and structured data not only help you get that snippet or rich result, they allow full access to your site and the content within it. contains.

These will be development issues more often, but they end up in SEO enough to deserve attention. If your flashy page has an array of images rather than a style

, it could result in a scrambled mess.

Make sure your header structure makes sense and is properly implemented throughout the site. While not strictly required for SEO, they are good to see from an accessibility standpoint and are worth working on just for that.

Video transcripts

Many accessible points rely on the readability of images and content. Videos being a mixed media of sounds and images, they are doubly open to inaccessibility.

Solving this issue with transcripts, descriptions, and other additional information is a great way to reach out to all users. Schema markup for videos can help you with all of this without making a visible difference to your site.

On third-party sites like YouTube, you may be limited to adding a transcript and descriptions in the comments, but on your own site, you can completely control what is there.

Images and text

Similar to the point made in the header and structure section above, if you are providing textual content in an image, how can someone know what they are saying?

Alt text helps in a way, but it shouldn’t be used for larger amounts of text. If you are creating header images or anything else with text, you should add it with html text, not purely graphic content.

It’s a bit more development work, but besides making it accessible, it can be used to reduce image size and increase page speed.

Off-screen items

Defining things offscreen was a must-have SEO tactic alongside keyword stuffing. After a while, this becomes standard practice again for responsiveness and for other content such as screen readers.

Despite being a big no-no, the practice is generally accepted by search engines as a good thing to do as long as it’s not malicious.

Interstitial and cookie notices

Interstitial pop-ups, cookie notices, and other things to keep users coming back can be annoying at the best of times, and that frustration is heightened for those with accessibility issues.

Without a clear X or some other method of closing these pop-ups, they can render an entire site unusable. This is a relatively small number of sites, but it is essential if something goes wrong.

Intrusive advertisements

Similar to the above, these are everyday annoyances that people live with, but even for the most knowledgeable and experienced user, they can prove to be difficult.

We’ve all known sites where you scroll down and then it’s a solid ad for a screen or two. In these cases, it may be difficult to scroll without clicking on the ad, which can cause problems for users browsing through unconventional means, leading to …

Keyboard navigation

Interaction with the sites is done primarily through the mouse and touch screens, but many users have adapted keyboards and other devices to replace them.

Most sites are coded so that they can be navigated via arrows, tab, space, entry, etc. You probably did this accidentally while pausing a YouTube video with space only for it to scroll down because you didn’t select the video.

Everything is fine and is working perfectly fine – until it is not. Sometimes, users can be prevented from browsing the sites, intentionally or not. A famous example of this led to a lawsuit filed against Beyonce and her website because it was impossible to navigate for disabled users.

Contrast & Colors

A little bit less 10% of all people are color blind, so with this condition and others that can cause difficulty reading and interpreting sites, it is important to keep this in mind.

Obviously, this shouldn’t lead to all sites being monochrome and boring, but if you’re in the design stages or considering A / B testing with colors, it’s worth considering.

HTML sitemaps

It might be considered an archaic thing, but having a link in the footer to an auto-generated page is very little effort and real estate to make life a lot easier for those who need it.

If you think having an XML sitemap is good then you should consider how a user would get to that page? Probably 99% of all XML sitemaps are not linked from the main site, so they are functionally unnecessary in terms of user accessibility.

Internal link

Internal links have been mentioned several times throughout this article, and they are important for SEO and accessibility.

Increased context, better access to deeper pages, and a better overall user experience are all created when you include good internal links. “Traditional” internal linking methods of SEO are good for this, but it should be noted that “click here” type links have reduced context for accessibility purposes. You need to include keywords in the anchor text to give context and make it easier for users to find those links.


As you read this, you will see that SEO has become intrinsically linked with accessibility over the past few years and will continue to do so.

There are many accessibility testing tools, such as Wave – Web Accessibility Assessment Tool and Google’s Lighthouse test tool in Chrome. With testing tools you can often get wrong results and good quality control and testing is ideal but make sure accessibility is in mind throughout design, build and work. subsequent referencing of your site.

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