February 5, 2021

SEO & ADA: Accessibility Meets Crawlability

Search engine optimization (SEO) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance are among the most common and important digital marketing buzzwords. While it is easy to consider the efforts behind these items siloed and non-compatible, they merge quite nicely. By blending these interests, you create a better website for everyone

By definition, if you improve your website for all users, you help your SEO and ADA compliance efforts as you cast a wider audience net. When accessibility meets crawlability, it is the best of both worlds. Here are some actionable ways to support your SEO and ADA compliance.

From Top to Bottom of the Page

Focus on Your Title

Every website page should have a Heading 1 (H1), also known as a title.  Before you start adding these titles mindlessly, stop and ask yourself:

Titles are driving factors to your SEO strategy and allow users who may be navigating pages based solely on the title recited by their screen reader to get exactly what they need.

Use Headers Early and Often

Headings are useful for organizing content of all lengths. It allows you to customize and give a sense of what any section is about as it flags what’s vital on the page. There are multiple heading types for websites: H1s, H2s, H3s, H4s, and so on. 

Think of these as a hierarchy. In SEO best practices, the general rule of thumb is to have only one H1 per page and include it first. From there, you can express yourself a bit more. For example, in this article, we have already thrown an H1, H2, and H3 your way to help with its structure and readability.

SEO has become more forgiving regarding using an H2 or H1 at the top, but H1s are still a critical signal for screen readers, meaning they are the best route for your content.

Anchor Text for Links

Just like headers, users need to know where they are going when looking at links. Are you more likely to navigate to something that says “Click Here,” “www.unknownurl.com,” or “Best Secret Pop-Tart Flavors?” Each of these is a different but common form of anchor link text seen today.

By backing your links with clear, relevant anchor text, you help both your compliance and your SEO.

Sitemaps

There are two key types of sitemaps: HTML and XML. You may be unaware of XML sitemaps unless you are working on your SEO, but these are the guides to help search engines know what content to look at on your website. Webmasters have the power to control precisely what is submitted to search engines with these.

Then there are HTML sitemaps. You’ve probably seen HTML sitemaps in the footers of websites. These sitemaps are a one-stop-shop that acts as a guide for all the critical content that is on your website and where to find it. Not only does this help webmasters know where everything is in a more visually appealing way than the XML sitemaps, but it also is critical to ADA compliance. Users who navigate a website’s entirety by keyboard strokes or with screen readers often seek out these pages to help get around as they have all of the content they might need.

Give More Context

Images

You might think context for your image is a caption, but it is often context that a majority of users do not even see with alt text and tags. Alt text, also called alt tags, are short descriptions of what is in the image at the most basic level. Unperceived to most users, these text descriptions of the image’s content help visually impaired website visitors know what is displayed in the image and enables the search engine robots crawling the website to rank search results.

Video

Just because you love the audio and visuals of a video on your website does not mean that everyone enjoys it the same way. For the hearing impaired, text transcripts of video content are critical to understanding what is going on in videos. By providing these text transcripts, you are further optimizing your site by delivering another keyword-rich asset for search engines to find.

PDFs

A universally beloved document and file sharing format, PDFs carry the burden of ADA compliance when hosted on your website. Some of the most common issues found among PDFs include:

Across industries, if you are generating content, whether for job applications, white papers, or even reference tools, you are probably using PDFs. PDFs have grown in popularity for SEO purposes and search engines can focus on useful PDFs in desired cases like “featured snippets now.” When you optimize the title and images for ADA compliance, you help increase the search visibility of your PDFs too.

Navigation No Matter What

Are your web devices the same as they were 7 years ago? Probably not, and the same goes for how websites arrive to your devices. Responsive web design has been around for years now but is key to making sure your website is navigable. This means that whatever the screen size you’re viewing on, the website is tailored to your screen and should give you the best possible experience. Not only are these important for making sure all text and elements are readable for ADA compliance, but it has also become an SEO factor.

Google has made PageSpeed Insights and Core Web Vitals increasingly essential ranking factors for pages. These include key metrics like loading time, interactivity speed, and the website’s visual stability depending on the device.

Getting Started

Whether your website was built a decade ago or yesterday, there are many ways that you can simultaneously optimize your website for search engines while increasing the ADA compliance of your website. If you and your business’ website need help to bring much-needed context to your links and media, get in touch with our team of web developers and inbound marketers.

Caleb Knight

Caleb Knight

Caleb focuses on providing clients with exceptional results through strategy, content, and data. With a vast skillset and experience across digital marketing and public relations, he focuses on developing and implementing strategies to bring our client’s efforts to life while simultaneously building relationships with them.

Outside of PHOS, Caleb can be found exploring all of the great outdoors that Florida has to offer, admiring the night sky, curating his assortment of Spotify playlists, and playing/following a variety of sports.