As we learned from Kelly’s post on Accessibility and SEO, a great benefit to having an accessible website is not only providing access to justice for an otherwise disenfranchised group, but it increases SEO, all users experience, and search visibility. It’s like a win, win, win.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines
Accessibility for all visitors to your website means that they have equal access to the information you’re providing. And while that can mean improving rich data, or on-page improvements, it can also mean that your website has text-to-speech functionality, or that your images and text can be enlarged, or that the website is navigable by a keyboard.
If you want to get started with increasing your website’s accessibility, look no further than the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The techniques listed below will directly relate to a WCAG Criterion.
Nearly 20% of Americans live with a disability and over half of those use the Internet according to the PEW Internet Project. This number will increase as baby boomers have age-related accessibility needs. Having an accessible website can increase traffic. Increased traffic that can easily navigate your website decreases bounce rates on your pages. And when you increase traffic and decrease bounce rates, you get better conversions (leads!).
3 SEO Tactics that Increase Accessibility
So, let’s get into – how can an averagely technical person increase the accessibility of their website? Let’s lay out a few basics:
1. Alt-tags and descriptive text
An Alt-tag, or alt-attribute, is the low-hanging fruit of increasing accessibility and SEO. The attribute describes the image. If your picture is of a new mom holding her baby, you’d want to write “new mother holding her baby.” From there you could get descriptive with the colors and details so that a visually impaired person can “read” the image, but you only want to keep what is important to know. Marketers typically either don’t use alt-attributes, or they keyword stuff their images. If your new mother image is for a blog post on Birth Injury, a marketer may write “new mother holding her baby after birth injury.”
Note that some images are also call-to-actions, and if that is the case – you may write out the call-to-action as the alt-attribute instead of describing the image. An example of a call-to-action image is above.
Alt-attributes are a method to meet WCAG 2.0 Success Criterion 1.1.1 (Non-text Content) which covers the accessibility of all Non-text Content, including images, form controls, media, and sensory content.
2. Closed caption video and keyword content
Closed captioning on videos allows viewers to read the dialogue, and contextual noises, instead of hearing it. This helps people who have hearing impairments, or any person watching videos in places where they can’t have the sound on.
Adding closed captioning to videos increases your viewership, and, wow, do users want to watch video content. Video content has increased drastically over the last few years because most people want to get information via video instead of reading static articles. Not to mention, that a well-optimized video increases your chance of appearing on the front page of Google.
Closed captioning means that all dialogue and important sounds must be embedded as an option if a user requests to view it. So closed captioning only shows when a user requests to see it. It is important to note that captions should not be confused with subtitles. Subtitles provide the text of only the dialogue and do not include important sounds.
Closed Captioning is a method to meet WCAG 1.2.2: Captions (Prerecorded). TechSmith has a great primer for those who want to learn how to add captions, or subtitles, to their videos.
3. Skip Links or Anchor Links
A skip link is simply a link to bypass a block of content or to help navigate to a specific part of the web page. Skip links are notably used by people who navigate the internet by keyboard, for visually impaired users and those using screen readers but skip links also enhance all users experience. Who likes to scroll forever to find the information they are looking for?
A common skip link you may implement is “Return to Top.” This way the user does not have to scroll back up through your article.
Skip links are used as a method of meeting WCAG 2.0 Criteria 2.4.1: Bypass Blocks.
Increase User Experience
Web accessibility and on-page optimizations aren’t the sexiest of SEO topics, but it truly can make an impact for all of your website visitors. If you’re looking for an example of great website accessibility, check out the Cleveland Metro Parks site. Take notice of their accessibility tab with options to make the site easier to use. Click this link and it leads to the page in the image below, their park and website accessibility guides.