The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 to ensure that businesses and other public service providers took necessary steps to accommodate people with disabilities. Back then, the focus was on places of public accommodation because people would typically gather to participate in society. Some of these accommodations are wheelchair-accessible ramps, raised and Braille characters to signs, and accessible water fountain spouts.
Today, many organizations connect with each other through a range of technology that did not exist back in 1990. In the haze of technology, however, people have forgotten that search engines were made for easy accessibility. It naturally stands that those search engines will favor sites that users will find easy to access. Therefore, it’s important to keep in mind how ADA practices will benefit your SEO.
With the boom in technology in recent decades, businesses have struggled to make their websites ADA compliant. In fact, most of them still do. A study has shown that 98% of the world’s top one million websites were noncompliant. What people don’t realize is that when web accessibility is achieved, they become easier for the disabled community to use which, in turn, makes those websites easier for all of us to use.
Businesses also gloss over the SEO benefits that an ADA compliant website will bring. SEO is the practice of increasing website traffic from major search engines, and a large part of good SEO practices overlap with ADA practices.
Enhancing the functionality and usability of your website results in your site ranking higher in organic searches. In fact, according to Google, websites that give users a better experience will be more visible in search results pages (SERPs) than websites with poor UX. Other key features that play a role in SEO practices (and are ADA compliant) are title tags, descriptive alt text, and responsive designs.
Let’s dive into each benefit below.
Title tags are very basic SEO practices. They let the reader and search engines know what the page is about. Rather than showing up on your website, however, a title tag will instead appear on the results page of a search engine and the tab at the top of one’s web browser.
The SEO benefits here are very important as the title tag needs to match the user’s intent. For example, when someone googles “best apple pie recipe,” that same phrase should appear in the title tag. Writing a title that accurately reflects what the page is about while matching a user’s intent is the best way to get found and clicked on. Your site might rank well, but a good title tag can be the deciding factor in determining whether or not someone clicks on your link.
The ADA benefits of a title tag is that it is much more user-friendly. For those who need screen readers to help them use a computer, a specific title tag such as the above example is much more helpful. So it’s vital the title tag is specific in what is reflected on the page content.
Alt text should not be confused with a caption. A caption is beneath an image and visible to all sighted viewers. Alt text describes the image on the back-end and is not visible to a sighted viewer. This type of text is a written alternative to a page’s visual elements for those who are visually impaired.
Alt text lets search engines know the subject matter of an image. It also helps search engines to better understand the page. Additionally, if you want images to show up in Google, then writing descriptive alt text is a must-have. A short, accurate alt text will help Googlebots better assess your site and push it higher in search results.
For web users with visual impairment using screen readers, alt text is read aloud to provide context about images to users with visual impairment. Rather than a generic image description, it would be helpful to have a descriptive alt text so people know what the image is and how it’s relevant. For example, “white cat playing with a toy in the living room” is a much better alt text than “toys for cats.”
Responsive design often refers to the website’s ability to adapt to whichever screen size it finds itself on. It’s also about the site design itself such as where your logo sits, how easy your site is to navigate without a mouse, and how quickly it loads.
Websites that offer good, functional user experience rank better in search results. Google recognizes “time on page” as an indicator of a site’s value. If your site is hard to navigate, people are more likely to leave your site in a shorter amount of time. Fast loading sites are also favored, so every website should be optimized to load as quickly as possible.
The ADA benefits of a responsive design is that a good responsive design puts the user first. It starts from the basic idea that a website needs to be easy to look at, easy to navigate, and easy to understand. That’s why you need legible text for the visually impaired and the ability to navigate the website with the simple push of your “tab” key on your keyboard rather than a mouse.
As our cultural norms shift from physical gathering spaces to online communities, the ADA compliance website standard should be prioritized. In the process of making your website ADA compliant, you can boost your site’s ranking on search engines because of the SEO benefits you’ll gain.
If you need assistance with making your website ADA compliant, there are a number of WordPress plugins, or site alternatives that can help.
When it comes to incorporating effective SEO practices into your compliance efforts, reach out for assistance to get in compliance and to get ahead of your competitor in search results!
Sign up to receive an update when the latest episode drops - straight to your inbox!