Accessible Content = SEO

Did you know that when it comes to web content, accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO) go hand-in-hand? Comparable to those with visual disabilities,...

Monday January 16, 2017

Did you know that when it comes to web content, accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO) go hand-in-hand? Comparable to those with visual disabilities, search engine robots do not have the ability to visually see the differences between various content items – they depend on good code to properly guide them through webpage content.

While most organizations strive to offer accessible content, as well as improve their SEO, without the proper resources (time, staff and money) it can become a difficult task. In order to achieve your accessible and SEO-friendly content goals, an excellent place to start is with HALT – Headings, Alternate Text for Images, Links and Tables. This requires something all websites should focus on from the beginning – good content creation.

Headings

Headings break up content on a webpage visually, helping visitors to skim and scan content. Heading tags used in the code (<h1></h1>, <h2></h2>) are valuable to search engines because they define what is important, share what the page is about and help to categorize information.

From an accessibility point-of-view, screen reader users will hear the headings on a webpage read to them when the webpage loads, helping the user navigate the content in way that’s similar to skimming and scanning. Using keyboard shortcuts, these users can jump from heading to heading within a page. 

Tip: Only use one heading 1 tag (<h1></h1>) on a page (typically the name of the webpage). Follow other headings in chronological order. For example, a list of a company’s store locations would tag “Locations” as a heading 1 and various countries as heading 2 tags (<h2></h2>) (e.g., Canada, United States, China). Any desired subheadings under your heading 2 would require heading 3 tags. For example, the company may want to list the store locations by city for each country, so under the h2 tag for Canada, heading 3 tags could be used for cities (e.g., “Waterloo”, “Fredericton”, “Ottawa”).  

Alternate Text

Every image on your website should contain alternate text. Not only is this a requirement for accessibility, it is one of the many factors that contribute to increasing your SEO ranking. 

Tip: Generally, describe images using 100 characters or less and do not stuff alternate text with keywords you think that Google or Bing want to hear. Simply describe the image as simply and clearly as possible.

Links

“Click here” is probably the most popular link text on the internet. It’s also the least accessible way to create linked text on a webpage. Screen reader users prompt a dialogue box that lists all of the links on a webpage and if all your links are created using the text “click here”, the screen reader will sound like a skipping record, repeating “click here” for all the available links, giving no indication of what content the user will be taken to if they use the link. 

Tip: Create links using text that explains where the link will take the user, such as “Contact Us” or “About Us”. Search engines also use linked text to identify the purpose of your website so make sure to use accurate, explanatory text to create accessible links that also help users to navigate your website easily.           

Tables

Tables aren’t really going to rank your webpage higher when it comes to SEO, but it is incredibly important to lay them out properly for screen readers to accurately interpret the information they present. Only use tables to display information when it’s absolutely necessary.  

Tip: Keep tables simple and avoid using split and merged cells.

Ready to take the next step?

Did you know that web accessibility includes making your documents accessible as well, such as PDFs and MS Word documents? Get started with some basic Accessible Documents Training On-Demand!

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