Website accessibility has a significant positive effect on SEO rankings and driving organic traffic to your website.
Web accessibility’s dramatic rise among businesses in recent years has been driven by many factors: the ability to reach and convert new customers, qualify for IRS tax credits, enhance brand loyalty and avoid hefty compliance lawsuits. At its core, however, website accessibility is about providing a better user experience for all people — those with disabilities and those who are fully able.
Similarly, user experience is a core element that Google’s algorithm takes into consideration when determining its SERP (search engine results page) rankings. This means that your website’s level of accessibility and usability directly affects the online visibility and organic traffic that your business receives. And failing to prioritize accessibility means you risk falling behind your competitors who do.
It’s no secret that search engines are already a major driver of growth for businesses of all sizes. However, a recent study by Semrush, BuiltWith and Accessibility Checker revealed that optimizing for website accessibility leads to an increase in overall site traffic by 12% on average.
Let’s break down the powerful impact that web accessibility has on SEO performance and online visibility.
How Do Website Accessibility and SEO Work Together?
Search engine optimization (SEO) best practices and web accessibility guidelines have many points where they overlap. Both of these practices are very complex and technical, but much of this intersection can be boiled down to providing a positive user experience for online visitors. More specifically, web accessibility and SEO share a common goal: to help users easily find and navigate through the content they’re searching for.
Website accessibility refers to the ease with which disabled people can use and understand your web pages and content. In addition to those with physical and mental conditions that affect their ability to use the internet, it also extends to internet users with temporary disabilities, such as a broken arm, and situational limitations, such as being in a loud or quiet room where they cannot listen to sound on a video and can read the captions instead.
To work around these barriers, many people use assistive technologies to navigate the internet, such as speech-to-text software, screen readers and braille terminals. These devices need technical assistance (i.e. web accessibility guidelines) to understand the content of your website and ultimately do their jobs effectively.
On the other hand, SEO focuses on search engine access for websites. Google uses its own algorithm to analyze and rank millions of websites — an important factor being the user experience. Put simply: Google ranks accessible websites higher than inaccessible ones.
An inaccessible website doesn’t provide a positive user experience for the 25% of people that have a disability. That means if Google evaluates your website and thinks that visitors will have a poor experience on your pages, then it has little incentive to send traffic your way and thus reduces your ranking. In contrast, if your website is optimized for accessibility, it means a positive user experience with your site for everyone, thus higher rankings.
By following web accessibility guidelines, you’re also optimizing your pages for how a Google bot would crawl them. Many elements of an accessible website, such as clear page titles, headers, image captioning, descriptive links, video and audio transcripts, and structured data, are also fundamental to SEO strategy. So by making your webpages accessible to everyone, you’re also increasing your chances of being found in search engines.
Driving Organic Site Visitors with Web Accessibility
Having an accessible website drastically improves the lives of those with disabilities. Additionally, it opens up your business to a new world of potential customers who weren’t able to easily engage with your site before. This is significant as there are 1 billion people worldwide who live with a disability (think autism, ADHD, color blindness, partial deafness due to aging and more).
Accessibility improvements also directly impact key SEO metrics: reduced bounce rate, increased backlinks, more social sharing, mobile optimization and enhanced site performance.
Websites with inclusive accessibility features are ranked higher than competitors’ sites that are not accessible – driving more organic traffic to your site day after day.
The Opposite is Also True
In addition to the risk of falling behind competitors who do implement web accessibility, Google may also punish your business for having an inaccessible website. Plain and simple, websites that have a poor page experience in the eyes of Google (meaning they aren’t mobile-friendly, fast and secure, and accessible to all users) are actually pushed down the SERP rankings.
Google takes into account how people engage with a site when determining its rankings. So when a website is difficult to use by the 25% of people with a disability, online visitors are less likely to interact with it and recommend it to others, which leads to a decrease in key SEO metrics and makes the site less visible in search engine results.
Prioritize the User Experience of Your Website & Get The Benefit of Increased SEO
The bottom line: not only is web accessibility a responsibility of business owners to ensure an inclusive customer experience, but it also comes with a range of benefits that includes online visibility, better SEO ranking and more organic site visitors.
Want to see if your website is accessible? Book a complimentary accessibility review.