The Importance of ADA Compliance; ADA and SEO: How Following One Helps the Other
When you look at what’s involved in making your website compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and improving SEO, there is a pretty consistent overlap between the two. ADA compliance and SEO best practices have a lot in common. The strategies that make your site easier for all people to read and navigate are the same strategies that Google and other search engines value, too.
Accessibility isn’t yet a direct factor in Google’s search algorithms, but many of the individual strategies that collectively improve accessibility are. Because of that overlap, it’s a good idea to incorporate these into your website SEO, if you haven’t already. We’ll discuss what some of those strategies that improve both ADA compliance and SEO are, but first here’s a little context on what the ADA is, and how it came about.
Website Accessibility and the ADA
Congress passed the ADA in 1990, in an attempt to prevent discrimination against the disabled in all areas of public life. The legislation expanded to include digital environments in 1988, as the internet became more prevalent.
ADA compliance involves providing the proper resources for disabled people to be able to use your website. We’ll take a look at what some of those website strategies for ADA compliance are, and how they also help SEO.
What if a website isn't ADA Compliant? What happens then?
Current legislation states that companies who are not compliant may face fines in the thousands for a first-time violation and can increase for each violation that follows. It's clearly something that no business or organization should ignore.
Strategies for Improving ADA Compliance and SEO
Alt text provides a description that sits on the back end of the web page and can be displayed when an image cannot be loaded. When a user needs a screen reader that alt text would be read aloud for context. In terms of ADA compliance, think of the alt text as a description of what the reader would otherwise see.
Alt tags also provide Google with a deeper understanding of the page content, making it a must for SEO purposes. For Google, when the alt tag also contains the keyword or search phrase, it can boost the page ranking.
Capitalize on Title Tags
Title tags inform both readers and search engines what the page content is about. The title tag shows up on the results page of the search engine and across the browser tab. A title tag gives people a more specific idea of what will appear on a web page, helping with ADA compliance.
Accurate titles that provide a specific description of the content also draw more users, and rank better in the search engines. Often times, the title tag can be made more specific by adding the keyword phrase, which makes them stronger for SEO purposes.
Clear Heading and Subheading Structure
Users with limited reading comprehension or other cognitive impairments require clear and direct subheadings in order to make the content easier to read. The headings and subheads within a piece tell readers what they can expect so they know what to read and what to skip over. This is part of ADA compliance.
When your writing follows this similar structure, it becomes easier for Google and other search engines to crawl. There is a clear hierarchy of importance within the content that can be easily interpreted by search engines and people. When your content follows a good hierarchy and structure it can more easily be placed within Google’s featured snippets feature, giving it more visibility and prominence in the results.
Here's what a good heading structure looks like using h1, h2, and h3 tags:
- The tags descend in order. An h3 wouldn’t immediately follow an h1 tag.
- The headlines and subheads accurately describe the content below them.
- The h1 is the first thing a reader sees, and summarizes the content on the page, and each subhead accurately describes the content below it.
- If your content contains a list and the h2 is the subhead above the list, then each point below would be an h3.
Responsive design makes it easier for your audience to access your website across any desktop or mobile device. It impacts how easy your site is to navigate, how easy it is to read, and how quickly it loads. Good responsive design factors in elements such as legible text for the visually impaired and quick load times, especially for those with slow internet. The goal is to generally make it easier for all visitors to navigate your website.
All of the ADA requirements create a more functional user experience, which helps sites rank higher in the search engines as well. Generally, improving readability and decreasing site load times will also improve SEO.
Descriptive Linking Within the Content
ADA compliance involves links that have a description offering context of what’s on the other page. “Click here” doesn’t really tell the viewer what they might find. The same principles hold true for SEO. Linking to a phrase that describes what the reader will find on the page is good SEO practice. You’re essentially telling the search engine what you value about the page you’ve linked.
Conclusion: ADA Compliance is an SEO Win
When you make your website more ADA compliant, you are increasing its accessibility to a wider audience. The same principles valued by the ADA are valued by search engines. While there is no direct ADA compliance ranking factor for Google, following the principles above will improve your ADA compliance and SEO.
Are you looking to increase your search engine visibility? Our SEO experts can help you with proven strategies that help rank your website content. Talk with our digital marketing team today by calling (630) 553-0000 or fill out our contact form today!