5 top tips for accessible SEO

A graphic of a search bar with SEO written inside of it, with a hand pointing towards a growth chart. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the process of improving your website to increase its visibility, so people searching for products or services related to your organisation are more likely to find your website which can result in more conversions.

Last month we sat down with SEO experts from AXA and Skyscanner to discuss the crossovers between SEO and accessibility.

Watch the webinar recording

Here are the 5 top tips we learned from the webinar, that will help ensure that your SEO practices are accessible to everyone.

1. Avoid jargon

Avoid the temptation to write ‘creative’ and ‘punny’ copy, headings, and call to actions (CTAs) that risk clarity. By using difficult language such as jargon, you risk excluding users with low literacy skills, learning differences such as dyslexia, and those who speak English as a second language.

Instead, write in plain English so that your webpage can be understood by as many readers, including screen readers, as possible.

If the content is easier to read, then users will spend more time on your website. This will tell search engines such as Google that your content is useful, which in turn improves your rankings.

2. Follow the heading hierarchy

Heading tags enable a screen reader to navigate on a page, making it easier to jump from one topic to another. However, heading tags must flow down the page in a logical order; for example, H1 followed by H2, H3, and H4s (you should only use one H1 tag).

This also helps Google know what sections of a page are about and creates more accurate search results.

3. Don’t forget ALT text for decorative images

For decorative images, some often leave the ALT text blank as a method to ensure they are not read out by screen readers. However, these same images would then be flagged in SEO technical audits, such as Google Lighthouse, as ‘missing’.

Jack Smale, Website Officer from AXA recommends using ‘user-friendly’ file names for decorative images and adding a description of the image as ALT text to convey what’s been shown to a Google crawler.

Jack also suggested adding ‘role=presentation’ or ‘aria-hidden=true’ attributes to prevent the description from being read out by a screen reader unless that image would add value to the user’s understanding of the context of the page.

4. Use descriptive links

Including descriptive links for a new page is helpful for web accessibility and SEO as the user knows the link’s purpose before they follow it. Screen reader users often navigate through all the links on a page to find where they want to go. If they just say, ‘click here’ or ‘more’, they are taken out of context and the user has no idea where those links will go.

Descriptive links are also beneficial for SEO as keywords can be included in the anchor text and it helps Google and its crawlers understand what the site or page is about.

Need an introduction to the key aspects of web accessibility and inclusive design? Join our Accessibility for developers course to learn the basics, with a focus on ARIA and the Accessibility Tree.

5. Test your accessibility

By testing your accessibility, you are ensuring that your website and its SEO are accessible to disabled people. Skyscanner and AXA both use empathy labs at their head offices. Stations are set up to simulate different types of disabilities to ensure changes to their website or app are accessible to all.

As Jack from AXA said “immerse yourself in accessibility and become comfortable in being uncomfortable. Try simulating a disability, such as operating your phone with your ‘wrong’ hand, or putting on a blindfold, and then try using your site. You will very quickly learn what the potential pain points are and develop a deep sense of empathy with those who face such challenges every day!”

Experts from both AXA and Skyscanner agreed that it seems inevitable that accessibility will soon affect Google as it currently affects scores on Google Lighthouse.

Further Resources