How accessibility improves SEO: discussion with Skyscanner and AXA

In this webinar, held on Tuesday 27th of September, we heard from Kim Durbridge, Senior Content Writer at Skyscanner, Gryffydd Coates Software Engineer at Skyscanner, Jack Smale, Website Manager and Nathan Smith, SEO Manager both from AXA and Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet to help you to learn about how accessibility can boost SEO rankings (Search Engine Optimisation is the process of improving your website to increase its visibility).Hands gesturing in front of a laptop with analytics data on the screen

This event will brought together experts in the field of SEO and accessibility to highlight the benefits that accessibility can bring to SEO rankings. It will look at real-life examples from both halves of the picture and provide lots of opportunities to ask questions and share ideas.

This webinar recording is likely to be useful to SEO, accessibility, marketing, and web development professionals to understand the role that accessibility can play in improving performance and give you insights into the current SEO landscape.

This webinar covered: 

  • Learn how accessibility benefits SEO
  • Learn about real-life examples
  • Ask questions to the panellist

During the webinar the panellist had an informal discussion about the synergies between SEO and accessibility, new developments and the possible conflicts that may occur. It will also cover tailoring content and SEO for more diverse consumers. Plus, core web vitals and accessibility will be included.

How accessibility improves SEO - AbilityNet webinar slides via SlideShare

The panel includes:

Kim Durbridge, Senior Content Writer at Skyscanner

Kim’s been writing and delivering content in the travel sector for over 6 years and is currently growing a team of SEO-specialised writers and content designers at Skyscanner. As part of Skyscanner's Accessibility Champions Network, she's worked closely with engineers like Gryff to implement accessibility requirements into landing pages, and into the process for designing and building them. 

With a huge passion for travel, she’s hellbent on empowering EVERYone to see the world with inspiring and useful content that aids their research and planning – findable on Google, and accessible for all.

Gryffydd Coates Software Engineer at Skyscanner

Gryff is an accessibility advocate and Software Engineer at Skyscanner. Having worked in software engineering for nearly 4 years, he is currently part of a team building out the business’ SEO. With a love of travel and being a screen reader user himself, he aims to help make travel accessible to all. To meet this aim, he’s a member of the Accessibility Champions Network. He constantly strives to shape the company’s culture to meet these needs and uses his own experiences and anecdotes to educate others on the subject.

Jack Smale, Website Manager at AXAJack from AXA looks head on at the camera on a white background

Jack has been with AXA for 3.5 years and is responsible for the day-today running and continuous improvement of and He manages a team of content editors that support product owners to build landing pages that are optimised from a technical perspective, display responsively across devices, meet WCAG accessibility guidelines, and follow digital and UX best practices. He regularly work with agencies to implement SEO content strategies for car insurance and home insurance, and liaise with product owners from across the business to deliver personalised customer experiences.

Nathan Smith, SEO Manager at AXA

Nathan has worked for AXA as their SEO Manager since 2016 and before that in 2009 he began his first role in SEO at the French advertising agency Havas, working across a range of clients such as Nationwide, National Express, Kia and AXA Sun Life. He is responsible for all the organic search traffic coming to the AXA Health website and his day to day tasks involve implementing best practice SEO on their site with assistance from their agency Performics, who also help with their content creation and link acquisition.

Robin Christopherson face on to the cameraRobin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet

Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital inclusion at AbilityNet, a Cambridge University graduate, with over 20 years' experience in digital accessibility. Robin tells us his work enables him "the opportunity to demonstrate to audiences across the world how technology has the power to change and even transform people's lives regardless of any disability or impairment they may have."

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The slides, recording and transcript are now available on this page.

This webinar lasted for 60 minutes.  

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You can find an archive of our webinars on our website and we also offer paid role-based accessibility training.


Q: How many people search for "accessible travel/insurance"?

Kim from Skyscanner: Volumes are widely available on any KWR tool so you can ask your SEO team if you do not have access yourself. There would also be many related keywords under the ‘accessible travel’ umbrella term, such as ‘hotels with wheelchair access’ for every destination in the world, so safe to say, in short, there’ll be a lot of people Googling accessible travel-related queries. This does of course open up the wider discussion (which I’ve had a lot internally) on creating targeted landing pages for these queries so those with accessibility needs find the products or services they need, from us, on google.

Q: Do you allow elements that are inaccessible to go live and then get road mapped for correction later or do they fail at that stage?

Kim from Skyscanner: Sadly we do still have elements go live and we have no choice but to try to correct them later. This is certainly the case for SEO landing pages as we are naturally time-pressured to get the most minimum viable version live asap in order to gain organic uplift and hit our strict targets. 

We’re in the middle of persuading our product owners of these pages, to add additional work to get these legacy elements accessible, into the backlog. We’re doing this by calling a meeting and making them listen to Gryff try to navigate the page using a screen reader, and are hoping it’ll be impactful. 

Q: We seem to be having tension with needing lots of internal links for SEO purposes, but these are making the text hard to read as the digital team has added so many of them (underlined in-text links). Does anyone have any advice? For SEO, is there a difference between in-text internal links versus button links? And the same question for accessibility?

Kim from Skyscanner:  All followed hyperlinks within text should be useful to the user, and not JUST there for SEO… And if this is the case they’d also be useful to a user with a screen reader, so why hide them? 
It's also good to group your internal links somehow, perhaps in a component or module - so the user can skip over them in one. We place ours at the bottom of the page, titles or frames as something like ‘Still not found what you’re looking for?’ - then all the ‘relevant’ Links - again so this isn’t obstructing the narrative too much.

Q: I've read research that found that using "click here" as a call to action has more engagement than a more accessible alternative. Does this ring true for any panellists?

Kim from Skyscanner:  It would depend on what the alternative was if you A/B split tested. Undoubtedly, ‘CLICK HERE’ could perform better if tested against a weak alternative where it was not clear where the user was going. We’d still advise against using ‘click here’ as it isn’t accessible, and also many people use tablets and phones these days so ‘click’ isn’t accurate anymore. 

Q: As an accessibility tester I test in both Android and iOS screen readers - it might be an idea to invest in Android devices to complete your test wrap at AXA as each screen reader do have different behaviours, and in the interest of inclusivity test on both OS is a must really?

Jack from AXA:  It’s useful feedback and in an ideal world we would test across as many different devices as possible, but like most organisations we are hampered by the availability of testing resources. From Google Analytics, we know that iPhones are the most popular device used to access our sites, and having spoken with our Digital Accessibility Consultant he reaffirmed that VoiceOver for iOS is the screenreader of choice amongst his visually impaired peers given its ease of use ‘out of the box’.

Q: I’ve been cautioned against using “|” as screen readers read that out. I noticed one in your title tag. What is your suggestion?

Jack from AXA: The pipe symbol is read out by some screenreaders, but it’s used fairly ubiquitously in titles across the web, and something that our Digital Accessibility Consultant tells me that he and other screenreader users are used to encountering. Given it’s often used to separate the actual page title from ‘branded’ keywords, having it read out arguably gives screenreader users additional context, though many will simply skip through to the navigable next item, particularly if they’re returning to a page they’ve visited before.

Q: Can you just have Heading 1 H1 then all the rest as H2. Each of our headings has different styling so would look odd if they were H1, H2, H3, H4 etc. down the page
Sometimes H1 or H2 are limited - you cannot edit font size, so have to go to H3 really instead of H2. Any solution around it?

Jack from AXA: Heading tags should primarily be used to convey structure and follow a logical order since this is one method a screen reader user may use to navigate through a page. For SEO purposes, headings are arguably less important now than they once were, as Google seems to suggest they use visual analysis to understand page hierarchy. The best solution is for CSS classes to override the default styling on a per heading basis, however may need to work with a developer to add this functionality to your CMS and stylesheet. 

Q: Can I use the option to open a link in a new tab without causing accessibility issues?

Jack from AXA: This depends on what provides the best overall user experience. I’d suggest only opening in a new tab if it is to an external link. 

Q: Are sliders something I should completely leave behind?

Jack from AXA: Most carousels on the web offer an awful experience for screenreaders and fail at level A of WCAG 2.1. If you absolutely must use one then has an example that is optimised for screenreaders and includes a pause button, and swiperJS can be configured using accessibility parameters, but needless to say, both require significant developer support to get right.

Accessibility concerns aside, most UX designers agree that carousels are a poor way of communicating information, with some studies showing click-through rates of under 1% for slide #1, and substantially less for slide #2 and onwards. Personally, I’d avoid them altogether unless they fundamentally add to your digital experience (such as on an e-commerce site where you might ‘swipe’ to view different colorways of a particular item). 


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Date of webinar: 
27 Sep 2022 - 13:00