In recent years, Accessibility ie: WCAG and SEO have been at the forefront of an ongoing debate. How can we optimize our site for search engines, while also following community guidelines? Many marketers have concluded that the two conflict, fighting against each other.
What is WCAG? SEO?
Let’s start by defining WCAG and SEO as two separate entities. WCAG, or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, were created several years ago to make the web more accessible for all. They offer website recommendations and guidelines, to convey the same information to users- no matter who they are or what their disability may be.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is a set of practices that aim to improve the search engine ranking and traffic driven to a piece of content or a website. Here, the goal is ultimately to work with the search engines, so they are more likely to show the piece further up the page. Overall, SEO work can also improve organic traffic to your site and visibility across search engines.
These two concepts seem like they would counteract each other. How can you focus on making your site accessible while still pleasing the search engines? They can fight against each other, but in the end, they have the same goal. Optimize your website for people- not the search engines or bots.
So, how can we combine these concepts to enhance a site’s SEO and organic rankings, while also being accessible by all?
Alt Text: Combining WCAG & SEO for Users
Alt text, or the text that labels images for those who use screen readers, is an important part of combining your WCAG and SEO efforts. SEO alone would say to provide alt text for every image and include keywords. This offers more opportunities for visibility and search engines can read the images included on your site better.
However, WCAG says something different. Before you label a stock image or irrelevant background photo with alt text, consider these WCAG questions.
- Would alt text convey more meaningful information?
- Does the image convey meaningful information that users need to know?
- Would the keyword you’re looking to use in the alt text make sense with the image?
If you can answer no to any of these questions, WCAG recommends not adding the alt text. It can just lead to confusion, appearing for irrelevant traffic, and may drive some users away from your site.
If an image would benefit from having alt text, simply ensure that the keywords/alt text and the image correspond. This helps make the flow more accessible, with information available for those who need it.
If you are concerned about removing the alt text, simply add role=presentation code, this will tell screen readers to ignore the alt text. This will alleviate your issue of potentially harming your ranking when a photo is decorative or currently helps your SEO efforts.
Page Titles: Bringing WCAG to an SEO Focus
Page title tags, or the information that appears when you are searching for a site on a search engine, have typically always supported only SEO. However, the accessibility guidelines are becoming more and more relevant when naming your page for search engines. Your title tags must be SEO-friendly and WCAG friendly.
The page title tag is the first thing a user is exposed to when looking for answers with a search engine. It must accurately convey what is on the page, especially for those using screen readers. The key here is to convey what is on the page while avoiding keyword stuffing. Include enough information that all users will be able to accurately expect what will be on the page.
Keyword stuffing is starting to hurt SEO more and more as well. Google especially has taken to spotting a forced keyword or phrase quickly. They will often penalize sites for this while supporting the ones that simply and accurately describe their website page. WCAG supports SEO here, ensuring that you avoid being penalized for keyword stuffing while you are helping all users.
Interlinking: Choosing Relevant Terms
Interlinking, or linking to another page or website within a page, is supported by both WCAG and SEO. For years, marketers would place links on terms like “click here” or “read more”. This can confuse users as they look for relevant information. It especially can hurt your SEO.
Google will index your site for the “read more” or “click here” term- not the other relevant keywords on the page. They do this because you’re using interlinking, and Google assumes that this is the key phrase. It adds no weight or support to your SEO efforts- it can even harm it.
If you want to use interlinking on your site, choose a term that accurately describes where the link would lead the user. This will support not only your SEO efforts but also increase the accessibility of your site overall. It helps provide a clear path for users who may want to know more.
Utilizing SEO & WCAG for Better User Experience
Ultimately, it comes down to this: SEO and WCAG both want to benefit the user, not the bots. By considering both when creating your site, updating content, or adding a new page to your site, you can grow with the user in mind. Consider combining SEO and WCAG on things like alt text, page title tags, and interlinking to start.
Not sure where to start? Mannix Marketing has your back. Our team is experienced in both SEO and WCAG, with many success stories under our belt. Contact us today to get started!