How the Americans with Disabilities Act Affects SEO Strategies

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Search engine optimization is about more than strategically placed keywords and compelling web design. It’s a series of complex factors ultimately designed for a positive user experience.

Over the last few years, Domino’s has been battling a lawsuit regarding their website and mobile app. A customer with visual impairment said his screen reading software could not navigate the online tools, which prevented him from placing an order. The man alleged that the site’s design did not follow standards set in place by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

This lawsuit brings up an important point about ADA compliance in the world of SEO. Thankfully, many successful SEO strategies naturally fit into ADA protocol, such as providing alt tags for images. Let’s take a closer look at how the ADA impacts SEO practices.

Standard HTML for Simple Site Navigation

The way a webpage is coded determines how a screen reader processes information and conveys it to the reader. Standard HTML tags (H1 for titles, H2 and H3 for subheadings, etc.) provide a clear path for screen readers to navigate. A person listening to the page, rather than reading it, can clearly understand what’s going on.

Some web builders will use custom coding to make elements appear differently on the screen. This may provide more design flexibility, but it does not create the same flow of information. For ADA compliance, standard HTML should be used as often as possible.

Straightforward Web Design

Fancy fonts and flashy webpages may look great at first glance. From an SEO standpoint though, they’re a bit of a nightmare. Many web browsers do not pick up on brand new font designs, turning a great design into a mismatched mess of text. This can also make it difficult for screen readers to analyze data on the page.

Flash websites may have more of a wow factor than standard websites, but they also have slow loading times. Back in 2010, Google announced that resources with longer loading times would be demoted in search results. In other words, having a slow site could drastically decrease your site’s visibility online.

Now think about a user relying on screen readers to sift through the website. If elements of the site are not loading quickly or properly, they’re not going to translate well. Having a ‘less is more’ mentality with web design can improve user experience, regardless of disability, and it can simultaneously improve search ranking.

Alt Text for Images

Alt text creates a keyword for images on a page. For instance, if there is an embedded logo, the alt text can say the name of the company on the logo. If there is an image showcasing a step in a process, the alt text could include the heading associated with that step.

From an SEO perspective, alt text is a great way to enhance keyword optimization and make a page easier for search engines to crawl. From an accessibility perspective, alt text ensures that someone with visual impairment understands what each image is and how it relates to the page.

Captions for Images and Transcriptions for Videos

Along the lines of providing alt text, it’s important to create captions and transcriptions for media, when necessary. A generic image on a blog post may not need a detailed caption because it does not impact the information on the page. However, an image showcasing a product may need a caption to convey what the product looks like.

For videos, a transcription acts as text that software can then use to relay information to a user. If the video has limited speaking, the transcription fills in the blanks and provides a full story. Automated transcriptions often contain improper grammar or incorrect information altogether. All video transcripts should be carefully reviewed for accuracy.

Anchor Text for Links

Anchor text refers to text that a user clicks on to access a link. Rather than using “Click Here” or “Read More” anchor text, SEO experts often use descriptive text, such as the title of a blog post or a keyword associated with a webpage. Example: How a 5-Star Rating Could Hurt Your Business or search ranking factors. This may not be applicable in all situations, but it can create more definitive navigation for the end user.

Keyboard Navigation

If a user is unable to view a screen or use a mouse, keyboard navigation provides an alternate way to move around a page. The Tab key moves between elements. Up and down arrows move up and down the page. The space bar pauses videos. These are commands that quickly become second nature for many users. Web design must accommodate for that.

The Natural Flow of Content

If content is written in a fluid way, it will resonate well with readers and listeners alike. Bullet lists, numbered steps, and short paragraphs are easier to sift through than large chunks of text. Notice that in this discussion, we have each point broken down into its own section. Each section has its own heading, thesis and conclusion. An experienced SEO writer knows how to take complex information and channel it into quality content.

It’s Not About Compliance. It’s about Customer Satisfaction.

As important as ADA compliance is for SEO, these practices serve a greater good. They offer a positive user experience that leads to strong customer satisfaction. When customers are satisfied, they’re more likely to interact with a business. That’s what turns strong SEO into profitable marketing.

Detroit Internet Marketing provides ethical, proven SEO services for businesses of all sizes. Our effective marketing plans are customized to suit each business and their target audience. If you would like a complimentary SEO consultation, contact us at (248) 234-4830.