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4 SEO Mistakes That Also Impact Accessibility

Mar 9, 2023

According to a report from Brightedge Research (link opens a PDF), organic search is responsible for about 53.3% of all web traffic. When you’re well positioned on search engines, you’re well positioned for growth.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is essential for businesses of all sizes — and accessible websites often follow the best practices of SEO. 

In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common SEO mistakes that prevent websites from ranking. We’ll also explain how the best practices of accessibility can address those mistakes.

  • Overusing SEO Keywords

“Keyword stuffing" is exactly what it sounds like: Repeating keywords in your content to try to trick search engines. In the early days of the internet, this actually worked; search engine algorithms were relatively basic, and keyword frequency was an extremely important ranking factor.

In 2023, keyword stuffing is a poor strategy. Search engines are capable of looking at context from the surrounding content, and Google advises creators to write natural, helpful content. 

Overusing your keywords can also make your website less accessible by making content less readable. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Write naturally. Don’t focus on hitting a certain keyword density.
  • Use relevant keywords in page titles, but don’t go overboard. For example, “Used Cars for Sale in Highland, Illinois" would be an appropriate page title. “Used Chevy, Ford, Toyota Cars for Sale in Highland Illinois - Car Sales - Buy Used Cars" is excessive.
  • Likewise, you should use relevant keywords in subheadings, but make sure your subheadings accurately describe the content. Read more about writing subheadings for accessibility.

When your content is concise, clear, and descriptive your website can deliver its message more effectively. For more guidance, read: 4 Quick Ways to Create Clearer Content and Improve Accessibility

  • Duplicate or Missing Page Titles

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are the international standards for accessibility. WCAG addresses page titles in WCAG 2.1 Success Criterion (SC) 2.4.2, “Page Titled.”

Every page on your website should have an accurate, unique title. People with disabilities may use title tags for navigation — and search engines rarely rank pages with undescriptive titles.

If your website is relatively large, consider performing a page title audit. Make sure each title tag is descriptive. Can you understand the purpose of each page from the title tag alone? 

Related: Why Page Titles Are Important for Web Accessibility

  • Missing Alt Text

Search engines algorithms have come a long way, but they cannot accurately describe image-only content without some help. 

Image alternative text (also known as alt text or image alt tags) provides a description of visual content. If the image doesn’t load, users will still be able to understand your website — as long as you’ve written accurate, descriptive alt text.

Alt text is also essential for accessibility. WCAG’s very first success criterion, “Non-text Content,” requires a text alternative for all non-text content, with limited exceptions. Some people cannot perceive content visually, and text alternatives provide those users with an equivalent experience.

Related: 5 Steps for Writing Alt Text for Accessibility

  • Low-Quality Link Text

WCAG SC 2.4.4, “Link Purpose (In Context)” requires that the “purpose of each link can be determined from the link text alone or from the link text together with its programmatically determined link context, except where the purpose of the link would be ambiguous to users in general.”

Link text (or anchor text) is the text within a hyperlink that describes the destination. People who use assistive technologies (AT) may scan through your page for important content, and hyperlinks are important; if the destination of a link isn’t clear, these users may feel frustrated.

Hyperlink text is also useful for search engine spiders, which “crawl" through websites to determine the purpose of the content. A strong link profile can help your site rank, but low-quality link text may limit your results.

Related: Quick Guide to Accessible Hyperlinks

Accessible websites rank better in search — and for good reason

Currently, Google doesn’t use accessibility as a direct ranking factor. But as we’ve discussed, the best practices of accessibility are virtually identical to the best practices of SEO. 

When your content delivers the same essential experience for all users, regardless of the technologies they use to access your website, search engines can also interpret the content.

And given the strong business case for accessibility, every content creator should prioritize inclusive design. If you’re ready to get started, we’re ready to help. Talk to us to learn more or start with a free, confidential website analysis.

Use our free Website Accessibility Checker to scan your site for ADA and WCAG compliance.

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