SEO Creates Opportunity for ROI in Digital ADA Accessibility

By Eric Maas on 14 November, 2023

Many businesses are facing the reality that the American Disability Act now applies to their physical locations as well as their digital properties. Many companies are struggling to build sites that adhere to the guidelines set forth by the WC3s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). On top of that implementing ADA guidelines to make websites accessible is undeniably noble, ensuring inclusivity for all users. However, the sad reality is that these projects often come with hefty price tags. The financial commitment to WCAG ADA projects can be substantial, spanning design alterations, code restructuring, and regular audits. Furthermore, while the intent behind ADA-compliance is commendable, many businesses find that the increased accessibility doesn’t always attract an audience large enough to offer a direct return on the investment made into digital ADA. But does that mean businesses should reconsider their ADA endeavors? Not necessarily. This is where SEO enters the equation. The interplay between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and WCAG under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can be the magic formula for both visibility and accessibility. The user experience that the WCAG spells out is very similar to the user experience that SEOs build for Google. By aligning SEO strategies with ADA-compliant changes, businesses can not only cater to a wider audience but also find visibility and traffic which are the building block for better digital returns.

Here’s how the synergy Between SEO and ADA Works:

From a Business perspective

  • SEO: A marketing practice that aims to bring in revenue from search engines like Google by modifying many parts of a website. When done with your business needs in mind and a proper strategy, the ROI on SEO investments can be some of the best marketing money spent, period.
  • WCAG ADA: Accessibility implementations made by modifying almost the same “many parts” of a website. From a business perspective, on average and in most cases, these implementations have much less, if not any ROI, apart from the fact that it may save a business from certain lawsuits.
  • Takeaway: Instead of spending money on implementing WCAG ADA alone, businesses can take a smart 2-in-1 approach and implement both SEO and WCAG ADA best practices without a ton of additional expense, and with much higher potential of getting a return on it.

Tab Order & Logical Navigation

  • SEO Perspective: A clear website structure aids search engines in indexing content efficiently.
  • WCAG ADA Perspective: Users, especially those using assistive technologies, benefit from logical navigation and tab order, ensuring smoother interaction.
  • Takeaway: Logical navigation caters to both search engines and users, expanding audience reach and potential ROI.

Microdata & Semantic Markup

  • SEO Perspective: Microdata enhances search engine understanding, leading to rich snippets and better visibility.
  • WCAG ADA Perspective: Semantic markup aids assistive devices in decoding content structure, promoting accessibility.
  • Takeaway: Rich content structures serve dual purposes – SEO ranking and accessibility enhancement.

Image Tags & Alt Descriptions

  • SEO Perspective: Alt text gives context to search engines, aiding in better indexing.
  • WCAG ADA Perspective: Alt descriptions are indispensable for visually impaired users, facilitating a comprehensive understanding.
  • Takeaway: Alt descriptions amplify both content visibility and inclusivity.

Descriptive Text & Clear Content

  • SEO Perspective: Clear content, headers, and CTAs signal high-quality sites to search engines.
  • WCAG ADA Perspective: Descriptive headers and straightforward language aid users, especially those relying on assistive tools.
  • Takeaway: Clear content is a universal boon, enhancing user experience and boosting SEO.

The Mutual Benefits of SEO and ADA

  • Page Speed: Fast-loading sites favor both SEO ranking and users, especially those with cognitive disabilities.
  • Link Descriptiveness: Clear link text benefits SEO and gives users clear expectations, thus aiding accessibility.
  • Keyboard Accessibility: Functionalities accessible via keyboards benefit users with motor disabilities and ensure comprehensive user experiences, indirectly enhancing SEO.

The Importance of Controlled Rendering

With both SEO and WCAG ADA, one facet stands paramount: the capability to control how HTML and code render on websites. This aspect goes beyond just optimizing content or ensuring accessibility. Let’s delve into why controlling the rendering process is vital for both SEO and ADA compatibility. This is a place SEO Perspective: From an SEO standpoint, the way a site’s code renders directly impacts its search engine visibility. Search engine crawlers, like Googlebot, interact with and index the rendered version of your website. If there are rendering issues or if essential content isn’t rendered correctly, it could significantly impact search engine rankings. Moreover, modern websites often leverage JavaScript frameworks, and ensuring that search engines can efficiently crawl and index this content requires a controlled rendering process. WCAG ADA Perspective: For ADA compliance, controlled rendering is equally, if not more, significant. Users with disabilities often interact with websites using assistive technologies. If a site’s code doesn’t render correctly or predictably, it could lead to usability challenges. For instance, a button might not be accessible or an important content section might be skipped by screen readers. Hence, ensuring that HTML and other codes render in an expected and consistent manner is imperative for true accessibility. Consistent User Experience: Ensuring consistent rendering means that all users, regardless of their abilities or the technologies they use, experience your website in the way you intended. Improved Site Performance: Controlled rendering can lead to faster load times, which is an SEO ranking factor and also enhances user experience, especially for those with cognitive impairments. Enhanced Troubleshooting: When you have control over your site’s rendering process, diagnosing and fixing issues becomes much more straightforward. Whether it’s a misbehaving script affecting SEO or a rendering glitch hampering accessibility, control empowers timely rectification. Flexibility with Dynamic Content: Many websites now rely on dynamically generated content. Controlled rendering ensures that such content is accessible and SEO-friendly.

The Essence of Content Hierarchies

Content hierarchies are not just a design or aesthetic choice. They play a pivotal role in guiding both search engine algorithms and users, especially those with disabilities, through a website’s content. By ensuring a clear content hierarchy, web developers and content creators can strike the right balance between SEO optimization and ADA compliance, further enriching the digital experience for all users. SEO Perspective: For search engines, a well-defined content hierarchy aids in understanding the importance and relationship of content on a page. This organized structure ensures that search engines can easily crawl, index, and rank the content based on its relevance and priority. Additionally, a strong content hierarchy supports keyword distribution, ensuring that primary keywords are placed in prominent positions, enhancing the content’s SEO value. WCAG ADA Perspective: From an accessibility viewpoint, content hierarchies are indispensable. Users, especially those relying on screen readers, benefit immensely from a well-structured content hierarchy. It allows them to comprehend the flow of information, discern the relative importance of different sections, and navigate the content seamlessly. A clear hierarchy, often represented by appropriate use of header tags (from <h1> to <h6>), can guide users through the content in a logical and user-friendly manner.

Let Fuelist Digital Be Your Guide To Find ROI on Your ADA Project

While ADA-compliant projects can be costly, and the direct audience increase might not always justify the expenditure, integrating SEO strategies can amplify the returns on such investments. By acknowledging and leveraging the confluence of SEO and WCAG ADA, businesses can ensure a broader audience reach, greater visibility, and a potential for increased ROI, all while championing the noble cause of digital inclusivity.