SEO and accessibility

How to collaborate

Title tags hierarchy, to do: H1, H2, H3, H2, H3, H4. Don't: H2, H1, H2, H4, H4, H3.

In digital, we often hear that accessibility improves SEO, but what's the real story? And is the opposite true? An accessible page is more likely to rank well in search engines because, among other things, headings logically follow each other. But there's more to getting noticed by Google, like where your page sits on the sitemap, internal links, etc. So a well-indexed page is not necessarily accessible.

On the other hand, if you get both accessibility and SEO right from the start, you'll get a page that is both easy to find and easy to use by anyone. So it's not a choice between one or the other; they complement each other. That's why it's important for designers and SEO experts to collaborate closely.

Here are some quick wins to get you started and make sure your SEO efforts don't hinder accessibility.

Start collaborating early

Bring in your SEO expert at the beginning of your project so they can suggest the right keywords for your content. If they come in late, it could mess up headings and confuse users of screen readers. So it's best to work closely together from the start.

Keep headings logical

Well-chosen headings not only help with SEO but also make it easier for people using screen readers to navigate inside your page. So they should follow a logical order. That's how screen readers users get to read what they're interested in, rather than the whole content. This applies to web pages as well as text documents, especially if you're exporting them into PDFs.

Some practices seem strange but they might still comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). For example, you don't absolutely need a H1 Heading, it's just highly recommended. You can also use a H4 after a H2 without breaking the rules. Nor is there anything that stops you from having the same title several times on a page. Is that a good thing to do? It depends on the context. So I recommend this article from the Web Accessibility Initiative to debunk all compliance rules about headings.

Alt text isn't for SEO

Alt text (or alternative text) is there to describe images to people using screen readers and to compensate for technical errors. If an image is important to understand the page and it hasn't loaded, then the alt text is essential. And if it has loaded but isn't accessible for screen readers, then it's the same issue. But if it's just decorative and doesn't add anything of value, you can leave the alt empty. Rather than providing the same experience for both valid and disabled users, we try to reduce unnecessary noise from screen readers. One last thing, bear in mind that Google might penalise keywords stuffing for SEO purposes only. It's best to stay out of it...

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