Creating a website that’s accessible to all – including those who are challenged by visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive and neurological limitations – can do wonders for your search engine optimization efforts.

In fact, it’s often said that a search engine’s web crawler is your site’s first disabled visitor. The crawlers are:

  • Unable to see your images if you don’t use an <alt> tag to provide alternative information for images.
  • Unable to extract meaning from your website content if you don’t offer text alternatives to identify audio or audio-video content.
  • Unable to discern your content if you use Javascript navigation or Flash animation.

Many accessibility features are relatively easy to implement if they’re planned from the beginning or considered during a redesign. Fixing a website that has accessibility issues, on the other hand, can require significant effort. Here are some areas where there’s a beneficial overlap between accessibility and search engine optimization:

  • Use standard web formats whenever possible.
  • Use text instead of images when possible.
  • Present clear and consistent navigation and page structure.
  • Use proper alternative text for images.
  • Provide clear heading structure and avoid empty headings.
  • Providing descriptive keyword text links.
  • Ensure descriptive and succinct page titles.
  • Limit the use of Javascript, especially in navigation.
  • Avoid interactions that depend on mouse movements.
  • Provide transcripts and captions for video.
  • Identify the language of pages and page content.
  • Create multiple ways to find content: search, site map, table of contents, clear navigation.
  • Provide useful links to relevant resources.
  • Ensure URLs are readable and logical.
  • Avoid Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and other stylistic markup as a way to present content or convey meaning.
  • Define on-page abbreviations and acronyms.

Website accessibility can ultimately have legal implications. In perhaps the most famous case,Target paid $6 million in a class-action lawsuit stemming from its incompatibility with screen-reading software.

One way to make sure your site is compatible is to make sure alt text is used for each on-site image. You'll find the alt text option in the Advanced tab when placing or editing an image.