SEO and Digital Accessibility: Three Good Reasons to Optimise Your Website

SEO and Digital Accessibility: Three Good Reasons to Optimise Your Website
Source: iStock/fizkes

Are SEO and digital accessibility compatible with each other? Absolutely – it’s a match! Your website is going to love this pairing.

Most of you know that optimising your website for search engines is important. But one point that is often overlooked is the reduction of barriers for everyone. Seriously – everyone.

The brilliant thing about the interplay of digital accessibility and SEO is the emerging synergy effects. An accessible website has a positive effect on user experience, which in turn reflects positively in search engine rankings.

With the following three examples, we will show you how the combination of SEO and digital accessibility can boost your website to the top of the search results.

SEO and Digital Accessibility: What Is That Again?

Digital accessibility on a website means that every person visiting the website can use it without any restrictions. This includes, for example, the blind or visually impaired and people with motor or cognitive impairments.

The goal of SEO is to have your website appear at the very top of the search results for relevant queries. There are several measures you can take to achieve this, such as optimising your content and improving the user experience.

This way, you make it easier for search engines to properly register the content of your website and correctly index your pages in search results.

SEO and Digital Accessibility: 1) Expand Your Target Audience and Increase Your Visibility

Websites and web applications are often developed exclusively for one target audience: those without impairments. However, this tends to exclude a non-negligible number of people who can only use your products to a limited extent or not at all.

These figures make it clear how many potential users we are talking about:

Furthermore, people with impairments are often excluded entirely by analytics tools like Google Analytics and remain invisible.

On the one hand, this could be because some of them do not visit any websites at all due to previous negative experiences. On the other, the lack of data could be explained by the fact that it is technically very difficult to single out this group of people as part of an analysis.

One very important, but often neglected target audience is the elderly. They account for a large part of the disabled population – nearly 80 percent of severely disabled people are over the age of 55.

What is more, older people are not digital natives and did not grow up with a smartphone in their hand. Consequently, they are not familiar with many of the conventions that younger people take for granted. This starts with small things, like the knowledge that three parallel lines in the corner of a website represent the menu.

In addition, due to ageism prejudices, many companies overwhelmingly employ young people, leading to poor representation of the older demographic. The average employee is 28 years old at Meta, 29 years old at LinkedIn and Salesforce and 33 years old at Microsoft. Mark Zuckerberg himself said back in 2007: »Young people are just smarter«.

But if we compare the actual purchasing power of these generations with regard to these facts, we find that baby boomers (born between 1955 and 1969) are the richest generation of our time. This group of people has about ten times more wealth than the younger millennials (born between 1981 and 1995). This makes it clear how much potential is still untapped in this target audience.

With a website optimised for all people, you will be able to address a larger and more affluent target audience and generate more visitors. This increased reach will in turn have a positive effect on your search engine ranking.

SEO and Digital Accessibility: 2) Improve the User Experience and Keep Customers Engaged

An accessible website offers an improved user experience because some accessibility criteria reflect directly on usability. For example, high-contrast and sufficiently large fonts improve the readability of texts for everyone. Consistent navigation makes it easier for all of us to find information. Similarly, well-worded and specific error messages simplify the filling out of forms.
In addition, most of us occasionally find ourselves in situations where we are temporarily or situationally disabled and dependent on accessible content:

  • Imagine you are taking a walk in a park and the sun is glaring on your smartphone screen – low-contrast fonts and images are difficult or impossible to make out.
  • Or imagine you are driving your car down the highway. It would be practical to be able to control your smartphone with your voice, right?
  • Or imagine you are at a concert and receive a voice message. Wouldn’t it be convenient if your smartphone could transcribe it for you?

An accessible website does not just benefit people with impairments, it provides everyone with a better user experience – and a positive user experience will lead to visitors spending more time on your website and engaging with your content more thoroughly. These factors positively affect your search engine ranking.

SEO and Digital Accessibility: 3) Clear Structures for Screen Readers and Search Engines

Some groups of people, for example the blind, cannot perceive websites visually. They rely on assistive technology such as screen readers – however, from a technical point of view, your website needs to be set up logically and in a well-structured manner. It is important to note that native/pre-built HTML elements usually work better from an accessibility standpoint than your own programmed elements, as the former are already semantically correct.

A website with a logical and clear structure does not just offer advantages for screen readers. Search engines will also love your website for its well-structured and speaking URLs, logical categorisation of content and intelligible internal links.

This makes it much easier to index your website, as the algorithms can better understand the content of your pages and present users with their desired search results.

Another important factor for a well-structured website is to ensure that connections that are visually unambiguous to you are organised just as clearly in your code. For example, users can easily identify which label belongs to which form field. Therefore, the two elements »label« and »form field« should be similarly linked in the front end.

Good examples of websites that are structured in an accessible way and optimised for screen readers are and The BBC website is jam-packed with lots of small accessibility options. There is additional content available for users with screen readers, which offers more context and more comprehensive descriptions.

This overview lists some other valuable factors to consider for your accessible website:

SEO Factors for Accessible Websites Significance for Accessibility Significance for SEO
Alternative text for images Images can sometimes not be perceived visually, so alternative text must be provided Images with alternative text rank higher in search engines since relevant keywords can be placed in the alternative text and filtered out
Headings Headings are important for blind and visually impaired people since they are used by screen readers and other assistive technologies to enable easy website navigation Headings are usually given more weight than other content since they help define the structure and hierarchy of a website
Transcriptions and subtitles Users with hearing impairments cannot hear videos and audio content and those with visual impairments cannot see videos, so transcriptions and subtitles are important Helps with the indexing of videos in search engines and improves the user experience for everyone
Color contrasts and font sizes High-contrast colours and larger font sizes improve readability for everyone, especially for users with visual impairments Improves readability and intelligibility for all users and indirectly increases visibility in search engines by reducing bounce rates
Descriptive link text Descriptive link text provides non-visual users with context as to where a link leads Improves the user experience for everyone and helps with the indexing of content in search engines
Adjustable font sizes Users with visual impairments can benefit from adjustable font sizes as a means of improving readability Improves readability and intelligibility for all users and increases visibility in search engines

SEO and Digital Accessibility: For All of Us!

As you can see, the main objectives of the two disciplines of SEO and accessibility harmonise perfectly with each other.

When you design your website in an accessible way, you address a larger target audience. This ensures that your content is understood by all users as well as search engines. Furthermore, you increase your visibility in search engines and gain more potential customers with purchasing power. A classic win-win situation!

After all, on the accessible Internet, everyone should be able to do everything – not only a specific target audience. Accessibility optimisation reduces barriers for all of us and makes it easier for users to reach their goals. Meeting the different needs of people is at the heart of the accessibility issue.

SEO and Digital Accessibility: Act to Strengthen Accessibility Mandatory from 2025

If you have been putting off making your website accessible, it is high time to tackle this issue. Why? Because from mid-2025 onwards, accessibility will become a legal requirement for the e-commerce sector, among others.
According to the German Act to Strengthen Accessibility (Barrierefreiheitsstärkungsgesetz, BFSG), products and services for consumers will have to be designed in an accessible way starting on 28 June 2025. Since some of the changes you need to make will be complex and far reaching, you should integrate accessibility into your roadmap sooner rather than later.

(13 vote(s), average: 5.00 out of 5)

Leave a Reply