The Undeniable Connection Between ADA Compliant Websites and Search Engine Optimization
Online accessibility has garnered a lot of attention in the multifamily industry, with ADA compliant websites now being regarded as essential to your multifamily property’s success. Accessible websites not only enhance leasing efforts and promote digital inclusion , but they also eliminate fears of non-compliance claims against those who do not make their websites accessible to individuals with disabilities.
Another area that benefits from an ADA compliant website is your community’s digital marketing efforts. Believe it or not, online accessibility has become very important to your business’ search marketing success. When implemented correctly, your website’s accessibility-friendly features will establish a better relationship with search engines and improve your ranking in search results. By focusing on both online accessibility and SEO, your community will attract a wider audience of potential residents. The connection between ADA accessible websites and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is absolutely undeniable.
Understanding Online Accessibility
Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed almost 30 years ago, its core elements are just as important today as they were in 1990 when President George H. W. Bush signed the ADA into law. To date, the ADA is the most comprehensive U.S. law designed to protect individuals with disabilities because its mandates:
- Ensure equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities
- Prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities
- Host and promote activities and services of public entities to individuals with disabilities
- Believe businesses should make “reasonable modifications” to serve people with disabilities
The ADA bears no mention of the World Wide Web, but many legal experts extend ADA guidelines to online services, often citing the “nexus theory.” According to the nexus theory, websites are considered a “nexus,” or extension, of a physical location that offers goods and services. Since the law mandates that places of public accommodation remove any access barriers that would inhibit a person with disabilities from accessing goods or services, a business’ website must comply to ADA guidelines as well.
Inaccessible websites are the new public barrier for the estimated 61 million American adults who live with a disability. As it now stands, nearly 25 percent of people with disabilities say that they never go online, compared to just 8 percent of people without disabilities. Providing equal access to your property’s website to all users, will go far in bridging the social, economic, and now, digital gaps between those with disabilities and those without.
Implementing SEO with Web Accessibility Measures
The heart of both web accessibility and SEO are seamless user experiences, which Google and other popular search engines use to determine which websites best fit user queries before ranking them accordingly. Great user experiences make navigating a website easy and intuitive, regardless of the end-user’s range of abilities. Therefore, it’s of little surprise that many best practices associated with online accessibility and SEO overlap.
For example, title tags make using your website easier for users and search engines alike. For consumers using screen reading devices, title tags help them understand the differences between your site’s different pages and assets. Effective header structure also allows users to better understand your website’s organization and content. Because effective header structure makes it easier for users to find the information they’re looking for, Google will factor your site’s browsability into your search positioning.
Image alt text and video transcriptions are two more ways to boost accessibility and search marketing efforts. Alt text describes an image on the back-end of your site, while transcriptions detail video content. Both necessitate the use of keyword text – which is indexed by search engines – and allow users with disabilities to “read” images and videos, just like your site pages. Even conventionally-sighted users value video transcriptions – just ask the 92 percent of American mobile users who watch videos with the sound off and captions on.
Leveraging Platform Technology to Unify Updates
Strengthening your website with title tags, headers, alt text, and video transcriptions won’t automatically make it inclusive to users with disabilities. Though website optimization is a great place to begin your accessibility journey, the reality is that achieving an ADA compliant website will require much more than a one-and-done solution.
Currently, there are no official guides or government organizations dedicated to accessibility implementations. However, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has produced Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) as the standard needed to make one’s website ADA compliant. WCAG, which is now on Version 2.1, provides technical specifications to improve the accessibility of websites, content, and applications across multiple devices for people with a wide range of disabilities.
Because accessibility guidelines stand to evolve further, it’s smart to employ a team of researchers, analysts, and developers, who can conduct accessibility testing and respond to any WCAG changes right away. Platform technology providers, who offer ADA-certified services , are also worth the investment. Leveraging platform technology will allow you to unify changes across all domains in your portfolio, lessening the probability that someone will not be able to access information or transact business through your website.
Although they might be considered separate practices, both online accessibility and SEO offer mutual benefits to the end-user— one of the most significant being the ability to locate and attain relevant information and services. If you have yet to introduce web accessibility practices to your marketing website, you are not only missing out on millions of potential customers, but also ample opportunities for improved search ranking and heightened user experience. After all, the better your website can serve all users, the better it will rank in search results.