If you do SEO or have an agency that offers SEO, adding web accessibility to your service offering makes a lot of sense.
It is not a coincidence that both of Accessible Web’s founders, and even yours truly, are all former SEOs. Optimizing a website for search engines and for users with disabilities are very similar pursuits. SEO is about making a website accessible to search engine technology while creating engaging content that human users can easily consume. While web accessibility is about making a website that assistive technology can easily consume and creating content that is accessible to human users.
Both are about applying a set of standards and best practices to a website to improve its user experience. Both enhance how websites perform to fulfill key business objectives. Both are best considered at the beginning of a web project instead of the end. Both get a website in front of new audiences. Both are great business opportunities. A key difference, though, is that web accessibility is still emerging. And just like with the early days of SEO, opportunities abound for those willing to evolve their skillset and stay ahead of the pack.
Communicating to technology and users with the same code
Web accessibility practitioners tend to use a blend of automated tools, manual auditing against standards and best practices, and user testing to improve websites. Which, if you’re an SEO, is a very familiar sounding process. If you’re good at these things, you’ll be good at web accessibility.
Using headings, alt text, breadcrumbs, good site navigation, descriptive anchor text, on-site sitemaps, descriptive page titles are all important for SEO because they are important for web accessibility. Yes they help a search crawler ingest a site, but search engines have seen them as important ranking factors, not for how easy it makes a site to crawl, but because they wanted to make sure their users with disabilities weren’t disappointed by the results they were getting.
The hardest part about SEO for me was proving that I did my job correctly. How could I prove that a change I made in March led to an increase in rankings in August? Was what I was doing even considered by search engines? The answer changed daily and was actively being kept a secret. I performed minor miracles for my clients, but what hard evidence could I possibly have to show for it?
In this way, web accessibility work is extremely refreshing. You can instantly validate your work against publicly available criteria. No educated guesses or chasing trends. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are publicly available. Providing evidence of value is not only possible, tools like the logging feature in our RAMP platform make it easy to keep a comprehensive log of your efforts. You can even automatically syndicate that log to your website through our A11y Center to demonstrate publicly that a continuous effort is being made to keep a website accessible.
If you’re an agency and wonder why you aren’t landing bigger clients..
Mid to enterprise-sized companies already know that web accessibility is just as much of an opportunity as SEO. The difference is obvious when talking to a company that is big enough to do market research, they have all the evidence they need that having an accessible website is just as important as having an accessible brick and mortar location. Smaller businesses that can’t have been slower to catch on that people are showing up at their website and leaving are just as upset if they weren’t able to access a physical location, they just don’t know it’s happening. That is, until a demand letter from an attorney shows up.
If web accessibility isn’t a core competency, larger clients have learned that cleaning up your work after the fact is a lot more expensive than just hiring a firm that knows how to do it right in the first place. Which is exactly what happened with SEO about 10 years ago. Even if you are content working with smaller clients, this understanding will inevitably trickle down to smaller organizations in the near future.
If you’re an agency owner or SEO professional that wants to know more about how Accessible Web can help you efficiently and profitably offer web accessibility services, check out Accessible Web’s Agency Partner Program.