[Study] Is Web Accessibility Key to Driving Organic Traffic?
January 25, 2023
Many marketers operate on the assumption that web accessibility increases SEO. In collaboration with AccessibilityChecker.org and BuiltWith, we set out to prove the claim by analyzing over 800 websites. The study suggests that digital accessibility is paramount for online discoverability. Here are our findings at a glance:
Keep reading to learn more about these findings and what they mean for marketers, web developers, and brands.
What is web accessibility?
How can website owners, developers, and brands ensure that their online content is navigable for all users? And what are the implications of making the move toward inclusivity?
Web accessibility refers to the ease with which differently abled users can understand web pages. The concept also extends to internet users in certain situations, such as those using mobile devices or experiencing low internet bandwidth, to increase the likelihood of a positive experience with your site across various user conditions.
From alt text that describes photos for users with visual impairments to intuitively organized written content so users can efficiently navigate through your site and find the information they need, the concept comes down to web page usability for all people.
Websites can increase accessibility through a variety of plug-in technologies and remediation solutions that work to ensure content is decipherable to as many people in as many situations as possible. It’s a pressing issue, particularly given the estimate that 90% of websites are inaccessible to users who utilize interpretive technologies.
Why does web accessibility matter?
Web accessibility is an important moral goal, as the internet shouldn’t leave anyone left out of its rich resources. In addition to ethical motivations, sites also work toward accessibility to comply with legal requirements, particularly as outlined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Web accessibility is also vital for business. Every organization can benefit from making itself accessible to a wider group of visitors.
Enacted in 1990, the ADA originally spoke primarily to the need for accommodations in physical spaces while explicitly outlawing discrimination based on disability. It also includes requirements for the equitable use of public resources, stating, “No qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity.”
So, when did the law extend to websites as public entities? Since the early 2000s, the Justice Department has maintained that ADA compliance includes access to websites, and a 2008 amendment to the ADA codified this expansion of the legislation.
How does accessibility impact SEO?
It seems intuitive that increasing the populations who can access your website could lead to growth in organic traffic. For instance, it’s estimated that more than 1 million U.S. adults over the age of 40 are blind. Could you unlock their business and brand loyalty with web accessibility?
Plus, with Google constantly calculating search engine result page (SERP) rankings by evaluating sites based in part on web page usability and user experience, it logically follows that websites with more accessibility features would be prioritized over sites without those accommodations. So, marketers have long assumed that accessibility features drive online visibility and enhance SEO. Web developers work with this assumption every day.
But until now, the accessibility hypothesis had never been proven.
Introducing the first concrete study on accessibility and discoverability
AccessibilityChecker.org set out to find conclusive evidence around the claim that website accessibility enhances SEO.
BuiltWith, a tool that determines which technologies are being used to run specific websites, was able to identify 847 websites that use accessibility remediation solutions, as well as when they installed those services. By working with these sites and considering the exact date when they enhanced their accessibility measures, Semrush leveraged its own API developer hub to deduce each site’s traffic at two critical times: three months before the accessibility solution was integrated and three months after.
Then, data scientist Jacek Szandula, PhD, analyzed the numbers. Using models to account for the distribution of change across all 847 sites, he was able to confirm that most of the sites saw an increase in traffic after onboarding accessibility solutions. But just how much did traffic grow as a result of these measures?
What the data revealed
The data paints a compelling picture: A majority of the study’s 847 sites saw an uptick in organic traffic after installing remediation solutions for digital accessibility. More specifically, 73.4% of the sites experienced traffic growth after this adjustment, with 66.1% of all sites increasing monthly organic traffic by anywhere between 1% and 50%, and 7.3% of sites seeing an increase of more than 50%.
AccessibilityChecker.org analyzed the findings to understand the impact of the various remediation solution providers the 847 sites were using to achieve accessibility. The solution that yielded the highest average increase in traffic was EqualWeb, which elicited an average 116% change in traffic for sites using its services. Accessibility solutions UserWay and accessiBe followed closely behind in their ability to grow organic traffic.
Across all the sites surveyed, the average change in traffic between pre- and post-remediation solutions was a 12% increase. Anyone who has worked to attract new visitors to an online property knows that those numbers are significant. So, how can you use accessibility to get in on the average 12% uptick in web traffic?
Key takeaways and larger implications
Now that we have some evidence to back up the claim that web accessibility drives growth in organic traffic, it’s time to start thinking about how to play the findings to your advantage. Anyone trying to grow brand awareness or draw more visitors to online properties should consider website accessibility a key lever for achieving increased online visibility.
Companies seeking to improve their SEO ranking should lean into remediation solutions to help them appear in more searches, attract more website users, comply with legal requirements, and ensure their content is accessible to as many people as possible.
You can start working toward web accessibility by learning more about the topic, checking the color contrast of your code, and identifying what areas of your site need improvement by entering your URL into this free AccessibilityChecker.org.
But how will you know if accessibility enhancements impact traffic? Semrush’s API developer hub can help you track the impact of installing remediation solutions.
Sure, legal requirements and our study’s findings should be enough to get marketers thinking about web accessibility as a core goal. But beyond these more tangible factors, inclusivity matters. Brands can start setting a good example for the rest of the industry by working toward accessibility in all of their online offerings.
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