This article contains some ableist phrases that are debunked and combatted throughout the piece. They have been included to highlight better alternatives.
Accessibility should be one of the top priorities for your website in 2024
Disabled people and those with accessibility needs make up a considerable percentage of our clients and customers — but, even if they didn’t, we should care about the end-user experience of those who interact with our products, services, and content.
As an SEO professional who has been advocating for accessibility for years, I’ve heard and seen it all when it comes to excuses for not implementing accessibility best practices to a website.
“How much is this going to cost me?”
“Just focus on SEO, nothing else will benefit my business.”
“Why would I do this work when it only affects a small number of people?”
“We don’t want blind people buying our products.”
I wish I were exaggerating, especially about the last one. Don’t be like them. Providing an inaccessible website is not only a missed opportunity for users — it’s also a missed opportunity for you, as a business owner. Think about all of those potential customers who are clicking through to your inaccessible website, and finding alternative solutions!
I’ve had countless conversations trying to convince business owners to let me include basic accessibility practices into my SEO workflow; honestly, I stopped asking and started just doing. Plenty of SEO activities also benefit accessibility.
When I need to discuss accessibility with a client, it always comes back to “what’s in it for me.” I’ll then start to roll off the benefits and explore whatever seems the most important to my client:
Larger customer base
More returning customers
Legal compliance is met
Rank higher in Google
Your competitors aren’t doing this
Potential revenue increase up to 18.9%
The last three typically get their attention. Don’t worry; we’ll explore the 18.9% revenue increase a little later on. In this blog post, I will share the data you need to know to justify accessibility best practices for organic search. We’ll look at revenue increases and your competitors.
Identify revenue that comes from users with disabilities
So, to identify the revenue for a client, you’ll need to understand some stats. These stats will vary depending on the country the business operates in – you will also need the business’s data on organic revenue.
I will talk you through the entire process — using e-commerce as an example to break down total online spending and its intersection with accessibility.
Before we delve into the potential revenue, there are some core stats you’ll need to know and refer back to.
Stats around accessibility and internet usage in America
The USA has a population of 340 Million
According to the CDC, around 27% of the American population lives with some form of disability
90.9% of American citizens have access to the internet
63.8% of the American disabled population has access to the internet
83% of users with access needs limit their shopping to websites that they know are barrier-free
23% of the American disabled population state they never browse the internet at all
Estimate revenue from customers with disabilities
With those figures in mind and a little math, we can estimate how much of our revenue (if our website is accessible) comes from customers with disabilities with the following formula.
27% of Americans live with a disability, 63.8% of the disabled community have frequent internet access, and 91% of all Americans have internet access.
27% * 63.8% / 91% = 18.9% of the total American population who use the internet have a disability.
18.9% is no number to turn your nose up at. For any sized business, 18.9% of additional revenue is life-changing money. This 18.9% is an incredibly important figure in understanding how many people you benefit by having an accessible website.
If we look at the total e-commerce revenue in 2023, we can see that $196.56 Billion ($1,04t *18.9%) was spent by people with disabilities online. This is just looking at online sales; we are not factoring in any other conversion at this point. What we are seeing is that people with disabilities are not a small portion of the population. A massive contribution to the online economy comes from users with disabilities.
You can replicate this formula for any business in the US and its revenue. Use those stats and the formula together to build a story while explaining the importance of accessibility to your client.
You can frame this data in multiple ways, but at its most simple — if you know your website is inaccessible, you can assume that you are making 18.9% less than you could be if it were accessible. Assumptions around whether a site is accessible or not are rarely wrong.
Own the market share for users with disabilities
For users with disabilities, it’s more than likely that they will struggle to find websites that they can fully navigate. Users with disabilities will have to view multiple sites to find one that caters to their needs so they can resolve their needs.
Studies have shown that over 90% of websites do not meet the minimum compliance with the WCAG guidelines.
WCAG has become the standard for online accessibility and is frequently referred to by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as the standard to meet for online accessibility. It’s also a legal requirement.
The WCAG levels of compliance are divided into three levels: A, AA, and AAA. Level A addresses the most basic accessibility issues, such as alt text and the page being navigable by keyboard. They list out the content and accessibility guidelines a website should follow, and many of them are not difficult to apply.
However, with 90% of all websites not meeting the minimum standards of accessibility, it’s a fair assumption that any given website is not entirely accessible. You can apply this to your own business but also to your competitors. If you have been overlooking accessibility, it’s likely your competitors will not be putting in the work to serve all of their potential customers either.
This creates a substantial opportunity for your business to corner the market. Working with SEOs, developers, and/or accessibility experts, you can open yourself up to potentially take the market share of users with disabilities for your specific service/niche.
It’s no small fee, but if you are already paying for SEO and development work, you may as well cover accessibility best practices, too. SEO can help you reach more users; accessibility can help you convert up to 18.9% of those users.
The cost of inaccessibility
When making your case for accessibility, you must factor in what could happen if you leave your website inaccessible. This could be covering the cost of defending a digital accessibility lawsuit — or even settling a demand letter — which is often more expensive than fixing accessibility issues in the first place.
In 2021, 265,000 website accessibility demand letters were sent out to businesses with an estimated $25,000 per case to resolve the demand letter and then proceed with fixing accessibility issues.
Accessibility lawsuits will cost you significantly more.
When it comes to accessibility, it’s better to be proactive. If you prioritize accessibility work early, you can reap the rewards and be recognized as an accessible brand to your customers.
How accessibility and SEO interlink
You may have heard that having an accessible website will help you rank better. Unfortunately, this isn’t wholly true. Google doesn’t really care if your website is completely accessible.
All of these are activities that an SEO should address during their auditing and technical optimization strategies as part of a campaign. These activities can directly impact SEO as they provide additional context to your content and create a good page experience. The very same activities are incredibly important for solving access needs for users with disabilities.
Quick tips to make your website more accessible
Want to give yourself the best chance to achieve that 18.9% increase in revenue? Here are ten tips to get you started.
Ensure that every page has an adequately defined heading structure. Users relying on screenreaders often jump from header to header.
Create content that is well-displayed and easy to read. We should outline the problems our business solves and explain them in clear terms.
Links should be clearly distinguished from other text.
All links should be descriptive.
Test that you can interact with everything with a keyboard like you can with a mouse. Use the tab key to navigate the website.
All content images should have descriptive alt text or relevant expandable descriptions.
Ensure that images are not used when text content would have been more appropriate.
Breadcrumbs aren’t just for internal linking and structured data; they are an incredibly effective method of improving the experience for users with disabilities.
The page does not contain harmful flashing elements, i.e. interstitials.
You can zoom in and out effectively while still only scrolling in one direction.
Here is a full accessibility checklist that can seamlessly be added to a technical SEO audit.
Be the one to help your company address your user’s accessibility needs. Serve the public in this way, and enjoy the boost in reputation you will receive, and watch how your bottom line increases.