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Maximizing Website Accessibility and SEO with Alt Text and ADA Compliance

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Google is blind. It's always been obvious to me. Maybe not forever. But, for now, Google experiences your site using the old Unix app named Lynx.

Maximizing Website Accessibility and SEO with Alt Text and ADA Compliance

Blind Google

TL;DR: Optimize your website for accessibility and SEO by using alt text for images and ensuring compatibility with text-based browsers like Lynx. This helps meet ADA standards, improves user experience for the visually impaired, and boosts your site’s visibility on Google.

LYNX Text Web-Browser

Lynx is a text-based text browser. It's a trip experiencing a site with a text-based web browser. There's a lot of missing pieces on most sites. I tell my clients that they are best served being as compliant with as many of the ADA guidelines for producing online web content as possible without slowing their sites down with too many ADA bells and whistles. What I mean is making certain that their sites are completely functional while using a text-based web browser with their eyes and with their ears. 

Can the Blind Navigate Your Site

Can a blind person navigate and experience your site using text-to-voice navigation or is your site set up like a Steve Jobs powerpoint deck: all photos with a minimum of any textual contextual clues. The easiest way to start to meet sight-impaired Google halfway is to make sure you associate an alt text description for every one of your photos, graphics, images, illustrations, logos, or titles with the kind of alternate text that would help, aid, and inform a blind visitor using a text-to-speech browser like Lynx and its variants. 

Il n'y a Pas de Hors-Texte

Lynx was originally developed so that you can look at websites from the command line of terminal text-only interfaces that DOS, Unix, BSD, and GN/Linux have. Early in the world of the world wide web, so many dumb terminals that accessed a Unix mainframe didn't have access to Windows or X, a Unix version of windows. So, Lynx was invented. That said, it was pretty handy for the seeing impaired as well. And it's always been a good way of checking to see if your site and its UI/UX is architecturally sound. 

Google Search Treasures ALT Text

If Lynx can figure it all out then so can Google. So, if you are running a Wordpress install as your CMS platform, it's easy: just go into the Media Library and add alt tags to each image without context from the pages they're on. Just cold-describe the photo or logo or illustration or title or banner. Don't try to be clever and get all salesy in your alt tags. Also, keep it down to around ten words or so. 

No Purple ALT Prose

Keep is simple and salient and germane to what's in the photo. You don't need to have Closed Captioning style descriptors so if there's text in the image or it's a log or title, just include the text that's in there. And you don't need to be verbose. You don't need to include "a picture of a lemur and a mongoose" it can just be "A lemur and mongoose in a zoo" or something as clear and simple as possible. 

A Burnt Offering for the Google Gods

You don't need to caption the photo you just need to give clues and context to both the visitor and to the spider, bots, and algorithms that Google sends around to suck up your site but also it's sort of a good faith burnt offering, showing Google that you dot your I's and cross your T's and that you're trying you best to be an ally and also to hone closer to the Accessibility and Best Practices sections of Lighthouse and Google PageSpeed Insights. There are only three scores and Accessibility and Best Practices are the two middle ones after Performance; then, after, there's SEO and Image ALT tags are a deeply important part of becoming as Google-compliant as humanly possible. Why? 

Become a Textual Attention Whore

We're always vying to get Google's attention and to draw away a finite amount of valuable spidering and indexing resources which are always overburdened and over-extended. Being as close to being a Google Teacher's Pet is the best way to get the most attention from Google as possible, which can never hurt your opportunity and possibility of earning the top organic, earned, spots on Google's Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for the keywords and offerings that you want. 

After All That, You Still Need a Rocking Website

And, with everything I have said, it has nothing to do with actual content, it just has to do with living up to Google's expectation of good behavior, compliance, and rules following. After all of that is said and done, you still need to have awesome products, services, and content as well, designed and illustrated beautifully and delivered quickly, immediately, and with world class architecture and user interface and user experience. That's not my forte. Good luck to you and Godspeed and happy hunting and May the Google be With You!

In Conclusion

Embracing ADA compliance and optimizing your website with alt text for images not only supports accessibility but significantly improves your SEO. By ensuring your site is accessible via text-based browsers like Lynx, you cater to the needs of all users, including those who rely on text-to-voice navigation. This approach not only makes your site friendlier to visually impaired users but also aligns with Google's guidelines, enhancing your site's visibility and performance on search engine results pages.


1. What is a text-based browser like Lynx?

  • A text-based browser, such as Lynx, allows users to navigate the internet using only text, without displaying images, videos, or graphical elements. It is primarily used to access web content through command line interfaces and is essential for ensuring websites are accessible to visually impaired users.

2. Why is ADA compliance important for websites?

  • ADA compliance ensures that websites are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. This not only broadens the audience that can access the site but also complies with legal standards that prevent discrimination against disabled individuals.

3. How does Google utilize alt text in SEO?

  • Google uses alt text to understand the content of images on websites. This helps in indexing images properly, which can improve a site's visibility in search results. Alt text is critical for SEO as it provides better image descriptions, helping search engines to index images accurately.

4. Can a blind person fully navigate and experience websites that are optimized for text-based browsing?

  • Yes, if a website is optimized for text-based browsing and follows ADA guidelines, including proper use of alt text and navigational aids, it can be fully accessible to blind users relying on screen readers or text-to-voice navigation.

5. What is the role of alt text in web accessibility?

  • Alt text provides a text alternative for images, which screen readers use to describe images to visually impaired users. This makes content more accessible and helps meet web accessibility standards.

6. How does enhancing accessibility with alt text affect SEO?

  • By providing clear and relevant descriptions with alt text, websites can improve their SEO as it allows search engines to better understand the content of the images, contributing to more accurate indexing and improved search rankings.

7. What are the best practices for writing effective alt text?

  • Effective alt text should be concise, descriptive, and directly related to the image it describes. Avoid stuffing keywords and ensure it serves the context and function of the image within the website.

8. How does using a CMS like WordPress help in managing alt text?

  • WordPress and similar CMS platforms provide easy-to-use interfaces for adding and updating alt text for all images in the Media Library, helping maintain SEO and accessibility standards efficiently.

Glossary of Terms

Alt Text (Alternative Text): Descriptive text added to an image’s HTML tag which is displayed if the image cannot be seen by the user, and read by screen readers to describe images to visually impaired users.

ADA Compliance (Americans with Disabilities Act Compliance): Adherence to the guidelines that ensure services and products are accessible to all individuals, including those with disabilities. In web design, this involves creating websites that can be navigated and understood by users with various disabilities.

Text-based Browser: A web browser that displays only text, no images or multimedia elements. Text-based browsers are crucial for users with limited internet speeds, text-only screens, or visual impairments.

Screen ReaderA software application that reads text displayed on the screen to a user. This tool is essential for visually impaired users as it helps them navigate and understand content on digital platforms.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization): The practice of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic by enhancing the visibility of a website or a web page to users of a web search engine. SEO involves optimizing content, technical setup, and reach of your website.

UX/UI (User Experience/User Interface): Refers to the design and usability of a product. UX is how a user interacts with and experiences a product, while UI focuses on the aesthetics and interactive elements of the product interface.

LighthouseAn open-source, automated tool developed by Google to help developers improve web page quality. It audits performance, accessibility, and search engine optimization of web pages.

CMS (Content Management System): Software that helps users create, manage, and modify content on a website without the need for specialized technical knowledge. WordPress is a popular example of a CMS.

May 03, 2024 04:15 PM