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Build A Solid Foundation For SEO With Web Accessibility Requirements

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Build A Solid Foundation For SEO With Web Accessibility Requirements

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SEO and UX practices have helped to build a solid website foundation for search engine marketing. By adding web accessibility criteria to your requirements, a new layer of human experience design flings open creative marketing opportunities waiting for discovery.

Agencies, design teams, and independent contractors tasked with creating a digital presence on the web face pressures to keep up with rapid changes in how websites are designed and searched for.

It’s like being chased by an angry mob of imagined competitors who somehow have an imaginary crystal ball. And unless you work all day and night, someone will outsmart you and jump ahead in search results or social chatter – or even become the next big brand.

Sometimes, the process of gathering requirements has a way of easing fears. Nobody knows what you want to build and sell better than you do.

But sometimes the foundation building process opens up pandora’s box.

This article is about what happens when you thought the requirements gathering and planning work were finished, or you are looking for new ideas.

Today’s web users want you to meet them on their own turf.

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I will be visiting you each month via Search Engine Journal this year instead of bi-monthly because web accessibility is a topic readers are interested in and really need to master to succeed in modern digital marketing. This month, we lead off with:

  1. Who needs an accessible web?
  2. Why does accessibility need to be added to your requirements?

Accessibility Guidelines Support Your Foundation

Just yesterday, SEO was king of the mountain. Historically, it had to be the golden egg because the web was there, we were here, and everything in between wanted our attention.

Search engines and directories numbered in the untold thousands when they were free.

It was in our nature, as SEO pros in those days, to outwit and outmaneuver each other by cleverly organizing data or building technology that would do that for us.

Information architecture sustained SEO. And soon enough, usability came splashing in the same puddles by reminding us that people were searching – and people wanted to be satisfied with where search engines dropped them off.

That ride lasted until more segments of the global population gained access to the internet at home, work, and school.

The solid foundations trusted to sustain website information architectures, chatter politely with search engine bots, and entertain website visitors were suddenly missing a whole new unexplored set of requirements called “human experience.”

Think of it this way.

You may have experienced what it’s like to take your attention off the road while driving your car for just a brief moment, and suddenly find yourself drifting past the painted lines or jolted away when someone honks their horn at you.

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The painted lines are there to guide you as you travel along the road.

Every browser, programming language, and marketing strategy has established guidelines that help keep some sort of organization and stability on the web. They are our painted lines.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) holds the keys to the web universe. For universal design, accessibility, assistive tech, the mobile web, and upcoming innovative technologies in the AI realm, we rely on the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).

In the creative realm, guidelines are meant to be broken by those of you who want to design really cool stuff without holding back. Parallax and animation, Flash, and talking people sliding onto webpages are frustrating experiments.

But unless challenged, technology would never change. And we wouldn’t be squealing with delight at the next new search engine, animated avatar, or thoughtful assistance developed for us to use in our daily lives.

The best method to stay on track for any new website project is to gather up requirements and monitor changes to guidelines and technology.

That means there is no getting cozy in your job as an SEO, web designer, digital marketer, agency owner, or UX designer.

Accessibility Jobs Soaring

Some of the recent research round-up news in the accessibility industry is focused on the number of ADA lawsuits. While there’s no doubt this is concerning, it is not why web accessibility job openings are everywhere.

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The need for accessibility improvements is important for people who need accessible access to online education, jobs, banking, shopping, healthcare appointments, and travel activities.

Whenever I conduct requirements gathering interviews, the first question is, “Who are you building for?”

No one ever says, “People with disabilities.”

Traditionally, people don’t consider people they don’t understand or have experience with.

Companies that are curious are asking questions and creating solutions, which in turn has revved up the job market.

Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, USA Bank, Apple, Google, and Adobe are expanding their accessibility departments.

Twitter, Medium, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook are encouraging alt text descriptions for images and captions, with podcasts, Zoom, WebEx, and others in hot pursuit with transcripts.

The beauty of meeting the needs of people who may not be able to see, hear, touch, or recall content without assistance is that the ease of use for them is the ease of use for all.

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Who Is Your Target Market?

This is the requirement that will befuddle you because there is no one target human user to design for.

For accessibility, we don’t define our target market or user experience by the disability first and person second. Rather, we aim directly towards the human experience.

With human experience as your “Who,” your requirements gathering exercise can reach far beyond limitations and should do so.

For search behavior and information architecture, the research data is astounding. The information sciences community releases a staggering volume of research studies on the various methods for acquiring information and deciding if and when it is useful.

In one study, Gender Identification on Twitter, one of the research questions is, “Can we easily identify terms related to each gender?”

As hard as you try to wrestle control over keywords, search results, competitive knowledge, and social stardom, the absolute rub is that many discoveries on the web happen by accident or outside of purposeful queries.

You may not write down “emotions” as a search behavior.

You may not jot down feelings like “stress” or “grief” as a user requirement.

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Emotions are universal human traits that are more likely not going to come up as a business requirement with the CEO or project lead.

In fact, when it comes to including persons with disabilities – or temporary injuries that cause the loss of an ability, or something as common as poor eyesight or trying to work at home while taking pain medications that cause drowsiness –we know someone will tell us to use an overlay or plug-in to catch those use cases.

Overlays attract ADA lawsuits.

The Why Requirement

At its core, accessibility is a civil right back in the USA by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The present administration has turned the attention of the Justice Department back to supporting and enforcing the rights of persons with disabilities.

“In late 2021, the DOJ settled enforcement actions with Rite Aid Corporation and Hy-Vee Supermarket Chain regarding the accessibility of their online COVID-19 vaccine registration portals and with the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District regarding the accessibility of its public transportation website and mobile apps.

How “Accessible” is Your Website? Resolve to Prioritize Digital Accessibility in the New Year and Avoid a Lawsuit

Why designers and digital marketers find joy in their work can be traced to several outcomes other than a weekly paycheck.

It truly matters when a design works well.

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The only way to know without any doubt is to add quality assurance (QA) testing as a requirement. Accessibility testing can be added to Agile production cycles and testing with people with different disabilities added to test sprints.

It is more difficult to evaluate emotions and human behavioral responses, but you can ask for this feedback.

Investigate what motivated customers to make a purchase, for example. What triggers word-of-mouth referrals? Was the product line funny? Clever?

Targeting this emotional need can be a “why” requirement.

I know someone who did this in Q4 of 2021 and sold out of products for her brand-new startup. Her products were based on funny storytelling; the kind that makes readers laugh aloud and fire up PayPal.

Your foundation is as strong as your imagination.

Today’s requirements are layers of proven methodologies and courageous experimentation by companies who are not afraid to find out what will help people do more, do better, and just do like everyone else can.

And of course, we find ourselves confused by silly things like icons that look similar in purpose:

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Or brand redesigns that make no sense whatsoever:

Android device view of Google icons laid out into two rows.

No foundation is perfect.

It’s a big planet. Someone is waiting for you to build something cool for them.

More resources:


Image source: Shutterstock/MIND AND I

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

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B2B PPC Experts Give Their Take On Google Search On Announcements

Google hosted its 3rd annual Search On event on September 28th.

The event announced numerous Search updates revolving around these key areas:

  • Visualization
  • Personalization
  • Sustainability

After the event, Google’s Ad Liason, Ginny Marvin, hosted a roundtable of PPC experts specifically in the B2B industry to give their thoughts on the announcements, as well as how they may affect B2B. I was able to participate in the roundtable and gained valuable feedback from the industry.

The roundtable of experts comprised of Brad Geddes, Melissa Mackey, Michelle Morgan, Greg Finn, Steph Bin, Michael Henderson, Andrea Cruz Lopez, and myself (Brooke Osmundson).

The Struggle With Images

Some of the updates in Search include browsable search results, larger image assets, and business messages for conversational search.

Brad Geddes, Co-Founder of Adalysis, mentioned “Desktop was never mentioned once.” Others echoed the same sentiment, that many of their B2B clients rely on desktop searches and traffic. With images showing mainly on mobile devices, their B2B clients won’t benefit as much.

Another great point came up about the context of images. While images are great for a user experience, the question reiterated by multiple roundtable members:

  • How is a B2B product or B2B service supposed to portray what they do in an image?

Images in search are certainly valuable for verticals such as apparel, automotive, and general eCommerce businesses. But for B2B, they may be left at a disadvantage.

More Uses Cases, Please

Ginny asked the group what they’d like to change or add to an event like Search On.

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The overall consensus: both Search On and Google Marketing Live (GML) have become more consumer-focused.

Greg Finn said that the Search On event was about what he expected, but Google Marketing Live feels too broad now and that Google isn’t speaking to advertisers anymore.

Marvin acknowledged and then revealed that Google received feedback that after this year’s GML, the vision felt like it was geared towards a high-level investor.

The group gave a few potential solutions to help fill the current gap of what was announced, and then later how advertisers can take action.

  • 30-minute follow-up session on how these relate to advertisers
  • Focus less on verticals
  • Provide more use cases

Michelle Morgan and Melissa Mackey said that “even just screenshots of a B2B SaaS example” would help them immensely. Providing tangible action items on how to bring this information to clients is key.

Google Product Managers Weigh In

The second half of the roundtable included input from multiple Google Search Product Managers. I started off with a more broad question to Google:

  • It seems that Google is becoming a one-stop shop for a user to gather information and make purchases. How should advertisers prepare for this? Will we expect to see lower traffic, higher CPCs to compete for that coveted space?

Cecilia Wong, Global Product Lead of Search Formats, Google, mentioned that while they can’t comment directly on the overall direction, they do focus on Search. Their recommendation:

  • Manage assets and images and optimize for best user experience
  • For B2B, align your images as a sneak peek of what users can expect on the landing page

However, image assets have tight restrictions on what’s allowed. I followed up by asking if they would be loosening asset restrictions for B2B to use creativity in its image assets.

Google could not comment directly but acknowledged that looser restrictions on image content is a need for B2B advertisers.

Is Value-Based Bidding Worth The Hassle?

The topic of value-based bidding came up after Carlo Buchmann, Product Manager of Smart Bidding, said that they want advertisers to embrace and move towards value-based bidding. While the feedback seemed grim, it opened up for candid conversation.

Melissa Mackey said that while she’s talked to her clients about values-based bidding, none of her clients want to pull the trigger. For B2B, it’s difficult to assess the value on different conversion points.

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Further, she stated that clients become fixated on their pipeline information and can end up making it too complicated. To sum up, they’re struggling to translate the value number input to what a sale is actually worth.

Geddes mentioned that some of his more sophisticated clients have moved back to manual bidding because Google doesn’t take all the values and signals to pass back and forth.

Finn closed the conversation with his experience. He emphasized that Google has not brought forth anything about best practices for value-based bidding. By having only one value, it seems like CPA bidding. And when a client has multiple value inputs, Google tends to optimize towards the lower-value conversions – ultimately affecting lead quality.

The Google Search Product Managers closed by providing additional resources to dig into overall best practices to leverage search in the world of automation.

Closing Thoughts

Google made it clear that the future of search is visual. For B2B companies, it may require extra creativity to succeed and compete with the visualization updates.

However, the PPC roundtable experts weighed in that if Google wants advertisers to adopt these features, they need to support advertisers more – especially B2B marketers. With limited time and resources, advertisers big and small are trying to do more with less.

Marketers are relying on Google to make these Search updates relevant to not only the user but the advertisers. Having clearer guides, use cases, and conversations is a great step to bringing back the Google and advertiser collaboration.

A special thank you to Ginny Marvin of Google for making space to hear B2B advertiser feedback, as well as all the PPC experts for weighing in.

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Featured image: Shutterstock/T-K-M

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