On April 19, 2021, Google announced an algorithm update that will prioritize sites that pass certain user experience (UX) metrics. This update will begin rolling out and affecting search rankings in mid-June, with the changes completing sometime in August. Medical websites that comply with accessibility requirements will be in a great position to benefit from this update. While the upcoming UX update will not consider accessibility as a sole ranking factor, it will play an important role. By understanding what Google is looking for and how it relates to website accessibility, you can better prepare for the impact this change will have on your website’s performance in search.
Page Experience Metrics = Search Ranking Signals
Google’s algorithm will look at three different page experience metrics, or Core Web Vitals. Monitored through Google’s Search Console, these signals factor a website’s ability to offer users the best browsing experience with optimal loading speed, responsiveness, and stability.
Largest Contentful Paint (LCP)
LCP measures the loading time of a site’s largest visual element. Sites with poorly optimized images will likely have a high LCP. Accessible websites that use CSS for quick loading and provide text alternatives to images are less likely to depend on visual media to communicate important information.
Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS)
CLS measures unexpected shifting of webpage images, forms, buttons, fonts, while the page loads. Pages that shift around can cause a poor user experience. How does this happen? Adding images without a proper height and width label and forgetting to properly tag web fonts are examples of things that could negatively impact CLS. With a complex website layout, screen readers may have difficulty navigating the site. However, an accessible website that adheres to WCAG guidelines on presenting information and elements in a way that a screen reader can navigate allows for a better user experience.
First Input Delay (FID)
FID measures how long it takes for a webpage to respond to the first user interaction, such as clicking or tapping a button. Here again, is where clean page design helps. When a site’s accessibility is considered, attention to site elements can lead to improvement in load time.
Website accessibility should be part of your overall SEO strategy
When your site is properly optimized to support a user’s experience, there is a potential for your site to achieve higher Google search rankings for the keywords and topics your site is targeting. Here are a few things to implement when improving your sites accessibility:
- use clear and descriptive headings
- add tabbed navigation, a sitemap, as well as a link to “home”
- add image alt text
- optimize website pages so that they load quickly
- improve color contrast
Bottom line, improving website accessibility makes it easier for search engines to read and interpret your medical site. This trend will only grow in time as search engines pay closer attention to usability factors.
Simply said, improvements to UX can make a site less frustrating for visitors with disabilities. Search engines recognize that and will reward you for it.
Let Practis help
Practis has unique experience in helping healthcare organizations comply with WCAG accessibility requirements. Whether you need a new site or need to update an existing one, our team is here to help. Reach out to Practis today.