It’s an age-old question. “Will WCAG compliance boost my website’s traffic?"
The short answer is yes, and it’s just one of the many benefits of compliance.
But the longer answer is yes, but not directly – so let’s dive into the details.
WCAG: A quick summary
WCAG stands for “Website Content Accessibility Guidelines”, and it is the gold standard of web accessibility standards.
It’s a crowdsourced initiative led by the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), and the canonical WCAG documentation is available on their website.
Though actively maintained year-round, there’s a new major version release every several years. Currently, we’re on WCAG 2.1, but 2.2 is in the works.
Another important thing is that there are three levels of WCAG compliance: Level A, Level AA, and Level AAA.
Though Level AA is the minimum required standard for all websites under most jurisdictions, it’s relatively rarely enforced and only satisfied by less than 2% of websites.
Many other standards and regulations instituted by goverments and technical specifications use WCAG 2.1 Level AA as a baseline.
Accessibility influence on SEO
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google is no stranger to WCAG – in fact, most modern search engines implement various types of accessibility checks.
This doesn’t mean that level of compliance to WCAG (or any other standard) is a ranking factor by itself, and this hasn’t yet been proven to be the case either, as of writing this.
Even if it might not be a direct ranking factor by itself, Google’s Lighthouse score treats accessibility as a key element of overall web page quality.
However, we do know for certain that there is signficant overlap between on-page SEO and accessibility.
Furthermore, optimizing for accessibility directly results in reaping the benefits of low-hanging SEO fruit that would have likely been otherwise unclaimed.
Maximizing overlap with WCAG
There is a lot of generic overlap between SEO and accessibility optimization, such as the benefits of descriptive alternative text and semantic HTML.
But there’s also ares of overlap such as color contrast strength, which is something that not only benefits disabled users but also directly impacts search engine rankings.
This is one such SEO benefit that wouldn’t likely be fully enjoyed without focusing on optimizing web accessibility.
And there’s no better guideline to maximize that overlap than complying with WCAG (especially Level AA or higher), because the criteria happens to require many of these SEO best practices, such as minimum levels of color contrast.
Overlap with rarely optimized on-page SEO best practices is one of the many appealing benefits of WCAG compliance.
Although search engines might not directly consider accessibility as a ranking factor for your website, complying with WCAG is followed by many second-order SEO benefits.
As the internet continues to grow while regard for digital accessibility stagnates, accessibility level has been speculated to become a direct ranking factor in the future, if not in the present.