Is your on-page content accessible?
We all want to create great, accessible web content that ranks well for keywords, but most of the time, even SEO directed copy should always prioritise being helpful to the reader.
In fact, one of Google’s leading guidelines on creating accessible copy is that your content should always be interesting and useful. Hitting keywords is great and vital for improving site visibility and ranking, but if your content isn’t helping users, they’ll bounce right off the page.
But accessible content doesn’t necessarily mean verbose paragraphs of flowery language. It’s actually quite easy to go over the top and write impressive-sounding copy, but if your audience struggles to read it, even beautifully written, organic content won’t help your end goal.
With that in mind, here are our top 5 tips for creating accessible content that your readers will devour.
Remember who you’re writing for
It might come as a shock, but up to 16 million adults in the UK have the equivalent reading and writing skills of an 11-year-old or younger. That’s almost half of the UK workforce!
Chances are, some of those people will be reading your copy, which is why it’s important to keep your content simple so everyone can understand it.
Obviously, you should use your best judgement when creating accessible content. If you’re writing for a client with readers who are likely to understand more complex language, feel free to break out your lengthier sentences and semicolons.
If, on the other hand, you’re writing for a technical client and you’re pretty sure the people who use their site will understand the trade jargon, then feel free to get right into the details.
But if neither of these scenarios is the case, then you should stick to the US Navy’s famous KISS slogan: keep it simple, stupid.
Keep it simple
And on that point, a quick test: which of these two sentences is easiest to understand?
- While it’s sometimes acceptable to create a longer and more varied sentence, you might find that your audience’s attention is increasingly likely to wander unless you keep your sentence structure brief.
- Make your sentences simple and short to keep a reader’s attention.
In most cases, when it comes to accessible digital content, a reader is going to pick the second sentence.
Now, that’s not to say that a complex sentence isn’t sometimes the right choice. Varying your sentence length is how you create a sense of rhythm in your writing. A great example of this is ‘This sentence has five words’ by Gary Provost, and is a must-read for copywriters.
That first example above has multiple possessives, adverbs, and subclauses that make it hard for people to understand. And as much as we copywriters love a semicolon, it’s best to avoid complex grammar and dense sentences for SEO and accessibility purposes.
All that being said, no one knows your brief or your copy as well as you do. So, if you feel you can use a more complicated sentence structure, go for it!
Always break it down
Great accessible web content is not just about varying your sentence length and complexity. In most cases, a reader should be able to glance at your entire piece of copy and easily pick up the point of the content by scanning it.
A neat and simple way to make your copy more scannable is by breaking down your content into manageable chunks and sections.
The 3 best ways to break up your content are as follows:
- Use paragraph breaks to separate chunks of copy
- Use bullet points and lists to get information across quickly
- Use headings to signpost important information
Behold, the power of a bullet-pointed list. It’s nice and easy to digest, and you can pick up the information being told to you pretty quickly.
Structuring your copy like this is a good way to create accessible web content, and it also makes it look good on-page. Not to mention, attention spans are short on the internet – according to Time, more than half of users will spend just 15 seconds or less on a page.
The above is an example of content that’s less accessible and user-friendly.
This is an example of a more interesting, user-friendly layout.
If you can, ditch the jargon
Unless you’re absolutely sure you need it, you should always look to avoid using complicated jargon and slang. When writing a particularly dense piece, ask yourself ‘would this make sense to someone who doesn’t work in the field?’
If the answer is no, drop the jargon.
Let’s use the following sentence as an example:
If you’re an SEO writer working in a CMS, it’s important to optimise your ALT tags and CTAs to improve CTRs so you can rank higher on SERPs.
Now, while that sentence probably made perfect sense to anyone with knowledge of SEO, to most people, it’s just a load of gibberish.
Even if you’ve explained each acronym somewhere else in the copy, using lots of jargon all at once can be overwhelming for your readers, impacting your content’s SEO and accessibility.
Misusing jargon can make some marketing spiels sound like they were written by a committee. That’s a big no-no to avoid when it comes to writing accessible content.
On the other hand, what you might regard as common slang (‘we lowkey love this’ or ‘this is so extra’) might actually confuse an older reader, or anyone that’s not constantly up to date on the latest Twitter memes.
This one obviously varies massively depending on who and what you’re writing for, but don’t assume everyone shares your vocabulary.
As a final note on jargon, overusing synonyms can also contribute to damaging your content’s SEO and accessibility ranking.
Using too many synonyms can make your copy overly ornate, florid, magniloquent, or even orotund… see what I mean?
Save the fancy words and say what you mean. Sometimes, you do need a synonym to break up your copy and vary the wording, but don’t go for the fanciest sounding word out there.
Create a hierarchy
For truly accessible digital content, whatever is most relevant to the piece needs to be where your reader is most likely to see it.
Simply put, creating a hierarchy means you should put the most important information on a page first. This is where our beloved <h1> tags come into play.
Heading tags are hugely important for both SEO and accessibility, making for good, user-friendly content. They tell search engines what a page is about, and what information is important in your content, and they also do the same for your readers.
Now, while we did say to avoid the jargon, since you’re here to learn about accessible SEO copywriting, we’re going to get just a tad more detailed.
In your content, you should try to separate out different topics using headings. This will signpost the rest of your information to both yourself and the reader.
To keep things clear and in order of importance, always use a header hierarchy. So, a h3 tag, a smaller heading, goes under a h2, which is usually used as a subheading. A h2 in turn would go under a h1, your main heading tag.
Keeping the headings in order helps your reader to follow the flow of your content, and makes for better, more accessible digital content overall. Using the correct heading tags is also important for anyone using a screen reader so that visually impaired people can navigate your content.
There’s a lot more to be said about writing accessible content, and we haven’t even touched on how to make your page layout more accessible with images and alt text. But the next time you sit down to write an SEO blog, hopefully, some of these tips will help.
Looking for more expert help with your copy and on-page content? You can head over to the c3 blog for other in-depth content articles like this one. You can also get in touch with us or follow us on Twitter.
We also do far more than SEO content here at connective3. We’ve experts in digital PR and paid social, as well as content marketing and CRO. Speak with us today to find out how we can make your business even better.