Soon, the prophets warn, will come the reckoning of AODA on poor web development in Ontario. It will strike down the sites who either by apathy or negligence have let their standards slip. Accessibility is the word of the day with the looming 2021 deadline for Level 2 AA compliance and it will take no prisoners.
Designers fear the restrictions on aesthetics that will come from these standards, quality assurance fears the increase in hours checking elements against WCAG requirements, and developers are grinding out more hours in production to get page elements ready.
Like someone wearing a sandwich board on a street corner, the impact not yet realized is in the SEO and inbound marketing industry. Here there is still a wild west when it comes to content, call-to-actions, and especially alt-tags. There are plenty of agencies cutting corners to get ahead sacrificing context for short term ranks. Below are just a few of the AODA standards that will impact how SEO agencies will need to approach their tactics going forward.
Keyword stuffing is still common practice in alt-tags and file names instead of matching the imagery contextually in the tags. This is problematic as often the images are instead tagged by the keywords targets for the page instead. It goes a level deeper too, title tags need to be relevant to the page content in a descriptive way. Good SEO practice is in line with this as Google tends to feel the same way. There is still a fair amount of poor work on the market however where the title tags are keyword stuffed and not always perfectly relevant to the content below.
Inbound marketing publications are constantly asking you to try different visuals and specifically different colours for CTAs. The problem is, under AODA standards, colours can’t be the indication of action or a link. This is problematic for non-traditional CTAs which is a growing trend, having links and actions look more traditional is more in line with AODA. The creativity will need to come from content instead of CTA colour.
Another problematic area for SEO companies who aren’t on their game is having the link purpose be evident from the link text alone. Poor interlinking strategies or using old tactics doesn’t product link purposes that are evident. In fact, many phrase-match interlinking tactics produce link purposes that are at best a grey area.
In the end, best practices in SEO will get you most of the way to compliancy and a stellar SEO agency should be producing work that is at least single A compliant. The danger however is that the majority of SEO and inbound agencies follow their own “secret sauce” to get search rankings and often these conflict directly with WCAG standards. Doing SEO well often gets everything you need, but if you start cutting corners, well… the end is nigh.