Source: Shutter Stock
By Lavall Chichester
SEO for ADA Compliance – Don’t Get Sued
Traditionally, the role of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is to help web sites and digital content increase their visibility on search engines like Google. Now, SEO should also be used to help websites become more accessible. Visibility and Accessibility are two sides of the same coin that SEO has a major impact on.
- Visibility: The ability for a website to show up for important search terms on search engines
- Accessibility: The ability for a website to be used by people with disabilities
As more and more people become dependent on the internet, being ADA Compliant is extremely important.
What is ADA Compliance?
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) states that websites need to be accessible to people with disabilities. The ADA compliance website design guidelines are clear. However, 98% of websites on the internet are not ADA Compliant.
Braille screen readers need websites to meet ADA standards in order to function properly.
Why should Cannabis and CBD Companies care about ADA Compliance?
First, accessibility is a human right and cannabis and CBD brands should do everything they can to make their websites accessible. This is even more important if you are a medical dispensary where patients should be able to find, research and/or order their medicine from your website or app.
Second, you don’t want to get sued. The lawsuits are expensive and growing in frequency. There has been a 395% increase in ADA related civil rights cases from 2005 to 2017 according to the United States Courts. That number has jumped more than 25% since then.
There has been a focused effort, from opportunistic law firms, to target ecommerce websites that are not ADA compliant for litigation. The lawsuits range from $20,000 – millions depending on the size of the business and lawsuit. For example Dominos.com’s fines were in the hundreds of thousands and Target.com was part of a multi-million dollar class action ADA lawsuit.
Cannabis Industry is the next target
Our prediction is that the cannabis industry will be the next target for ADA compliance lawsuits. Cannabis and CBD brands, dispensaries, and ecommerce sites are at risk because the majority of them are not ADA compliant. Plus, the booming investment in the cannabis industry is going to naturally attract opportunistic lawyers looking to take their piece of the green rush just like they did with the ecommerce industry.
What is Search Engine Optimization(SEO)?
SEO is the practice of making changes to a website to increase its ability to show up when people search for relevant keywords on search engines like Google.
Companies like TripAdvisor, Casper and others have used SEO to build multi-million dollar businesses and create multi-billion dollar industries.
I use SEO to create content that people are searching for so we can get site traffic and revenue. We make ourselves and our clients a lot of money doing this. SEO supported content like articles, are one of the best and only ways to reach the cannabis and CBD audience due to the high regulations on paid advertising.
How does SEO Help with ADA Compliance?
Google is making some big changes and focusing on a Core Vitals update. This update focuses on improving the experience people have when they visit a website. Accessibility is part of their focus in this update. Even if this was not the case and Google didn’t care, SEO can help improve a website’s accessibility and move it closer to being ADA compliant in a big way.
Below are the top three things that SEO fixes that help with accessibility.
Top 3 SEO for ADA Compliance Tips
A website’s navigation bar(s) is one of the ways braille screen readers let a blind person know what the site is about and where they are on the site.
The screen readers read the navigational items out loud as the website visitor uses the site. The navigation bar(s) also help pass domain authority from
the home page to other pages and categories on the site. This gives other pages on the website the ability to rank better on search engines.
Navigation items should be labeled to match what the category or page it links to is about. They should contain the keyword you want the
page or category to rank for. For example if the category page is about CBD Oils. The navigation name should be “CBD Oils” and not just “CBD” or “Oils”.
2. Header Tags
Header (H1 – H6) tags are very important to SEO and accessibility. All pages on your site should have an H1, H2, and H3 tags.
H1 and H2 are the most important. These are HTML elements that look like this in the code
<h1> Main header words here </h1>
<h2> Secondary header words here </h2>
<h3> Third header words here </h3>
and should contain the target keyword and a description of the sections below the tag.
H1: CBD Oils – The Essentials
This page contains information on CBD Oils.
H2: CBD Oils for Sensitive Skin
This section of the page will talk specifically about
CBD oils that are great for sensitive skin.
Make sure that when you are building pages or articles that you have H1 – H3 tags that
Contain the main keywords and are descriptive for both search engine crawlers and braille screen readers.
3. Images: File names and alt-text
Search engine’s and braille screen readers use image file names and alternative txt “alt-txt” to understand
what a picture is about. You must name the picture and use descriptive keyword rich alt-txt to rank well on
Search engines and to help with braille readers.
Other Tools to Use:
Here are a few awesome tools that you can use to help improve your visibility and accessibility.
Web.Dev: Use this tool to help you find issues for Google Core Web Vitals.
Wave: Free ADA auditing Chrome plug-in. I love this plug-in. It let’s me quickly get a sense of where a client is with ADA Compliance.
Accesibe: A.I powered software that is essential to ongoing audits and coverage for ADA Compliance. SEO only covers so much so you need software to help become fully compliant. I use this tool for all of our sites and clients.
Here is a full list of ADA Compliance tools.
Flavor Fix Case Study:
What Happens when you use SEO for ADA Compliance?
You get rankings and increase accessibility.
We practice what we preach and have built FlavorFix.com the world first publishing site that focusses on cannabis and spirits (alcohol). We use SEO to help improve accessibility as well as keyword rankings on strains, recipes and other topics. This helps grow our site traffic. We then use the Accesibe ADA widget to cover us where SEO can’t help like color contrasts, seizure safe mode etc.
Flavor Fix ranks for tons of highly competitive keywords in a record breaking time which has increased website traffic by 45% MoM. See screenshot of our keyword ranking growth since we launched.
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SEO works. If you do it right you will rank for keywords and get more site traffic and sales. Doing it right includes using it to help with ADA Compliance. Currently SEO is one of the only ways to reach people interested in cannabis and CBD since advertising online is highly regulated. If you need help, reach out to us at GrowhthSkills.co, we wrote the best Guide to SEO and ADA Compliance on the internet and know the cannabis and CBD space well.
Lavall Chichester is the founder of GrowthSkills.co and FlavorFix.com. Lavall made AdAge’s 2015 40 Under 40 list for innovating in digital marketing. He is a growth-focused sales and marketing executive who has helped brands like Apple, Western Union, Harley Davidson and others; make millions of dollars off and online. He is a second degree black belt, a bare knuckle karate champion and a dedicated Dad.
Check out more of CMA’s content on our Blog: News and Updates in Cannabis Marketing