By Amine Rahal, entrepreneur, writer and CEO of IronMonk, a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO and CMO at Regal Assets, an IRA company.
Content marketing is vital for your business’s success. But even the best, most informative content won’t amount to much unless it’s accessible to a broad, diverse audience.
The fact is, not everyone has the same abilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26% of Americans are living with some type of functional disability. Your content strategy should reflect that — otherwise, you’re bound to alienate a huge portion of your audience.
As the founder of two full-suite digital marketing companies, I always strive to be inclusive and mindful of everyone’s needs. In this article, I’ll share a few of my top tactics for building more inclusive and accessible content that everyone can enjoy.
Clean Up Your On-Page Structuring
What’s good for accessibility is good for search engine optimization (SEO). Those who practice good, clean on-page SEO ensure that the page is neatly organized, easy to read and void of distracting or hard-to-read elements. If you can do the same, you’ll make it easier for a wider audience to grasp your content while also improving your site’s standing with Google’s PageRank algorithm.
Here are a few of the easiest ways you can improve your content’s accessibility standards while also boosting your rankability:
• Nested HTML headers: It’s important that you utilize H1, H2, H3 and sometimes H4 headers and subheaders to break up your text. Make sure that they’re properly nested so that H2 follows H1 and so forth.
• Bulleted and numbered lists: Bulleted lists (like this one!) make your content easier to read and let your reader know where to look for key takeaways.
• Short paragraphs: Keep your paragraphs limited to no more than four or five visual lines. This makes it easier to skim and is more accessible to the visually impaired.
• Descriptive anchors: Your anchor text should describe what the link refers to, not simply “Click here” or “Learn more.” This removes ambiguity if the audience is using an assistive reading device.
For on-page tips and techniques beyond the basics, I recommend checking out the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). The WCAG outlines countless ways you can improve the layout and structure of your content to make it more accessible.
Include Closed (Or Open) Captioning In Your Videos
Closed captions are written transcripts that can be opened or closed by the viewer, whereas open captions are permanently on-screen. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing — which includes about 11 million Americans — depend on captions to read your video content.
Fortunately, major video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo let you upload closed captions via .srt files. These file types can be easily created (and automated!) using services like Rev, Sonix or Temi. With YouTube and Facebook, you can turn on auto-generated closed captions, but these aren’t always the most accurate.
For Instagram, Snapchat and LinkedIn, I strongly recommend using Gary Vaynerchuk’s open-caption style. This signature style includes bold captions embedded at the bottom of the video against white or black horizontal bars, which makes them easily visible.
Write Alt-Text Image Descriptions
If you’re incorporating images or infographics in your content, you need alt text to go with it. Unless your image files include alt text, screen reader devices will use the word “image” to refer to it and provide no further description for the visually impaired.
The key to writing rock-solid alt text is to be as descriptive as possible. Don’t merely write “A graph displaying economics data” in your alt text box. Take it a step further by writing “A graph comparing GDP per capita across European countries.” Be mindful, however, that you’re limited to 125 characters.
Hashtagged content needs to use camelcase. If you write your hashtags without capital letters at the start of each word, your hashtags can be virtually indecipherable to some readers. For example, instead of #midnightflashsale, a hashtag in camelcase will read like #MidnightFlashSale — no double-takes or squinting necessary!
Offer Transcripts And Notes For Audio Content
Not everyone has the ability to listen to your podcasts or watch your YouTube videos. Offering a downloadable transcript of your show can make it a lot easier to share your content with the hearing impaired. That’s why I also recommend converting your .srt closed captions into PDF or Microsoft Word documents and including a download link in the content description.
At the same time, it can be tiresome to read through endless pages of text. Part of the beauty of podcasts is that they lend themselves well to passive, and not active, consumption — they can play in the background while you’re doing just about anything and you can still retain most of it.
So, I recommend keeping your show notes and transcripts “passive” as well. Don’t merely offer a one-to-one transcript of your content. Instead, include jot-form notes that distill all the main takeaways and key points so you don’t lose your reader’s attention.
Create With Everyone In Mind
Accessible content is good, rankable content. Fortunately, it’s not a complicated process. As a starting point, simply optimize the on-page layout of your text, include captions and alt text, write transcripts and clean up your hashtags. For good measure, I also like using TextOptimizer and Hemingway Editor to make sure my prose is tight and easy to follow.
Accessibility isn’t just a fad or a phasing phase. Now more than ever, businesses and consumers consider inclusion a core brand value. If you want your business to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, consider taking action to make your content inclusive and considerate of everyone.