The internet and social media are essential components of how we share information and communicate in the modern world. Given the volume of content exchanged online, it’s critical that marketers take inclusion into account.
When referring to content, inclusivity describes the degree to which a given piece of content can be accessed and understood by a wide range of people, including those with disabilities or from various cultural backgrounds. Marketers should make sure that their message is able to reach and engage with a wider audience by producing content that is inclusive.
What is inclusive content?
We must first understand what content inclusivity is before we can get into it. We are aware of what content is and the several ways it may be presented, but what does inclusion mean in the context of content? Inclusivity is defined as “The fact or policy of not excluding members or participants on the grounds of gender, race, class, sexuality, disability, etc”.
So, when we talk about creating content that is usable and accessible for as many people as possible, regardless of their abilities, disabilities, or other qualities, we are referring to the practice known as content inclusivity. This entails utilizing straightforward language, providing text and audio in a variety of formats, and employing visuals and graphics that are easy for a wide audience to comprehend.
In a nutshell, content inclusion is a dedication to equity. It entails giving more users a safer experience through content. As a result, more users are engaged, which increases the likelihood that your content will be read and shared.
Remember, the goal of SEO is to make sure search engines can find your site and in turn connect you with the users you want to attract using the content you’ve created. Providing high-quality content, written exclusively for your target audience, will not only enhance site traffic, but will also strengthen the authority and relevancy of your website.
Inclusive content principles
Salesforce published an Inclusive Marketing Principles learning module in which it defined inclusive marketing as, “Content that truly reflects the diverse communities that our companies serve. It means that we are elevating diverse voices and role models, decreasing cultural bias, and leading positive social change through thoughtful and respectful content.” This can be applied to the way we generate content, especially when we take into account the three inclusive content principles.
Principle 1: People come first
What this means is that we must always be user focused. The same applies in SEO when building search strategies, user intent and user experience matter. It’s crucial to put people first when promoting inclusivity, and to do so while using respectful language.
Principle 2: Throw away checkboxes
Making inclusive experiences isn’t something you cross off on a DEI to-do list (or things you should not do). That method implies that inclusion is a duty, even a chore, and it contradicts the purpose of inclusive content.
Principle 3: It is not one and done
Building inclusive experiences will continue to be a top priority for your client or brand if inclusion is codified as a concept in your brand’s style guide or other similar documentation.
Why is inclusive content important?
There are obviously a lot of people searching for information that appeals to a larger, more varied audience. There is more pressure than ever to express ourselves inclusively, from the images we use for our websites to the language we use in our social media posts. If you don’t, you run the risk of alienating some groups and showing that you’re not willing or able to change and advance.
According to research conducted by Microsoft Advertising for The Psychology of Inclusion and the Effects in Advertising, nearly two-thirds of consumers (64%) claimed they are more likely to trust companies that showcase diversity in their marketing. Similar percentages (63%) agreed that advertisements for brands that promote diversity are more genuine.
Although this research focuses on advertising, it makes sense that those feelings would apply to content marketing and SEO content. MJ DePalma, head of global multicultural and inclusive marketing for Microsoft Advertising, further stated that:
“Not only does inclusion in advertising drive purchase intent if someone like you is represented, but it drives it with people who might not be personally represented in the ad.“
We can see how important inclusive content is and the influence it has on people’s perceptions of your brand. By being inclusive in our content, we increase what is referred to as relatability because if our audience can identify with the brand because they feel taken into account or represented, we are guaranteeing credibility is true and attracting new customers while retaining existing ones.
One of the key reasons why content inclusivity is important for marketers specifically is that it can improve user experience on social media and the web. When content is inclusive, it is more likely to be accessible to a wide range of users, regardless of their abilities or backgrounds. This can make it easier for users to engage with the content, which can lead to increased engagement and improved user satisfaction.
Additionally, embedding inclusivity into content marketing strategies can also help to foster a sense of belonging and inclusion among users. When users see content that reflects and resonates with their own experiences, they are more likely to feel valued and included. This can help to build a sense of community and can lead to increased loyalty and engagement among users.
Another important reason why content inclusivity is crucial for marketers is that it can help to improve the overall accessibility of a website or social media platform. When content is inclusive, it is more likely to be accessible to users with disabilities, such as users who are blind or have low vision. By making their content more accessible, marketers can help to ensure that all users, regardless of their abilities, are able to access and engage with the content.
Overall, content inclusivity is an important consideration for marketers. By embedding inclusivity into their content marketing strategies, marketers can improve the user experience, foster a sense of belonging and inclusion among users, and improve the overall accessibility of their website or social media platform. This can ultimately lead to increased engagement and improved outcomes for their business.
Food for thought: To be truly representative and diverse, branded content should embrace difference in all its forms.
The content inclusivity shift
It’s critical to acknowledge the change that led society to consider inclusivity in a broader perspective so that we may use it as a guide when producing and disseminating material. To properly understand how societal changes translate into content that marketers should be on the lookout for and taking into account, we must first acknowledge the crucial conversations that these developments have sparked.
Black Lives Matter
The discussion surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement showed how important it was to discuss the visibility and representation of under-marginalized groups, which influences how we as marketers include those groups in the content we produce, especially with caution in the language and tone we attach to marginalized groups so they can be accurately represented in any content format.
This brought home the significance of imagery and the need to depict a wide range of physical types and portray everyone favorably. It allowed marketers to be more creative with their efforts, particularly when dealing with influencers, as it allowed us to stop restricting ourselves to the societally acceptable bodies and stop stigmatizing everyone else.
At the end of the day, content inclusion is about imitating global views and doing it justice as marketers. There are many other shifts to speak about, such as Neurodivergent and LGBTQ+, so we have to look at the message and apply it in the content we make.
Accessibility, usability and inclusivity
Accessibility within SEO refers to the practice of making sure that a website is easily navigable and usable for people with disabilities. This includes optimizing the website for users who may be using assistive technologies such as screen readers or who may have visual, auditory, or motor impairments.
It is important to consider accessibility in SEO and content because it not only helps to improve the user experience for a wider range of individuals, but it can also have a positive impact on a website’s search engine rankings.
Accessibility and usability are often used interchangeably, but they refer to slightly different aspects of user experience. Accessibility refers to the ability of a website or product to be used by people with disabilities, whereas usability refers to the ease of use and user-friendliness of a website or product. It is concerned with how easy it is for a person to complete a task or achieve a goal on the website, regardless of whether or not they have any disabilities. Both accessibility and usability are important considerations for successfully creating inclusive content, as they both contribute to and impact the overall user experience.
Remember: Accessibility is a subset of usability.
Why consider accessibility with content inclusivity?
Ensuring the websites/content we work on are accessible for everyone should be a primary concern for everyone in marketing for a few reasons which are listed below:
- Improve experience – The best practices for web design are closely associated with the concepts of web accessibility. Every user wins when content is simple to perceive, comprehend, and use.
- It is a legal obligation – Website accessibility is mandated by laws and regulations in numerous nations. Accessibility would still be valuable even if such regulations didn’t exist, but many companies start giving priority to users with impairments in order to stay out of trouble.
- Expands audience and increases loyalty – One widespread misperception is that web accessibility is only for the hearing or visually impaired; that is not true. Around 1 billion people worldwide have some form of disability, and there are many different ways for them to access the internet.
WCAG3 – How does this help ?
As mentioned before, accessibility is a legal requirement for many businesses and organizations, and failure to comply with accessibility guidelines can result in legal consequences. Overall, incorporating accessibility into SEO efforts is an important consideration for any website looking to reach a broad audience and improve user experience.
So let’s get technical and give a breakdown of what this legal requirement is called and how it is applied.
The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) are a set of internationally recognized standards for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities. WCAG 3.0 is the latest version of these guidelines, and it provides a set of specific recommendations for improving the accessibility of web content.
These guidelines are divided into four main principles: perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust. Under each of these principles are a number of specific guidelines that outline specific techniques for making web content more accessible.
Some examples of these guidelines include providing text alternatives for non-text content, making it easy to navigate and find content, and ensuring that content can be read and understood by assistive technologies such as screen readers. Adhering to these guidelines can help to ensure that a website is accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of their abilities or the devices they use to access the internet.
Accessibility and the law
The disabled community represents millions of prospective customers with significant purchasing power, and their economic needs should not be disregarded. As a result, laws have been put in place to make sure that marketers and other people do not exclude the community. We will briefly discuss these laws as well as what is protected by each one.
The EU – European Accessibility Act was introduced in 2019
- Includes goods and services such operating systems for PCs, mobile devices, and e-commerce platforms.
- Requires them to be displayed in a way that is suitable for all users and compatible with assistive technologies.
The US – Americans Disability Act (ADA) was first introduced in 1990
- Prohibits the treatment of people with impairments unfairly.
- Websites having inaccessible elements may be construed as being discriminatory and breaking Title III of the law.
The UK – 2010 UK Equality Act
- Protects people from unfair treatment and promotes a just and equitable society.
- Website operators must consider the needs of potential disabled visitors and make “reasonable changes” to meet their needs.
Accessibility vs. SEO
A number of SEO components can be made accessible to guarantee that we are being inclusive in the website content and of marginalized communities. Therefore, there is no justification for why we, as marketers, cannot put these strategies into place to make sure that we are expanding the audience for our content.
Below are a few website components that can be modified to guarantee that we are acting morally and legally:
- Alt text
- Empty links
- Page titles
- Heading tags
- Anchor text
- Breadcrumb links
Accessibility vs. social media
The emphasis must be on inclusive design when discussing accessibility on social media because it dramatically expands access. Without accessibility, a social media strategy loses out on interacting with their entire potential audience.
An inclusive design strategy ensures that their content is always universal. Inclusive design practices not only benefit users with disabilities, but also improve the overall user experience for all users. By prioritizing accessibility on social media, brands can create a more welcoming and inclusive online presence.
What essential social media components should our inclusive design therefore include? Many people did not believe that some things could be made accessible, but there have been increased efforts to improve inclusivity related to things such as:
- Alt text
- Colour & contrast
- Gifs animations & videos
- User interactions
What is inclusive design and why is it important?
The British Standards Institute defines inclusive design as:
“The design of mainstream products and/or services that are accessible to, and usable by, as many people as reasonably possible … without the need for special adaptation or specialized design.”
Furthermore, the Inclusive Design Research Centre added that it also “considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age, and other forms of human difference.”
It is clear that inclusive design is an approach that aims to create products, services, and environments that are accessible to and usable by as many people as possible. Digital marketers should then be more deliberate about embedding inclusive design into their content or SEO strategy because it allows them to reach a wider audience and improve the user experience.
By encouraging diversity and inclusivity across a brand’s online community, inclusive design complements inclusive content. Digital marketers may build a more welcome and accessible online presence by emphasizing inclusive design.
How to design inclusive content
It’s not necessary for your brand to take a strong stance on social justice or a trending issue in order to provide inclusive content. It does, however, call on you to think differently, to identify your knowledge gaps , and speak more deliberately. Nonetheless,the added work is worthwhile.
It’s important to keep in mind that the purpose of content marketing and SEO is to draw in and hold on to an audience while ultimately motivating users to take profitable action. Your audience expands when you publish pertinent and worthwhile content that encourages connections and, eventually, brand trust. So how can this be done?
Assess points of bias
All that this does is encourage you to reflect on your biases before developing and designing content. Consider whether your writing always uses the pronoun “he” or if “she” and “they” are equally used.
Use clear language
When writing and publishing inclusive content, we should utilize simple language since it makes it easier for others to understand it, regardless of their language proficiency or cultural background. Clear communication reduces misinterpretations and makes it simpler for consumers to obtain and interact with the content.
Additionally, we must identify and remove any instances of ableism and othering from our content. Respect is the important concept in this.
[Case Study] How Unilever’s recipe platform puts SEO first
Use responsive design
By using “breakpoints” to specify multiple widths, this enables online content layouts to appear correctly on a wide range of form factors. The user experience is further enhanced through responsive design, which enables content to be easily viewed and accessed across a variety of devices and screen sizes.
Take advantage of free resources
Use freely available Microsoft, Apple, and Android accessibility attributes and accessibility test apps when developing documents, web content, or apps.
Structure documents with headings
It is crucial to structure documents with headings since doing so makes the information easier to read and browse by dividing it into logical divisions. Additionally, headings aid in context and content structure, which makes it simpler for consumers to comprehend and remember the information.
Headings also aid in providing a clear hierarchy of the material for users with impairments, such as those who use screen readers, making it simpler to navigate and comprehend the page. Not to mention, header tags also help with SEO as they enable search engines to better understand your content and ultimately help rank high in internet searches.
Provide text alternatives to non-text elements
Additionally, labels for form options and fields should take inclusivity and accessibility into account. There should be labels on each field and button in clear language
Use free and available accessibility checkers
Accessibility checkers offer a quick and simple approach to find any potential problems with the content and offer suggestions for how to remedy them, such as missing alt text or inadequate color contrast. To make your content inclusive and accessible, keep checking it frequently.
Think about your color scheme
When creating inclusive designs, it is crucial to consider the color scheme because it can significantly affect the content’s readability and accessibility. All users can more readily understand the content if the color scheme has enough contrast between the text and background. Additionally, employing a predictable color scheme can improve the content’s general usability and accessibility.
Socials posts can be accessible
Important practices in inclusive design include transcribing videos and using descriptive alt text because they make it possible for users with impairments, like those who use screen readers or are deaf or hard of hearing, to access and comprehend the content.
While employing descriptive alt text, which serves to give images context and meaning for those who cannot see them, it gives a written rendition of the audio content in videos. Make sure to give thorough descriptions to every photograph and video clip.
Content inclusivity wrapped up
Creating content that is usable and accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of their abilities, disabilities, or other qualities, is a crucial component of digital marketing. By ensuring that the content is easily accessible to users with disabilities and by taking into account the demands of users with varied cultural backgrounds and linguistic preferences, accessibility and inclusive design play a significant role in content inclusivity.
Here are some key takeaways that should help you approach inclusive content in a positive way and make sure that strategies take this into account. As brand managers, digital marketers, and search marketing professionals, we should also be intentional about being inclusive in the content we create, design, and publish.
- Understand your audience better in:
- Be intentional with inclusivity: As marketers, our words, actions and choice matters.
- Think usability, accessibility & inclusivity: Even if a user’s characteristics aren’t specifically pertinent to the piece, you still need to make sure your content adheres to all three.
- Rethink adjectives and other descriptions: For instance, negative concepts are frequently expressed symbolically by using words like “black,” “dark,” and “blind.” There are numerous possibilities and methods for diversifying the symbolism we employ.
- Imagery can speak; let it: Keep incorporating the connections, openness, and balance metaphors into your images.
- Don’t make assumptions. And don’t forget, relevancy matters here too.
Questions to ask before creating inclusive content
- Who is my audience?
- What tone and level of formality do I want?
- What am I trying to achieve?
- How might history change the impact of my language choices regardless of my intentions?
- Who’s being excluded?
Food for thought: In addition to being morally right, producing inclusive content makes commercial sense. Can you really afford to not do it?