Why You Should Use Alt Text

You may be familiar with alternative, or alt, text. Are you using it to your advantage? It turns out that this small text field, which many companies don’t bother to use, can be used to your advantage in SEO, or search engine optimization.

What is Alt Text?

Alt text provides an alternative description of an image. This helps describe your web page to someone who is visually impaired and uses a screen reader to help them browse the web. Additionally, alt text may be displayed when a webpage is slow to load or the website visitor has a poor internet connection. It is also important to have when a browser may block images. Of course, Google and other search bots read the alt text on your website as well, so you may as well use this space to your advantage.

While alt text is embedded in HTML code, it can be very easy to add yourself depending on the platform you use for your website.

How to Use Alt text

Keep in mind the real purpose of alt text: to help those who can’t see the images on your website. Your alt text should describe the most important part of your image. It may be tempting to put a lot of keywords in this small space, but keep it limited to what’s relevant to describing the image.

Alt text should be short since it will appear in the same space as your image. Remember, the only time alt text will be visible is when the image does not load, or your website is being read by a screen reader. If your page loads as you intend it to, users will only see the image, not the alt text. Therefore, shorter is better. Additionally, many screen readers only read the first 125 characters of alt text.

Another thing to keep in mind: your alt text is not a caption. It’s tempting to think of it that way since both are short snippets of text. You’ll want to make sure your caption is different to avoid repeating text for those times when people are unable to see the image.

A Good Example of Alt text

If you have a picture on your website of a dog, your alt text could be, “dog.” While this isn’t incorrect, it’s also not very helpful. A better option? “A miniature schnauzer.” Now the person reading the alt text has a clearer idea of what they’re looking at.

Better yet? “A miniature schnauzer being trained to walk on a leash.”

Now the person reading the alt text can imagine what the image looks like.

If your business happens to be dog training, you may have included a few keywords or phrases there too.

What to Avoid

  • Keyword stuffing is always a definite no. Don’t use your alt text space to use every single keyword you want to rank for. It comes across as spammy, and it doesn’t give anyone a good user experience.
  • Don’t begin your alt text with ‘an image of.’ This is alt text, so it’s already understood that the text is describing what’s in the image.
  • Don’t use alt text if an image is decorative. It will only make your website harder to read and understand for someone using a screen reader.

The SEO Advantage

Not only can alt text help your SEO efforts by including one of your keywords or phrases, but it can also help you rank on Google Images. By including alt text, Google has a better understanding of what your image is and whether it could be helpful to someone searching on Google Images. If you want your images to appear in the search results, a specific description of your picture gives you a definite advantage over people who skip alt text altogether.

Alt text gives Google more context and helps it understand the relevance of your picture. For instance, Google is likely able to “view” a picture of Irises and know that they are flowers. But Google may not be able to identify the specific type of flower, and that’s where you can help yourself by including that detail in the alt text.

If you’re not sure how to add alt text to your website or want to know if your alt text is doing all it can to help your business, please reach out to us today. We’d love to help you include the best alt text for your business in addition to your other digital marketing needs.