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What Is ALT Text & Why Should You Use It?

What is ALT text in HTML? Should you use it, and is there an SEO advantage to it? Read our expert guide on optimising image ALT text the easy way.

Brodey Sheppard

Brodey Sheppard — 13 minute read.

Getting to the first-page search result on Google is no easy feat, but it is more likely if you use good ALT text keywords.

ALT text is an often overlooked part of website design and digital marketing. However, it’s a crucial element that can help improve your website’s SEO and overall user experience. This post will explain what ALT text is and why you should use it on your website. We’ll also provide some tips for creating effective ALT text.

Alt Text

These ALT attributes could potentially boost your website to the top of the search results if done correctly. Not to mention, the accessibility of the page is increased with practical ALT attributes.

If you want to understand better these elusive keywords and how to add ALT text that is as effective as possible, worry not. We will cover everything you need to know to get your site higher in the search results.

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What Is Alternative Text?

Also known as ALT tags, ALT description, or ALT text, an alternative text is used to describe an image file in terms of its function and appearance. It is an essential feature of any HTML page as it plays multiple roles for both the users and search engines.

For more information on the technical specifications of ALT tags, visit w3schools.

Mediavine Alt Text

Importance Of Image ALT Text

To fully understand what alt text is and how to use it effectively, its roles should be clear. Writing relevant alt tags is much easier when you know how they work.

1. User Experience

As a form of assurance, an ALT text is displayed in place of images if the image fails to load on the users’ screen. This alternative text will tell the user what the image was meant to represent and better the user experience. People with a slower Internet connection may need to load your page in the HTML format, so it is a good idea to add ALT text to keep the images relevant to the page.

Users who have a low bandwidth may not see images appropriately loaded. Instead, they will get a broken link icon that indicates an image that is missing. In this case, the attached alt text is used to maintain the user experience rather than leave them in the dark.

Broken Link Image

2. Accessibility

Additionally, an ALT tag also helps visually impaired readers have better web accessibility. These visually impaired users use a screen reader to describe the image better and understand the page’s context. An accessible page makes it easier for screen readers to understand the text for this image and convey the same to the user.

Additionally, an alt attribute is helpful for individuals with sensory disabilities or who struggle with learning visually. Keeping the amount of exposure or bright elements on the page to a minimum makes the alt text more essential.

Ensuring you’re not missing alt text is vital in creating an accessible website to the masses, using a valid image filename and including images in the correct context can help appear in image search results like Google Images.

3. Image SEO

Another role that alternative text has is that it works with the Google search result code to index your page’s visual aspects accurately. Image SEO works similar to the standard SEO operation by using targeted keywords. Although image SEO is not advanced enough to recognise its content, it can read the accompanying ALT text.

Search engine crawlers can identify the visual content attributes of images by reading the ALT tag and then display your page on the search engine results.

Image packs are a search engine feature wherein the images are displayed on the first page of results above any actual links. This horizontal row of image links is what the engine ranks the relevance of the sites to the keywords.

Optimising the image alt text increases the probability of the site appearing in the image pack when relevant words are searched. It is safe to invest in adding alt text to images to get a better SEO ranking on the results page. With an increased amount of images optimised, the SEO method of ranking can be taken more advantage of.

Techniques For Types Of Images

Different images call for a range of formats in the alt text to convey the relevant information. Depending on the images being shown, the alt text’s method will change. Keep in mind, complex images require slightly longer ALT descriptors to help inform search bots of the image content.

1. Graphs

When writing alt text for graphs, it can be challenging to represent all the necessary information clearly and concisely. Whether an individual prefers to understand information visually in a graph or chart or a written format, there are differences.

While simple graphs and charts can be relatively easy to convey the necessary information, complex ones may prove to be more challenging. If you are dealing with an elaborate visual graph, focus on the critical features such as trends and extreme values. Other features that should be highlighted are categories to convey the image’s information.

Structure Alt Text Tags

2. Images Of Text

Individuals with visual impairments or reading difficulties may find text images to be distracting or hard to read. While the option is to change the formatting of the text or image using an online content editor, including an alternative text is an excellent way to ensure readability.

Additionally, when the logo of a company or group is included on the web page, adding alt text is one of the best practices for accessibility. Not only does it help for people who can not see the image, but the image SEO will be able to pick up on the brand as a keyword, boosting its position in search results.

3. Images As Links

Many times, links on a page are displayed as images to keep a cleaner overall look. Instead, these images do not need to be described literally in the alt text; tell the user what it links to.

For example, a link that directs to a FAQ page may be represented with an image of a question mark. In typical cases, the corresponding alt text would be “alt text=question mark”; however, the image links. As such, the alt text should read “FAQS” to improve the function of the image as a link.

Tips To Effectively Use An ALT Attribute

The key to writing effective ALT text is knowing the appropriate descriptive words without too much keyword stuffing. If you want to write good ALT text, keep these tips and tricks in mind when formulating your alternative text.

Semrush Alt Text Images Infographic

1. Right Description Of The Image

Being as descriptive as possible in the ALT attribute is important for web accessibility to visually impaired users who use screen readers. Not only does a descriptive ALT text provide a better user experience, but it can also help Google recognise the context of the images more accurately.

By specifying the content of the image, the Google web crawlers will identify the appropriate context from the image ALT text. These keywords will then display the website in the corresponding search results.

One helpful tip to writing concise and brief alt text is to convey the information the way you would over the phone. By removing the visual element, you will highlight the descriptive content more accurately.

2. Use Keywords

ALT attributes provide another space to add targeted keywords to the web page. By using the appropriate keywords, the search engines will include your website in the list of relevant results.

Although keywords can be beneficial to getting your page to the top of the search results, they can also have the potential to backfire. When adding ALT text, keep it short as many screen readers end after 125 characters. Keeping the character count below this number can also help avoid keyword stuffing and getting a dock in ranking on your website from Google.

Furthermore, keywords should be used sparingly or be used semantically. To elaborate, only the most essential terms should be included in the alt text. Avoid keyword stuffing by limiting words to only necessary value words so users who use a screen reading tool don’t see the confusing context.

3. Utilise The Context

When descriptive cues are not prevalent in the picture, writing compelling image ALT text can be challenging. In this case, try to add keywords that relate to the page’s content.

Additionally, decorative images that do not add anything to the web page’s content do not require alternative text. A few examples of decorative ideas are brand logos and page dividers. Neither of these adds to the content of the age, so adding ALT text is not necessary.

Not every image requires an alternative text, and these images should have an empty ALT attribute attached to them or be placed within the CSS and not the HTML. Placing an image in the CSS will not be registered in search engine crawlers, as they serve decorative purposes while being a part of the page itself.

Images described in the nearby text also do not need an alternative text on them. If it is in the HTML and has an empty ALT attribute, it will be skipped over by the image SEO and screen reader users.

4. Avoid Using Image As Text

It should be kept in mind that SEO code cannot read the text that may be on your images—as such, using images to convey information on the page will not show up as a keyword when the search engines go through your site. To avoid search engines skipping over these relevant keywords, describing the displayed information for every image file is a good idea.

Furthermore, starting your ALT text with “Image of” or “Picture of” is unnecessary and uses up, precious character count. The content is already recognised as an image, so the further specification is not needed in the ALT text.

Ahrefs Alt Text Reveals Content Google

Instead of using these non-descriptive words, you can better understand the type of image. For example, whether the image is a visual illustration, screenshot, graph, etc. These add more accessibility and context, especially for a screen reader user.

5. Avoid Repetition

Not every image will need an alt attribute in the HTML code. Usually, if the image has a caption, it is good to avoid using the same keyword or phrasing in the alt text. This repetition makes specific keywords obsolete and takes up space.

Furthermore, a description may be unnecessary if there is context to the image in the surrounding text. For example, including an alt attribute for the page’s title is superfluous as the topic is already displayed in the page heading.

While repetition is not a good idea when writing alternative text, transcribing text from the image can sometimes be necessary. Including what an image states in the description should only be done when relevant to the content itself.

6. Add ALT Text To Buttons

Another benefit of adding alt text to images is the description of a particular image function. In this case, what makes text important is that visually impaired users will access the page better and have a smoother user experience.

A typical alt text example for buttons can be found in forms or survey submissions. Various functions like “search” and “submit” or “sign up” can be easily recognised by screen readers. Including alt text to buttons is one of the best practices when formulating content on your site.

7. Review Spelling

Like how an SEO prioritises spelling, an image SEO relies on correct spelling to function correctly. Not only does the SEO recognition take a hit, but incorrect spelling could make interacting with the page confusing.

8. Use A Testing Tool

One way to ensure your web page has an effective alt text arrangement is by using a testing tool that hides images. Instead, only the corresponding alt text is displayed. Read through the page in this mode and see whether or not the information makes sense.

The testing tool aims to replicate the experience of people who use a screen reading tool. Additionally, linked images should also make sense and describe the page that they direct to instead of their actual appearance.

Try out this tool: https://www.seoptimer.com/alt-tag-checker

9. Employ Reverse SEO

When a search engine like Google goes through the alt text in an image, it determines what the image is and what the page it is displayed on is about. Essentially, an accurate alternate text works both ways in identifying the image contents and the topic of the web page.

To have a higher ranking in SEO, keep in mind how users search for the related topic. For instance, users will prefer related images over a hyperlink when it comes to topics with several visual elements.

FAQs

1. How To Find Alt Tags On A Page?

To determine which images have an alt tag, right-click anywhere on the site and select the “Inspect” option. After this, the page’s source code should pop up on the right side of the window.

Next, click the first icon on the left of the HTML panel and find the image you wish to look at. Hovering over the image with the mouse will highlight the code in the HTML portion of the screen, the tag, and all the attributes.

In the highlighted portion of the HTML tag, there should be a portion that reads “alt=” with corresponding text. This text is the alt tag that is attached to the image.

However, if there is no text after the alt tag in the resource code, the alt attribute is empty. It is simply “alt=” with two quotation marks without any text between them.

2. How To Add Alt Text To A JPG File?

When using Microsoft Word, right-click the image you wish to add alt descriptions to and choose the “Edit alt text” option. An input box should pop up next, with a space to enter the description. Once the alt text is input in the box, click “OK” and add the alt text.

When writing the alt text, take extra care to double-check your grammar and spelling. These input boxes do not have a built-in spell check, so errors are more common.

3. How To Add The Right Punctuation In An Alt Text?

Following the proper punctuation when writing alt text is recommended as it improves the readability of the content. Users who use a reader or cannot view the images will rely on the alt text itself to understand the content.

Adding ALT Text To Your Website

Using ALT text is often overlooked as many do not consider the descriptive text to images a critical feature. Hopefully, you are now more aware of how adding an appropriate description to content could favour your website to various search engines.

All in all, using ALT text is a great way to improve your website’s SEO and user experience. It’s an easy way to provide valuable information about your images and make sure that everyone can access the content on your website. If you’re looking for help creating effective ALT text for your website, our team of professionals would be happy to assist you.

Include an ALT attribute to the images on your webpage the next time you are trying to formulate a site, to get a better SEO ranking, and see the benefits come rolling in!

Brodey Sheppard

Brodey Sheppard

Brodey is the CEO of sitecentre® and a data-analyst in the SEO, Paid advertising space that uses machine learning and AI to advance sitecentre® as an industry-leading digital marketing agency across Australia.

Find them on their website: sitecentre®, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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