Dec 29, 2023

What is Alt Text?

Vaishnavi Ramkumar
What is Alt Text?
Vaishnavi Ramkumar
Dec 29, 2023

What is Alt Text?

Elevate your website's accessibility and SEO with ALT text optimization tips. Access all the details in one-place.
What is Alt Text?

Table of contents

What is Alt Text?

Alt text, short for "Alternative Text," is essentially a form of HTML attribute that provides alternative information for an image if a user cannot view it. 

This may happen if the image fails to load or when a user utilizes a screen reader due to visual impairment. 

The alt text would either be presented in place of the image or read aloud by a screen reader, allowing the user to understand the content of the image.

From an SEO perspective, search engines utilize alt text to comprehend the content and context of an image, given their inability to "see" images. 

Alt text allows search engine bots to index accurately and rank an image in image search. Essentially, it is about providing search engines with contextual information about the image content along with the rest of the on-page content.

Importance of Alt Text

Alt text carries paramount importance in creating an inclusive digital environment and optimizing a website’s SEO performance. Here are a few core significance of Alt text. 

Accessibility

The primary goal of alt text is to promote web accessibility. Alt attributes enable screen readers to read the information about on-page images for the benefit of users with visual impairments, low vision, or different learning abilities.

In essence, alt text bridges the gap between visual content and those who cannot view them. It paints a mental picture for those users, enabling them to understand and interact with the digital content effectively. 

In the case where an image fails to load, alt text serves as a substitute, ensuring that every visitor, despite the caveat, has a chance to engage with the content.

Furthermore, investing in implementing effective alt text for all important images supports inclusivity. It ensures that no visitor is alienated from your website’s content. With internet usage becoming more prevalent among people with visual and learning disabilities, providing accessible online content via alt text is crucial.

SEO Benefits

Beyond accessibility, alt text also caters significantly to SEO. It functions as a valuable source of information for search engines to comprehend the nature and context of the image. 

As search engines do not "see" images or graphics, alt text allows them to know what the image entails. This understanding helps search engine bots index the image accurately, improving the chances of ranking in image searches.

By leveraging SEO best practices in crafting alt text, including modern file formats, relevant file names, and schema markup, it can significantly enhance image search optimization. 

Alt text offers an opportunity to include target keywords, enhancing page rankings. In essence, by providing comprehensible and keyword-oriented alt text, you communicate topic relevance to search engines, thus boosting your SEO performance.

User Experience

Alt text not only contributes to web accessibility and SEO, but also enhances user experiences. Providing valuable information about an image when it fails to load, alt text ensures that visitors receive relevant insight into the webpage content, from on-page information to visual elements. In this way, the user experience is not compromised, even with inadequate internet bandwidth or broken image links.

Moreover, by including specific details of an image in the alt text, the website can offer enriched information to cater to users who seek advanced internet proficiency. Therefore, by heightening user interactions with your site, alt text contributes to maximizing transactions and boosting brand reputation.

Best Practices for Writing Alt Text

Alt text is a dual-purpose tool serving accessibility and SEO needs. So, here are some best practices you can adopt while writing to ALT text to appeal to both parties. 

Be Descriptive Yet Concise

Writing effective alt text requires a delicate balancing act—being succinct while still being adequately descriptive. The key to this lies in understanding what's essential about an image and conveying that in the simplest yet most illustrative way possible.

For example, if a webpage includes an image of a landscape with a rising sun, instead of merely writing 'nature image' as the alt text, a more descriptive and fitting alt text would be 'landscape of a sun rising over green hills.' This alt text effectively captures the specific elements and mood of the image within a short phrase.

The aim should be to describe the picture's content and context, harbouring relevance to the surrounding text on your site. 

Yet, make sure the description is not excessively verbose—that can lead to confusion and dilution of the critical message the image is intended to convey.

Include a Keyword

Including relevant keywords in your image's alt text also aids in optimizing your website's SEO. Remember, alt text provides another opportunity to include your targeted keyword on a webpage, like meta tags and headers. This can be beneficial because on-page keyword usage continues to influence search engine ranking factors significantly.

To intelligently incorporate keywords into alt text, consider the context of the image related to the rest of the page content. If your target keyword naturally fits into describing an image and is relevant to the context, then include it in the alt text. 

For example, if you're writing an article about apple farming and there's an image showing a cultivated apple tree, 'cultivated apple tree' could be an effective alt text.

However, tread wisely with keyword placement in alt text—avoid keyword stuffing or forced keyword usage. The primary aim of alt text is to improve user accessibility and provide text equivalents for images—not to manipulate SEO.

Use the Right Format

The format you use for your alt text largely depends on the platform or CMS you're using to upload your content. Most CMS's, like WordPress or Shopify, have dedicated fields to input alt text when uploading an image.

In HTML, the alt text is typically added through the alt attribute within the tag. For example, an illustrative alt text for an image of a cat would look like this in HTML: <img src="cat.jpg" alt="A fluffy orange cat sitting on a chair">.

When writing the alt text, it's crucial to maintain simplicity and readability. Maintain a smooth flow and natural language consistency while incorporating the important elements of the image description and relevant keywords.

Consequently, understanding the right format for your alt text is an essential step towards effectively enhancing your page's accessibility and SEO value.

Difference between Good and bad Alt text

Good alt text serves as a text equivalent, conveying the purpose of the image and providing useful information for screen reader users. 

It describes the content of the image with a focus on the context and surrounding content, enhancing web accessibility and ensuring a better user experience. 

On the other hand, bad alt text, such as missing or empty alt attributes, results in purely decorative images, offering no critical information or serving the purpose of the image. 

Poor alt text, including keyword stuffing or irrelevant text, leads to a poor user experience and negatively impacts SEO by providing inaccurate information to search engine bots. 

Implementing effective alt text involves including descriptive yet concise content that accurately represents the image, aligns with both the visual and surrounding text, and contributes to improved accessibility and user experience.

Identifying and Fixing Missing Alt Text

The absence of alt text on images can be detrimental for visually impaired users who would otherwise have no means to interpret what the image conveys. Moreover, search engines won't be able to understand the image without alt text, hindering its ability to rank correctly in the image search results.

To identify images with missing alt text, you can leverage tools like Semrush’s Site Audit tool, which offers insights into the 'missing alt text' issues in your website. 

Implementing such audit tools can help you perform a complete sweep of your website's images, diagnosing absent or ineffective alt text instances.

Upon identifying images missing alt text, it's crucial to rectify this by adding appropriate alt text that accurately represents the image. 

Conclusion

Alt text is an essential aspect of internet content that provides two-fold benefits—enhancing accessibility for visually impaired users and aiding SEO performance. Thus, investing the time in writing apt, optimized alt text emerges as not only a rewarding practice but also the right thing to do.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the optimal length for alt text?

The optimal length for the alt text should be as long as necessary to describe the image's key details without being excessively verbose. There's no strict limit, but it's generally recommended to keep it under 125 characters, as most screen readers stop reading alt text at this point.

Is alt text a ranking factor in search engines?

Yes, alt text is a ranking factor in search engines. Google uses alt text, among other factors, to understand and rank images in its search results. Therefore, optimized and contextual alt text can significantly contribute to your image SEO and overall site ranking.

Can I use the same alt text for multiple images?

Using the same alt text for multiple images isn't advisable unless the images are identical or extremely similar. Each image should have unique alt text that accurately describes its specific content and context, contributing to the overall richness and diversity of your site’s content.

How often should I review and update my alt text?

Reviewing and updating your alt text should be an ongoing process, much like other aspects of SEO. It's good practice to check periodically for missing or ineffective alt text, particularly when adding new images or updating webpage content. This ensures your website remains accessible and SEO-friendly.

Vaishnavi Ramkumar
Content Marketer
ABout the AUTHOR
Vaishnavi Ramkumar
Content Marketer

Vaishnavi Ramkumar is a content marketer specializing in creating BOFU content for SaaS brands. She believes reader-centric content is the sure-shot way to generate high-quality leads through content marketing. As part of the Scalenut team, Vaishnavi curates content that drives brand awareness and boosts signups. When she's not crafting content, you can find her immersed in the pages of a good book or a course.

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