Understanding & Crafting It: A Comprehensive Guide

  • June 21, 2024
  • SEO
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In this comprehensive guide, you will gain an understanding of alternative text (commonly known as alt text): its definition, significance for on-page SEO, the correct methods for its implementation, and additional relevant information.

Although often neglected, each image on your website should be accompanied by alt text. Providing detailed information through text not only assists search engine bots in comprehending your website’s visual content but also supports users who rely on screen readers.

Alt text serves as a valuable source of information, linking concepts and content across your website.

This pragmatic guide offers actionable tips and advice that can instantly enhance your website’s image SEO and accessibility.

What Is Alt Text?

Alternative text, or alt text, also referred to as the alt attribute or alt tag (though ‘alt tag’ is a technical misnomer), is a textual description embedded within the HTML code of an image that conveys the image’s content.

What Are The Uses Of Alt Text?

Initially, alt text was designed to describe images that failed to load. In the early internet days, slow connections often hindered image loading, and alt text provided users with information about the unviewable content.

Although images rarely fail to load today, the alt text remains visible when they do. An example of this can be seen in the following image description:

Screenshot from Search Engine Journal, May 2024

Alt text also aids search engine bots in deciphering the image’s content and context. More crucially, it is essential for accessibility, particularly for individuals utilizing screen readers:

  • Alt text assists individuals with disabilities, such as those employing screen readers, by conveying the image’s content.

However, like all SEO elements, alt text can be misused or even abused. Let’s delve deeper into its importance.

Why Alt Text Is Important

The web is inherently a visual medium, and websites are replete with images and graphic elements. Therefore, alt text is pivotal.

Alt text translates an image’s content into words, making it accessible to a broader audience, including individuals with disabilities and search engine bots that have yet to fully grasp an image’s context and meaning.

Why Alt Text Is Important For SEO

Alt text is a crucial component of on-page SEO optimization. Properly optimizing alt text enhances your website’s chances of ranking in Google image searches.

Indeed, alt text is a ranking factor for Google image searches.

In certain niches, such as ecommerce, the significance of Google image search traffic cannot be overstated. Users often commence product searches via Google image search instead of entering product names in standard Google searches.

Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner]
Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner], May 2024

Neglecting alt text optimization can result in fewer product images being displayed (or none at all) in search results, negatively impacting potential traffic and customers.

Why Alt Text Is Important For Accessibility

Beyond SEO implications, alt text is paramount for accessibility.

With increasing emphasis on making the web accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities, accurately describing images in alt text facilitates understanding for individuals who cannot see those images.

For instance, if a webpage on SEO audits includes screenshots from various tools, describing each screenshot’s content is more beneficial than using the repetitive alt text “SEO audit.”

Alt Text Examples

Let’s explore examples of good and bad alt text, using the context of an SEO audit guide featuring screenshots from tools like Google Search Console and Screaming Frog.

Good Alt Text Examples

Effective examples include:

        The coverage report in Google Search Console showing the number of indexed and excluded pages
        Google Search Console tool from Google
        List of HTML pages in Screaming Frog
        Screaming Frog crawl in progress
    

Tip: Although not a ranking factor, using descriptive file names is a good SEO practice.

Bad And/Or Spammy Alt Text Examples

The following illustrate poor alt text usage, often involving keyword stuffing:

        seo audit free seo cheap specialist audits
        google seo google search console
        seo auditor seo audit audits
        seo audit
    

The above examples fail to provide meaningful information about the images.

More examples and image SEO tips are available on Google Search Central.

Common Alt Text Mistakes

Common misconceptions include:

  • Omitting alt text or using empty alt text.
  • Using identical alt text for different images.
  • Employing overly generic alt text that does not accurately describe the image, e.g., using “dog” instead of specifying the breed, color, or activity.
  • Automatically using the file name as alt text, which might result in unhelpful descriptions like “googlesearchconsole” or “photo2323.”

Alt Text Writing Tips

Effective alt text writing tips include:

  • Avoid keyword stuffing. It does not improve page rankings.
  • Provide detailed but concise descriptions. Avoid lengthy sentences.
  • Incorporate target keywords naturally. If they fit, integrate them; otherwise, omit them.
  • Avoid text on images. Text should be included in the HTML code.
  • Refrain from introductory phrases like “this is an image of”. Focus on describing the content.
  • Ensure the description enables visualization. Good alt text should help visualize the image purely through its description.

How To Troubleshoot Image Alt Text

To analyze and correct alt text, consider the following methods:

Inspect elements: Right-click on an image and select “Inspect” to view its alt text.

For bulk checks, the following tools are recommended:

Install the Web Developer Chrome Extension.

Screenshot of Web Developer Extension in Chrome by author
Screenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

To audit multiple images:

Open the desired webpage, access the Web Developer extension, and navigate to Images -> Display Alt Attributes. This displays alt text for all images on the page.

The alt text of images is shown on the page.
Screenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

How To Find And Fix Missing Alt Text

To evaluate the entire website’s alt text, utilize crawlers like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb.

By crawling the site and reviewing the image report, you can identify and correct alt text issues, as demonstrated in the following video guide.

Alt Text May Not Seem Like A Priority, But It’s Important

Every bit of information contributes value, whether it aids vision-impaired users or bots. Alt text provides essential context for website images.

Although it’s primarily a ranking factor for image searches, enhancing search engine understanding of your site can improve result accuracy. Commitment to accessibility is also a vital aspect of contemporary digital marketing.

FAQ

What is the purpose of alt text in HTML?

Alternative text, or alt text, serves two primary purposes in HTML. Initially, it provides a textual description of an image if the image fails to display, helping users understand the image content when technical issues arise or when they use a screen reader due to visual impairments. Additionally, it assists search engine bots in interpreting the image’s content, which is pivotal for SEO as properly indexed images can boost a website’s visibility in search results.

Can alt text improve website accessibility?

Yes, alt text is crucial for enhancing website accessibility. By translating visual information into descriptive text, it can be read by screen readers utilized by individuals with visual impairments. Properly described images through alt text ensure that all users, irrespective of their disabilities, can comprehend the web page’s content, thereby making the web more inclusive and accessible.

More resources:


Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

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