Images: they give a visual context to an article, they break up large blocks of text, they make a publication look better, they …
… Add to the referencing and ranking of an article?
Yes. In fact, image optimization can make a huge difference in whether your post is ranking high in the SERPS.
But how to optimize an image? Hint: this is not color correction or cropping. This is your alt text.
What is alt text?
Alt text (also known as an “alt attribute” or “alt description”) is a short description that you apply to the images on your website in the HTML code for the page, describing what the image is. For those of you using WordPress, you can find it here on the right side of the screen when you insert an image.
Alt text isn’t immediately visible and often goes unnoticed by the average visitor to your website (it’s usually only visible when you hover your mouse over the image), but don’t think that means it isn’t. is not important. Between being a good SEO practice and making your website more accessible, including good alt text helps a lot.
Alternative text for SEO
Alt text is extremely valuable for SEO purposes for a big reason:without Alt Text, your images have no effect on your SEO ranking. Having well-crafted alt text ensures that your images are properly accounted for in Google crawl and well placed in search engine results.
Google bots are very good at crawling text, identifying keywords and organizing headlines, but they cannot recognize and understand visuals. That’s why you need to have text associated with the image, ideally written in a descriptive and relevant way so that it really contributes to your ranking.
And depending on the context of your web page’s destination, images can be even more important than your text. If you’re building a sales page or landing page for a clothing business, restaurant, or food service, or if you’re writing an article that’s based entirely on infographics, for example.
In all of these cases, a large percentage of your webpage will likely be made up of images and not text, as these are the main thing that you want your visitors to see. So, especially in these cases, you definitely don’t want your informative and visually appealing webpage that you put a lot of effort into getting virtually no traffic. A picture says 1000 words, but it doesn’t matter if no one sees it.
Alternative text for accessibility
Alt text also makes your webpage accessible to anyone and anyone who can visit it. And that’s by far one of the easiest accessibility principles to stick to. While many people will hardly ever see alt text, your blind and visually impaired audience depend on it to have a cohesive and complete understanding of what they are interacting with on your site.
Remember how bad Google is at image crawling? The same is true of many “text to talk” programs used by the visually impaired. So when they come across an image on a site, there is no context for what is contained in the image without an alt text description.
And again, if an important part of your article or webpage is images and other visuals, you need to make sure that everyone can interact with it. If you don’t include the correct alt text, you are omitting an entire portion of your leads. It does them a disservice.
Alternative text as fail-safe
Alt text can help you in another way: technical failure. It happens to everyone, and it will happen to you sooner or later.
Whether it’s on the user side – like a connection issue, charging issue, or other issue with their computer or phone – or on your side in the form of a coding error or a backend, it is quite possible that your images on your website will not display correctly for every person who visits your website.
When the images don’t fill in, the alt text you assign to the images will appear in their place. This allows your visitors to always have a sense of the point you are trying to convey, especially if your images are a vital part of your audience to understand what you have to say. Something is going to end badly, and your alt is your safety in place when it does.
Alternative Text Best Practices
1. Use alt text for each image
Just because a the image on your website has alt text doesn’t mean you can be done. You should really make sure each the image on a web page has at least some sort of alt text description, even if it’s just a few words.
2. Make your alt text descriptive
You usually have around 100 characters to work with when creating the alt text for an image, and you definitely don’t have to use all of them. But the more descriptive it is, the better. Let’s take a stock image as an example:
You could just describe this image as “a man drinking coffee” and that would be technically correct. There is a man drinking coffee, but does anything worth noting about it allow someone to get a sense of what’s going on without even seeing it? You could easily say “a man drinking coffee on a rooftop, watching a city at sunset,” and that would be well under 100 characters. Adding that little extra description is worth it, and it really doesn’t add a lot of work.
3. Describe only the picture
Don’t try to add unnecessary fluff in your alt text. You need to contextualize the image with the rest of the article in the body copy; it is not necessary to do so in the alt text. Make your descriptions descriptive, but keep it simple. You don’t have to make it too complex. It will only inhibit everyone’s understanding, especially in the case where you cannot see the image at all.
4. Use your keywords in your alt text
This is the best way your images can help your ranking. Including your keyword in your alt text shows Google crawlers that yes, this article is really very useful and informative. Does that mean you should try to fill your alt text with your keyword as much as possible? No. But should you at least try to include it here and there? Absolutely. (Remember, if your keyword doesn’t fit in your article at least 5-7 times and in a few images, it’s probably not a good keyword to target.)
Now that you know what alt text is, you can integrate it into your web design and marketing, and you’ll be ahead of your competition!