What is Alt Text for images?

what is alt text helping people see your digital images

If Google algorithms look at the words and code on your page, how do they ‘see’ images? Welcome to the world of Alt Text, Alt Descriptions and Alt Attributes.

What is Alt Text?

Alternative Text are words that sit ‘behind’ images on your website, social media feed and emails. They describe what’s in the image. 

Why is Alt Text important?

1. Having Alt Text features enabled and completed with a description of the image helps SEO by allowing the search engine bots ‘see’ your pictures. You can use keywords in the Alt Text that helps the Google bots find your page and present it in searches.

Learn more about SEO

But Alt Text is actually WAY more than that.

2. Alt Text is the main way that visually impaired visitors to your website, people who use screen readers, or people who want to save data by turning ‘off’ images can get the full experience of what’s going on. Having a description of your image means that everyone can appreciate your digital content, making it more accessible.

3. Having an Alt Text also means that if a link on your digital content is broken, the Alt Text will be shown instead of the image. So your reader can still get a good experience and you maintain the professional-feel of your content. 

​Where should I use Alt Text?

You should use Alt Text on all the main images on your website, emails and Instagram post. You can also use Alt Text in Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and Power point slides.

Where shouldn’t I use Alt Text?

Use Alt Text on main images and graphics only. 

If you have a decorative design feature that doesn’t add to the content or interpretation of the content then it’s okay to not complete the Alt Text. In fact, leaving the Alt Text blank improves user experience in this case. 

How to write good Alt Text captions

The key to writing good Alt Text captions is to remember that you’re writing for people first, not algorithms.

  • Describe what’s in the image, and be specific. Is it a car, a blue car or a blue car parked outside Bob’s Bagel Store? Being more detailed means your reader gets a more complete picture of what you’re showing. Use keywords or phrases if possible, especially in E-commerce product images. But don’t stuff a list of keywords in your Alt Text box. That leads to a really bad user experience, and remember, you’re writing for people first.
  • Most screen readers allow around 100-125 characters, so keep your Alt Text short.

How to add Alt Text to images

Most drag and drop website platforms (Rocketspark, Squarespace, Wix and Wordpress templates) will allow you to click on the image, and go to a section where you can add a caption, title and Alt Text.

You can add Alt Text to Instagram images. When you upload or edit an image you’ll get a prompt at the bottom right of the image to add Alt Text. Use it. Mobile phones users use screen readers too.

You can also add Alt Text to images that are inserted into Word, Excel and Power point. Right click on the image and go to ‘Format Picture’. Click on the icon that looks like a black square with arrows in it. This takes you to a screen where you can add the Alt Text description. 

Using Alt Texts on e-commerce sites

E-commerce stores are packed with images of products. Using Alt Text means that your user and SEO get the best experience.

  • Use keywords in the Alt Text
  • Make it specific to your customers

Moisturiser [11 characters] Okay, so now I know what the picture is of. But it’s not very helpful.

Aloe Vera Moisturiser [21 characters] Great. I know that it’s Aloe Vera moisturiser, so that can help me make a decision

Natural organic soothing Aloe Vera Moisturiser from Bonne Epoche [65 characters] Brilliant. I know what it is, and what it does (soothing) and SEO wins because you’ve got some key words in there too.

Here’s a useful blog about how to find keywords to use in your Alt Text.

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