What is Alt Text?
Google, usually circumspect about what they’re actually looking for, has actually commented on alt text. For an area so often overlooked, this is a biggie.
Alt – or alternative – text is the text associated with images on the web. Its primary function is to aid accessibility for visually impaired site visitors who use a screen reader. When a person clicks on an image the screen reader reads the alt text out loud.
Alt text is also a great opportunity for keyword placement – but that’s where things can start going wrong.
For those not in the know about alt text, it can often just be ignored, meaning the screen reader will read out the file name. Obviously, “img.jpg” or “logo” isn’t very descriptive, so the person needing the screen reader has no idea what that image is of, and their experience on the site is very limited.
And then there are those who vaguely know about alt text, but think it’s solely for the purpose of keyword stuffing. This leads to the screen reading coming out with a stream of garbage that, again, leaves the user with no clue what the image is of, or for.
Think accessibility first
Yes, alt text is a great opportunity for keyword placement, but always think accessibility first. As someone putting information onto the internet, you have a responsibility to contribute to making it a welcoming place for everyone.
Try this: Download a screen reader, e.g. ChromeVox if you’re a Chrome user. Then navigate to your own website, or one you use frequently. Click on a few images and close your eyes.
Is what the screen reader comes out with helpful? Or not so much?
You can also right click on any image, and select Inspect
A window of code appears, containing the alt text. I’ve circled it below.
What should alt text say?
For our garden gnome example, the alt text could look like this:
“A hand painted garden gnome holding a yellow and blue flower, wearing a red cap and green jacket. He has white skin, rosy cheeks and a long white beard”
“Hand painted garden gnome” is the keyword, but it’s included naturally, along with a detailed description of the image.
How to Fix your alt text
If you already have an entire website and you had no idea about alt text – or you’re a former keyword stuffer – then you’ve got a job on your hands.
If you have a VA this is definitely one of those jobs to outsource, otherwise, just take it a few images at a time.
In WordPress, go to Media, click on each image and populate the alt text field with a description that naturally contains your chosen keywords.
In the future, do this at the time of uploading when you’ll hardly notice the extra few seconds.
Won’t the web developer have done all this?
If you pay a professional to build your site, it’s easy to assume they’ll have taken care of all of this. And they may have, but more often than not, unless you or your copywriter has given them the exact text to enter, alt text will be neglected.
Which brings me on to another point. Copywriters.
If a copywriter produces copy for the web and they either don’t provide the title tags, meta descriptions and alt text as standard, or they “don’t do SEO”?
Run a mile.
Any copywriter producing web copy must have at least a passing acquaintance with the basics of SEO – otherwise they can write the best copy in the world but nobody will ever see it!
I’d love to hear your thoughts, on this post, alt text, and SEO in general. Is your own site perfectly optimised or does it need a little work? Do you feel confident with the basics or is it all a bit daunting?
Leave me a comment below or…