What is alt text and how do you write it?

23 Oct 2022

Design & development SEO

Nick Boyle

Nick Boyle

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What is alt text?

Alt text – short for alternative text – describes an image on your page. If your image fails to load, alt text will show on the page in place of the image. Alt text serves a few purposes, but its most popular is to be read aloud to visually impaired users. This way, they know what the function of your image is, even though they can’t see it. It’s really important to include alt text on your site to make it accessible.

From a technical standpoint, alt text is crawled by search engine bots so that your page can be ranked and indexed accordingly. This is important for any SEO-friendly website, to prevent it from being lost at the bottom of the SERP. We all know content is important for SEO, but features such as alt tags and meta descriptions also help you to rank higher on Google.

How to write SEO-friendly alt text for your images

Utilise your keywords

Although alt text doesn’t always physically show on your page, it appears within your HTML code. This means you have an extra opportunity to make Google aware of your keywords. Including your keywords in alt text means Google will show your image on the SERP for relevant searches. It also lets Google know what your page is about, so Google can then rank your site more accurately.

Avoid keyword stuffing

Although you want to include your keywords as much as possible, it’s important to avoid keyword stuffing – which is when keywords are overused in text in an attempt to rank higher. This can lead to a terrible user experience, and will actually backfire in the long run, since Google’s algorithm judges website ranking by user experience. Your site will actually rank lower on the SERP, and you may also incur a Google penalty.

yellow lamborghini sports car parked in front of trees and greenery

Keyword stuffing is bad practice when it comes to accessibility, too. An example of keyword stuffing for this image could be: “yellow car lamborghini best fast car yellow lamborghini buy cars”. It’s obvious how this alt text would be uninformative to visually impaired users, and it’s a clear attempt at keyword stuffing. Avoid this at all costs – both for the benefit of users and search engines.

Be descriptive

As we’ve mentioned, alt text should be descriptive and informative. Whilst avoiding keyword stuffing is the first step to writing good alt text, you should also make sure that it’s properly describing your image. For example, you might write your alt text as just “yellow lamborghini”. While this is adequate, it doesn’t fully describe the picture. A better use of alt text would be “yellow lamborghini sports car parked in front of trees and greenery”. There’s no right answer when it comes to alt text, so just try to be as descriptive as possible whilst still incorporating your keywords if you can.

Keep it short

It’s recommended to keep alt text to 125 characters or less. Screen-reading tools usually stop after 125 characters, so you might be wasting your time by writing a longer alt text. Also, if your keywords appear later in an alt text that’s over 125 characters, they might not be picked up on. A top tip for keeping your alt text short and snappy is to omit phrases like “photo of” or “image of”. Your users and the search engines already know that this is an image, so you’re just using up valuable characters.

How to add alt text on WordPress

Most content management systems will allow you to add alt text to an image. WordPress is by far the most popular CMS, and its many plugins are useful for enhancing your SEO. We’re going to walk you through how to add alt text on WordPress:

  • Click on the image that’s in your post.
  • Head over to the ‘Block’ tab and find ‘Image Settings’.
  • There should be an empty box for you to add your alt text – simply type it in here.
  • Select ‘Update’ once you’re done, and your alt text will be ready.

Alt text is important for great SEO on any website. Get in touch with our team to find out what other improvements could be made to your website.

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