I’ve said it a million times: Interesting, relevant content is the most important part of your website. You should also keep in mind that engaging and visually appealing images are what keep people’s attention once they find you. A good image is worth a thousand words, and at least two of those words should be alt text.
Alt text was originally invented so that visitors would know what an image was in the case it didn’t load. If the images didn’t load, we were left-clicking away. Fast forward to 2020. Why bother with alt text and proper file naming? Well, it’s for Google, of course.
Google can’t see your images, but its search algorithm can find file names, alt text and image descriptions on your website. Remember, Google indexes and ranks your website based on “crawlable” data.
Here’s How to Boost SEO with Best Alt Text Practices
Start with the image name. Use 1-2 words that describe the image. This is your chance to optimize an image before you even upload it to your website.
Be specific. When writing your alt text, try to be as descriptive as possible. “Truck photo” isn’t as descriptive as “red Ford truck by lake in woods.” The more words you use to describe the image, the more words Google can find on your website to use for search results.
But, don’t get too long. Keep your alt text to 125 characters or less. That’s the cut-off for Google bots. Think Twitter — short, to-the-point but informative. (“Red Ford truck by lake in woods” is only 31 characters if you wondered, so go crazy).
Use your keywords, obviously. You have space to do it, so both long-tail and short-tail keywords can be used. Don’t get spammy by over-stuffing your alt text with keywords, though. Google always knows…
Use alt text for all images on your website. That includes your logo in the header and footer and your buttons. Create a custom graphic for the button on your contact page? It needs alt text, too. “Submit info” or “submit info to Robin Samora.” The second wins every time.
So where do you put all this wonderful information?
On most websites, there are fields for alt text. On WordPress for example, you can add a title, caption, alt text, and description. The title defaults to your file name, which should already be optimized. The caption doesn’t do much for SEO, but captions on photos get 16% more readership than actual text on a page. So it could be worth it, when it makes sense.
A longer description could help SEO as well. It won’t show in the coding of the website, but it does help with search results related to the photo itself. This is where you can increase the frequency of your keywords without being spammy. Keep in mind if someone finds their way to the image’s page, they will see this description.
If you need yet another reason to use alt text, it assists the visually impaired. The visually impaired use technology that reads web pages — and this includes image names and alt text. Being as descriptive as possible gives them the best chance to understand your imagery and align that with your brand.
That’s the why, what and how of alt text. You just need the who and the when. Now, it’s your turn. Go back to add alt text for old images that don’t have them and make it a habit as you add new images to boost SEO for your website and online content.