When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), many website owners tend to focus primarily on optimizing their written content. However, optimizing images on your website is equally important for improving your search engine rankings. One essential aspect of image optimization is the use of image alt text. In this article, we will explore what image alt text is and why it is important for SEO, give examples of recommended and not recommended alt text, and provide you with some best practices to optimize your alt text effectively.
What Is Image Alt Text?
Image alt text, also known as alt tags or alt attributes, is a descriptive text that is added to an HTML image tag. It serves as alternative information for users who cannot view the images on a webpage. Alt text is displayed in place of an image if it fails to load or if the user is utilizing a screen reader.
The primary purpose of image alt text is to provide a textual description of the image to help visually impaired users understand the content and context of the image. Additionally, alt text also plays a significant role in SEO by providing search engines with valuable information about the image.
Why Is Image Alt Text Important?
One of the primary reasons why image alt text is important is accessibility. Not all users can view images due to visual impairments or if they have images disabled in their browsers. Alt text allows visually impaired users to understand the content of the image by reading the text description provided. By ensuring your images have descriptive and accurate alt text, you make your website more accessible and inclusive to a wider range of users.
Search engines cannot “see” images; they rely on textual information to understand and index the content. Image alt text helps search engines comprehend the subject matter of the image, which in turn improves the chances of your images appearing in relevant search results. By optimizing your alt text, you increase the visibility of your images in search engines, leading to potential traffic and exposure for your website.
How Does Image Alt Text Affect SEO?
Image alt text plays a vital role in SEO and can have a significant impact on your search engine rankings. Here’s how alt text affects SEO.
Just like written content, image alt text provides an opportunity to incorporate relevant keywords. Including relevant keywords in your alt text can help search engines understand the context of the image and associate it with relevant search queries. However, it’s crucial to avoid keyword stuffing and maintain the natural flow of the alt text.
Alt text provides valuable context about the image, allowing search engines to determine the relevance and usefulness of the image in relation to the surrounding content. Clear and descriptive alt text helps search engines understand the purpose and subject matter of the image, increasing its chances of ranking higher in relevant search results.
Search engines consider various factors when determining the ranking of images, including alt text. If your alt text accurately describes the image and contains relevant keywords, it can contribute to higher image rankings. Higher-ranking images have a better chance of appearing in image search results, increasing the visibility of your website.
Examples of Image Alt Text
To further understand how to write effective image alt text, let’s examine some examples of both recommended and not recommended practices.
Recommended: Alt Text Describing Image Content
<img src="example.jpg" alt="Close-up of a juicy red apple with water droplets" />
In this example, the alt text provides a concise and accurate description of the image content. It describes the visual details of the image, including the subject (a red apple) and specific attributes (juicy and with water droplets). This alt text is helpful for both visually impaired users and search engines, as it provides a clear understanding of the image.
Recommended: Alt Text with Keywords
<img src="example.jpg" alt="Red apple on a wooden table – organic fruit for a healthy diet" />
This example not only describes the image but also incorporates relevant keywords. The alt text includes the subject (red apple), the background (wooden table), and additional context (organic fruit for a healthy diet). By incorporating keywords naturally into the alt text, you improve its relevance for search engines without sacrificing its usefulness for visually impaired users.
Recommended: Alt Text with Context
<img src="example.jpg" alt="Apple pie recipe – freshly baked apple pie with a golden crust and cinnamon" />
In this example, the alt text provides context about the image and its relevance to the surrounding content. It describes the image as an apple pie with specific details such as a golden crust and cinnamon. By providing contextual alt text, search engines can better understand the purpose of the image within the overall content. Additionally, visually impaired users gain valuable information about the image and its connection to the surrounding text.
Not Recommended: Generic Alt Text
<img src="example.jpg" alt="image1" />
This example demonstrates a common mistake where the alt text is left generic and uninformative. Using a generic label such as “image1” provides no context or description of the image content. It doesn’t provide any useful information to visually impaired users or search engines, rendering it ineffective for both accessibility and SEO purposes.
Not Recommended: Keyword-Stuffed Alt Text
<img src="example.jpg" alt="red apple, juicy apple, fresh apple, organic apple, healthy apple, apple nutrition" />
In this example, the alt text demonstrates an instance of keyword stuffing, where multiple keywords are repetitively added. Keyword stuffing is not recommended as it can be seen as an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings. It also makes the alt text reader less friendly and less helpful for visually impaired users. It’s important to strike a balance between incorporating keywords and maintaining clarity and readability.
Image Alt Text Best Practices
To optimize your image alt text effectively, consider the following best practices.
Provide a concise and accurate description of the image in your alt text. Describe the content, subject matter, and context of the image in a way that is useful for visually impaired users and search engines. Avoid generic alt text such as “image.jpg” or leaving alt text empty.
Keep It Concise
While it’s important to be descriptive, it’s also essential to keep your alt text concise. Aim for alt text that is around 125 characters or less to ensure it doesn’t become too overwhelming for screen reader users.
Use Keywords Thoughtfully
Incorporate relevant keywords thoughtfully into your alt text, and avoid keyword stuffing. Ensure the keywords are relevant to the image and the surrounding content. Remember, the primary purpose of alt text is to provide useful information, so prioritize clarity and accuracy over keyword density.
If you have multiple images on a page with similar content, ensure each alt text is unique and specific to the respective image. Avoid duplicating alt text across multiple images, as this can confuse search engines and hinder their ability to understand the individual images.
Before uploading images to your website, rename the image file using descriptive and keyword-rich filenames. This can contribute to better image SEO as search engines may consider the image file name as additional context. Use hyphens (-) between words in the file name, and avoid using generic filenames like “IMG001.jpg.”
Optimizing your image alt text is crucial for both accessibility and SEO. By providing descriptive and accurate alt text, you enhance the accessibility of your website for visually impaired users. Additionally, well-optimized alt text improves the visibility of your images in search engines, driving potential traffic and enhancing your website’s overall SEO performance.
Remember to be descriptive, concise, and relevant when creating alt text. Incorporate keywords thoughtfully and avoid keyword stuffing. By following these best practices, you can effectively optimize your image alt text and maximize the benefits for both users and search engines.
For more digital marketing suggestions, take a look at the articles How to Identify and Fix Keyword Cannibalization to Improve SEO, Amazing Tips To Improve Your WordPress SEO Rankings, and How to Fix a Broken SEO Campaign by Optimizing Content.