Alt Text

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Alt Text


Alt text is something you may have been ignoring or weren’t even fully aware of as a feature you should be utilizing. When you fully appreciate the purpose of alt text, you will begin to see how you can use it as an SEO tool to enhance the overall experience for your visitors.

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What Does Alt Text Look Like?


Alt text is the text that is visible if one hovers their mouse over an image. It is typically a short, descriptive phrase or sentence in a small box that readers can see when looking at the page or by a program designed to read the text to someone who is physically unable to see it. If an image fails to load on a website, the alt text will also appear in its place.

The Purpose of Alt Text


The purpose of alt text is to describe an image displayed on a website with enough detail that someone who is visiting the website would be able to understand the essence of the image in the event they were unable to see it, whether due to connectivity or disability. There are a number of reasons why we need alt text.

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Image Issues

If an image link becomes broken or fails to load, alt text helps visitors by explaining what the image was meant to display.

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Physical Impairments

Many people are unaware of the way assistive technology can be used to make the Internet accessible to people who have a visual impairment. A screen reader will “read” the image to visually impaired visitors, making for a much more user-friendly experience.

Every Bit Helps


The most important thing to remember is that alt text wasn’t originally designed for SEO purposes. It isn’t even something that will greatly improve overall rank and will likely only show small, if any, improvement in traffic generation. However, every little bit does help and, therefore, utilizing alt text is something everyone using images should be doing.

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Selecting an image

When selecting an image most people naturally choose something that helps accentuate the content the image will be accompanying. This is great for your readers and even better for SEO because it will help the process feel natural to you and those who are visiting your site. If you need multiple images, consider how similar they are to one another and make an effort to choose images that are not only visually different but contextually different enough to warrant entirely different alt text.

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Optimizing Your Content

Before you begin searching for the images you will use on the page, make sure you have a list of keywords you want to be able to use. When you intentionally try to identify images that will allow you the greatest range of options in the alt text, you can utilize different keywords. Don’t try to make the keywords fit the images you selected at random. Instead, use your keywords to both make the selection and then describe the image.

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Analyze Your Content

Stick with 15 words or less in your alt text, and know that even less is better. You don’t want something so wordy that it will cover the image and make it less enjoyable for those visitors who can see it, but you do want it to be long enough to describe the image adequately for the visitors who are unable to view it.

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What to Avoid?

Alt text isn’t simply an extra place to include your keywords. While it’s nice to have an SEO boost, don’t abuse the space. Include some of the key concepts presented on the page with illustrations and artwork in your images, but only include keywords that are actually relevant to the image.

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How long should it be?

Interestingly, there is no cap on how long the alt text of an image can be, however it’s important to keep best practices in mind as we mentioned above. The purpose of alt text is to assist those who are unable to see the intended image for whatever reason, limiting the site to a certain number of words could negatively impact their ability to do so. However, just because there isn’t a limit doesn’t mean you should fill this space with any keywords you can think of. Most designers lean towards limiting the text to less than 15 words although if it is necessary to go over that to adequately describe the image, no one would say sacrifice clarity for brevity.Again, keep best practices in mind.

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Should you always use alt text?

Always is a very strong word and as with most things there are a few exceptions to the ‘always use alt text’ rule. If the image is an icon or a bullet point you can leave the alt text blank because there is no useful text to add. It is virtually impossible to select keywords to be used here authentically, and you have to overrule the desire to do so. For virtually every other image, however, you should always be utilizing the alt text.

Alt Text SEO Bonus


This little bit of text is also utilized by search engines that have been tasked with finding specific images by users, much like the image file name. By effectively using alt text to ensure the people visiting your site can view a carefully considered image and understand the context of the image even if they are unable to view it, you have benefited your reader and made it easier for search engines to find the perfect piece of content. With a bit of practice and intentionally selecting images that accentuate your content in addition to being visually pleasing, adding SEO optimized alt text will become automatic and take virtually no more time to choose and use than it would take to select and incorporate an image otherwise.

While the SEO benefit is admittedly much less than that of other SEO tools, the benefit is still there and should be taken advantage of. The best part of using alt text to enhance SEO effectively is that it will also enhance the experience of everyone who accesses your website. It isn’t an SEO tool, but it is a tool that can be used for SEO. Most importantly, however, it is a way to show all the people who want to visit your website that you care about their experience and that you have worked to make it equal for everyone who has taken the time to visit.

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