If you do not have proper alt texts for the images you are using on your website, it can be a serious problem for you.
Alt texts for images are not only helpful for search engines, but they are also equally important for human visitors. Inconsistent use of alt texts is a common issue with many business websites on the internet. Make sure that you are not making the same mistake.
Keep reading to learn more about alt text and how you can fix it to make your website more search-engine friendly.
What is “Alt Text”?
Simply speaking, “alt text” is a snippet of text that is used to define the images you are using on your website.
It looks like this:
For now, don’t jump ahead of yourself. We will discuss more about it.
For now, let’s start with why you should use alt text for the images you have on your website.
2 Major Reasons for Using Alt Text
Although there are many benefits of using alt text on your website, there are two major reasons of doing so.
Here are the two major reasons for using alt text:
When you use images on your website, you use it for your human readers. However, the only shortfall of using images is that search engines can’t understand them. And if search engines can’t understand what an image is all about, they can’t help you bring traffic via image searches.
Search engines can’t understand images, but they do understand text. And “alt text” for an image helps the search engines understand what the image is all about. In simple words, one major reason for using alt text is to define an image to search engine crawlers.
While most human visitors to your website can see images, in some circumstances, the images you use on your website aren’t visible to them.
For instance, if someone has a very slow internet connection, all the images may not be loaded properly by the time they start reading the content. Similarly, if someone is using a text-to-speech software that reads out the pages, it can’t and won’t understand and describe an image. Instead, a text-to-speech software will read the alt text of the image.
In these circumstances, the alt text of your image becomes extremely important for providing the best user-experience to your website visitors.
Now that you know why “alt text” is such an important thing to use, let’s see how you can fix the alt text problem on your website.
How to Fix Alt Text for Images?
If you are using any common content management system (CMS), such as WordPress, you will be asked to insert the alt text for any image that you upload.
It is pretty much a standard in every content management system. As soon as you upload a new image, the CMS will ask you insert the title and alt text for the image.
See the following screenshot. It is taken inside the WordPress content management system.
On the other hand, if you are using a customized content management system, it is very likely that the option will be still there. Ask your website developer for further assistance if you can’t find the alt text option in a customized CMS.
Also, remember that the “title of the image” and “alt text” are two different things. Most people confuse them with each other.
The image of a title is additional information about it. In internet browsers, such as Firefox or Opera, that title pops up when you hover over an image. It is used primarily for human readers.
The alt text of an image is alternative information that is equally helpful for human visitors and search engine crawlers. Unlike the title of the image, the alt text describes the image to search engines and human visitors who can’t see it.
WordPress, for instance, ask you to fill both these fields. Ideally, you should keep both these fields unique and different to each other.
The title of the image should be catchy, unique, and concise. On the other hand, the alt text of the image should be able to describe what an image is all about. Moreover, having a primary keyword naturally appearing in the alt text is also helpful.
4 Things to Remember About Alt Texts
Before you start fixing all the missing alt texts on your website, there are a few more things that you should know.
1. Alt Attributes Can’t Replace Text-Based Contents
Alt text describes images to search engines and human visitors who can’t see them. But these alt attributes can’t replace the text-based contents on a website.
For instance, if you have a blog post that is mostly consisted of images, you can’t just rely on alt attributes for higher search engine rankings. Although these alt attributes are important search engine ranking factors, they do not have very strong SEO signals.
Therefore, a blog post that consists of only images — properly optimized by alt attributes — are not powerful enough to give you top search engine rankings.
2. Alt Attributes Are Not Just for SEO
As we have discussed earlier, alt texts are helpful for search engine crawlers as well as human readers.
Many website owners and search engine optimizers believe that the title of the image is for human visitors and the alt attributes are for search engines. It isn’t entirely true.
As I have mentioned earlier, alt attributes are equally important for human visitors and search engines. However, the title of the image isn’t much helpful for the search engines.
3. Keyword Optimization Still Matters for Alt Text
Just like any other piece of text-based content on the web, keyword optimization still matters in alt texts.
When writing alt texts for images, keep the following two rules in mind:
Keyword optimization is important. Using primary and relevant keywords can help you drive targeted organic traffic from search engines and image-related searches.
And just like any other piece of text on the web, keyword stuffing in alt attributes may lead you to a search engine penalty. So include keywords naturally without stuffing them just for the sake of it.
4. Not All Images Require Alt Text
There are some kinds of images that do not require alt text. Usually, images are divided into three different categories:
Active images that require an action, e.g., image-based buttons or links.
Informative images that inform users about something and often complement a text-based blog post.
Decorative images that do not have any specific purpose. These images are purely there for decorative purposes.
For the first two categories, alt texts are very important. However, you do not really need for decorative images.
Decorative images should have empty alt text, which tells screen readers or text-to-speech software to ignore the image. But note that even decorative images must have alt attributes. It is just that those alt attributes should have no alt text.
The alt attributes for decorative images should be like this:
Now that you know all the important things about fixing alt texts on images, you should consider optimizing all the images on your website.
Remember that adding proper alt text to your images is considered a good practice in SEO. It is equally helpful for search engines and human readers, so it is not something that you should ignore for too long.