What is Alt Text and How Does it Impact Your SEO?

Ahhhh alternative text.

Those sneaky little buggers are unknown to many new bloggers and business owners…

And yet, they can be an incredibly important piece of your SEO (search engine optimization).

At first, we used to be surprised when we’d audit a business owner’s website and see they had absolutely ZERO alternative tags on their website.

I remember one of our first clients a few years ago was a local Habit for Humanity. I showed the woman who was tasked with running the website how to add alternative text (and SMART ones at that – more on this later!).

It was such a simple, but tedious task.

We went through the entire chapter’s website and added alternative text on every single image.

And guess what happened…

Within ONE month, they increased their application rate by OVER 100%!!!

Pretty powerful stuff, right?!

Just by using smart alternative text, they were able to boost their organic search presence and be seen by the RIGHT people (aka volunteers who want to help!) and SIGNIFICANTLY increase the number of applications they received.

So have we convinced you yet?

Let’s dive in 🙂

Alt tags defined

By definition, an alt tag serves as a text alternative for an image on your webpage.What is Alt Text and How Does it Impact Your SEO?

Get it? Alternative text is….. an alternative to text!

You see, Google and all of the other search engines out there can’t read images like we see them. Therefore, when you have an amazing website or super awesome blog post with great images… you may actually be missing out on a HUGE opportunity to optimize for SEO if you don’t include alternative text.

The text you include in your alt tag should generally describe what contents your image is showing as well as its functionality.

One of the most cited uses of alt tags is to provide relevant information (and in this case, text) to visitors on your webpage when they cannot see the image or if it doesn’t load properly. So if for some reason an image doesn’t load, the alt attribute will be revealed to help compensate for the missing picture.

Furthermore, Wikipedia says: “In situations where the image is not available to the reader, perhaps because they have turned off images in their web browser or are using a screen reader due to a visual impairment, the alternative text ensures that no information or functionality is lost. Absent or unhelpful alternative text can be a source of frustration for visually impaired users of the Web.” We couldn’t agree more.

So in one aspect, alt tags help with user experience if your images fail to load. But there’s a way BIGGER reason to use alt tags – and that’s for organic search presence.

Importance of alt tags

Just as search engines crawl the text on your pages to figure out what your website is all about, they do the same thing with images.

However, without a description of what the image is, how can the crawlers determine what it is?

Plain and short, they can’t.

The importance of using alt tags with each image you use is crucial for ranking better online.

Search engines use the information you provide in your alt attributes for image queries. The goal of the search engine is to get the most relevant results into the hands of the person with the query.

If you take beautiful pictures of a particular beach at the Jersey Shore but fail to describe it with alt tags, you lose a huge opportunity to rank in image results for let’s say, Avalon, New Jersey sunsets.

Now, if you are using the beautiful beach pictures you took and label the alt text “affordable house cleaning services in Avalon” wouldn’t make sense (even if you offer house cleaning services in Avalon, NJ).

In turn, you could be docked by search engines for doing this. Stay as true to the image as possible.

Properly use alt attributes

When it comes to labeling the images, be sure to make sure you keep it relative.

As SEO best practices continue to shift, one thing you can always count on remaining the same is delivering the BEST possible experience to the end user.

This means trying to provide the most useful information possible at all times, including your alt tags. The more of a helpful resource you become in the eyes of your visitors, the better you will rank in search engines.

That’s why in our example above, we talked about using alt tags that are smart and relative. Of course, you’ll want to use keywords, but with all SEO tactics, you never want to keyword spam.

Below are three important rules to keep in mind for creating effective alt attributes:

1. Keep it simple and accurate

Learn how to be descriptive without having to write more than a sentence.

2. Be succinct

Keep the content as clear, precise and brief as possible.

3. Avoid being redundant

Keep the alt text keyword rich but do not copy the same information with the surrounding text of the image. Google can dock you for this.

By following some of these basic principles and including them in your best practices, you can be confident that your content will rank higher, become more accessible and improve the accuracy of your website.

Adding Alt Tags to Your Website Images

Now it’s your turn!

Ready to start implementing?

We’re going to show you EXACTLY where to add the alt text for your images on your WordPress website.

(Not using WordPress? You totally should. You can read this post here or click the image below take our course on how to build your own WordPress website!)

build your own wordpress website in a weekend

Back to the good stuff.

We’re going to show you three different ways to add alt text:

1. Adding Alt Text to New Images You Upload

This is the easiest method to get started.

Don’t get TOO overwhelmed by the thought of working through every single image you already have on your website or blog.

First, let’s start a new practice of adding alt text to all new images.

When you go to upload an image in WordPress, you’ll see this editing box:

Adding Alt Text to New Images You Upload

On the right-hand side you’ll see your image/attachment details. This is where the magic happens!

Scroll down until you see the box labeled “Alt Text”:

Alt Text on WordPress Images

Of course, you probably don’t want to name it “Look ma we found it!” 🙂

We usually name our alt text the same or similar to the name of the image itself.

You ARE naming your images before you upload them right?!

If not, we already have your next read for you: 3 Simple Ways to Optimize Your Images for SEO

2. Adding Alternative Text to Images You Previously Uploaded

There are a few ways to get to these images.

Maybe you’re editing a blog post or web page.

The truth is, you can click to edit ANY image on your website.

For this example, we’ll show you how to do so from your Media options.

On your WordPress Dashboard, click Media and go to your Library.

Access WordPress Media Library

Find the image you want to edit, and click on it.

And voila – there are the attachment details again!

Simply find the “Alt Text” box and fill that bad boy in:

Wordpress Image Attachment Details Alt Text

3. Adding Alt Tags in Your HTML Code

The last step is probably the most complicated, if you’re not comfortable or familiar with code.

That being said, if you do some custom coding or even just know some pretty basic HTML code, you should be able to handle this method if all else fails!

When you upload an image in HTML, the code looks something like this:

<img src=”linktoyourimagefilehere”>

In order to create an alt text for this image, you’ll need to add an Alt Attribute Tag to the code:

<img src=”linktoyourimagefilehere” alt=”Your Alt Text Here”>

And there you have it!

Now get moving, you’ve got some Alt Texts to add 🙂

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