High-Quality Alt Text: 2 Reasons for Helpful Metadata!
Using informative alt text helps accessibility and SEO
Alt text is a hidden attribute of images that is not displayed on the page but still conveys context to screen readers and search engines. You can find it by looking for it in the code for a webpage or using specialized software.
It helps ensure good SEO performance and provides accessibility for people who are visually impaired.
This blog post will explore why alt text matters, how we identify when it’s missing, and tips for writing good image metadata.
What is alt text?
Alt text is short for alternative text. It is metadata that is like a caption but written to describe the image itself, not how it applies within the content’s context.
The primary function of image metadata is ensuring accessibility for visually impaired people by communicating information about an image so that users can interpret it without visuals.
Screen readers help people with visual impairments understand what is on the page. Browsers that block images also use alt text in place of the missing picture.
Including high-quality alt text makes your content viewable by everyone, regardless of visual capabilities.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engines use image metadata when searching for the meaning of a page. So by providing detailed informative metadata for the images on your page, you’re giving search engines better information about what’s on your page and saving them the processing power required for images.
Think of search engine crawlers as other users. They don’t “see,” but they still need information about the content so they can return relevant search results.
Adding valuable images to your page enhances the experience of both users and crawlers. However, if the crawlers can’t understand the meaning or get the interpretation wrong, your content may miss ranking goals.
How to find alt text
Viewing alt text is done by inspecting the code if you don’t use a screen reader or other accessibility tools. Click on any image using your inspector tool, and you’ll go to the relevant area of the code.
The metadata we’re looking for is in quotes, after alt=
Using specialized software is another way of discovering the alt text on a page. For example, screaming Frog—used mainly for search engine optimization—displays all metadata for every image scanned on the website.
Having all the alt text in one place makes optimizing your metadata easier since you know if any images are missing the data or if it’s not informative.
Tips for writing good alt text
- Be specific. Your image metadata should describe the image as precisely as possible. When talking about people in the picture, don’t include any interpretations about motivation, gender, race, or age. Imagine you’re describing what you see over the phone for someone recreating the image.
- Include keywords where applicable. When it comes to SEO, the goal of any post is ranking for particular keywords. The images used in the content should add to the relevance of these chosen keywords. Adding those keywords to the alt text makes sense, as long as they are applicable and relevant. Adding keywords to images that don’t apply could result in search engines thinking you are keyword stuffing.
- Don’t add alt text to decorative photos. The most commonly included images that don’t require specialized metadata are brand logos. They don’t provide any information to the user or crawler and therefore are purely decorative.
- Keep it short. Use as many words are necessary, conveying the central theme of the image. Most screen readers cut off at 125 characters, so check your work if your descriptions tend to run long.
- Don’t include “image of” or “picture of.” Don’t use up part of your character allotment on these two phrases or anything like them. It’s already assumed you’re describing an image, so get right into the purposeful meat of the content.
Using alt text on your website
Informative alt text helps people with visual impairments and search engine crawlers understand the images on your page. Providing accurate data to search engine crawlers helps ensure they display your content in the search results for your preferred keywords.
Keeping your alt text short, specific, and relevant for the best results. Unnecessarily using particular keywords could result in search engines thinking you are keyword stuffing.
If you are interested in more information about how alt text can improve your accessibility and rankings, give us a call or reach out via our contact page. We can develop a strategy that guarantees you’re taking advantage of this critical piece of metadata!
Eduardo · July 10, 2021 at 1:21 am
Excellent article. From an accessibility point of view the W3C has working examples and best practices regarding images an alternative text on this page https://www.w3.org/WAI/tutorials/images/
Algorithmic Global · July 16, 2021 at 4:55 pm
Thank you, Eduardo!