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What is ALT text and why should you be using it?16 Dec 2021

What is ALT text?

ALT text is the written description of visual media. This is usually found on images that add context to content on websites. It’s a contraction of Alternative text and is also referred to as ALT tags or ALT descriptions.

Why use ALT text?

ALT text is key to have on images when the user has a visual impairment and uses screen reader software to navigate a website. On images unable to be seen, Alt text will allow you to convey the contents of the image and give context.

In turn, it means your web pages are more accessible and can create a better user experience.

ALT text can also help your images appear at the top of search engines too. By using relevant and helpful keywords you will be able to enhance your SEO score. Search engines like Google will be able to contextualise your content and display it as a relevant search result.

How to use ALT text:

Here are some rules for using ALT text well.

Leave out ‘image of’ or ‘picture of’. If you were scrolling through a website and each picture read out to you is a “picture of”, it can get quite annoying. Try instead mentioning the type of image; an illustration or screenshot for example.

Your alt text is not a keyword turkey, stop stuffing! Your images aren’t going to be defined by a whole bunch of keywords. If you are cramming as many keywords as possible into your alt text, it may be hurting you rather than helping. Keywords are great for SEO purposes, but adding too many can confuse search engines with the context of the post. This will have a negative effect on your SEO. Try using 1 or 2 keywords at the most if they are relevant and helpful to the description.

Always include text that’s included in the image. This can be a key feature and important information could get lost if not added. Words within images are not picked up as words so the alt text will allow the user to read the words.

Don’t repeat yourself. It’s just as annoying as your Sony Walkman CD player, skipping and repeating the same line over and over again until you give it a whack. Try using other ways to describe the image. Being concise is key.

Not all images need a description. There are two main types of images on a webpage. Illustrative and decorative. Illustrative images help convey information by adding context to the words. This could be something like a diagram, graph, or even a house photo.
Decorative images, if taken away, wouldn’t make a difference to how you understand the words. Usually, they provide a visual break from the text and will normally be embedded into the site. You don’t need to add ALT text to decorative images

Here is an example of the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Bright red background, Text Christmas Opening hours, Christmas presents, ribbon and other red and green decorations to the right

BAD ALT TEXT: Christmas, Presents, Opening Hours, Tree, Estate Agent. 

This is bad because the ALT text has been stuffed full of “keywords” which doesn’t describe the image and is a bit jumbled.

BETTER ALT TEXT: Presents, ribbon and tree sprig. Christmas opening hours. 

This describes the image a little better and contextualises what the viewer is about to read

BEST ALT TEXT: “Bright red background, Text Christmas Opening hours, Christmas presents, ribbon and other red and green decorations to the right”

This is good as it’s short, describes the image and the context whilst also giving information.

To summarise, when done right ALT text can help not only SEO but more importantly produce a better user experience for all. 

Katie is a Freelance Copywriter living in rural Dorset with her daft old Labrador. She first started writing content for the property industry back in 2015, and loves nothing more than bringing brand voices to life!

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