Although the primary purpose of alt text is for accessibility, did you know that properly optimized alt text can help your organic visibility in Google image search1? With about 1 billion people using Google Images daily, Google has stated that about 10.1% of their daily search traffic can be attributed to images.google.com2.
However, many websites neglect image optimization as a crucial step. Failing to optimize your images is a missed opportunity to capitalize on valuable organic search traffic.
When search engines crawl your pages, they are not able to understand image files without alt text present. By properly optimizing your images by adding alt text, search engines will be able to better understand the content of your pages – and your visually-impaired users will have a much better user experience.
In this blog, we are going to discuss what alt text is, how to write SEO-friendly alt text for images to boost your website’s overall optimization efforts to help drive traffic to your website from Google Images.
Alt text, also known as alternative text, alt tag or alt attribute, is a written image description. When a visually impaired user relies on a screen reader, that screen reader is able to read the alt text of an image to provide the user with a full understanding of the graphical elements on a web page.
But since search engines are able to crawl alt text, it provides an opportunity to use keywords within the alt text to help boost organic visibility in Google Image Search. However, alt text needs to be written naturally and descriptively, so optimizing for search engines should come second to providing clear, well-written alt text intended for the visually impaired.
First, let’s take a look at some examples images with both good and bad alt text.
For this first example, we’re using a picture of our Analytics Specialist at Sagepath Reply.
Bad Alt Text: Man with computer.
Good Alt Text: Smiling male analytics specialist working on laptop in front of window.
Notice how there is much more detail in the “good” version of the alt text that helps paint a visual picture of the image for someone who might not be able to see it clearly, or at all. We also were able to add the keyword “data analytics specialist”, since this image alt text is being used on an About page, indicating the intent of the image on its respective page.
It’s also important to note that the “good” version of the alt text in this example is 76 characters long, which aligns with character count best practices.
Bad Alt Text: Person playing piano.
Good Alt Text: Two hands playing upright piano with bottle and glass of Sazerac whiskey sitting on top of it.
Again, the “good” alt text has much more detail than the “bad” version. In this example, we call out the Sazerac whiskey, since this image relates to a Sagepath Reply case study about Sazerac House.
Search engines can’t understand the content and context of your images unless alt text has been set. When alt text has been written for your images, search engines are able to understand the image based on the words you provide, which helps them properly index and rank an image in Google Image search. Alt text also gives more content to the content on your page.
The best practices for writing alternative text for your images is pretty simple. Follow these guidelines to ensure your alt text meets SEO best practices.
Keyword stuffing isn’t just a bad thing when you’re writing copy – it also goes against best practices when writing alt text. Use your primary target keyword, when possible, in a natural way. If it’s not possible to include a keyword naturally in your alt text, don’t include it.
You also shouldn’t write alt text that is simply a string of keywords, or even a single keyword. Picture in your head an image of a pair of red athletic sneakers that both men and women can wear:
Fitting in as many keywords as possible goes against image SEO best practices. Since crawlers can read alt text, keyword stuffing not only oversaturates your website’s keywords and decreases the impact they have on rankings, but also doesn’t tell a visually impaired user any real information about the image. This results in a poor user experience and also goes against accessibility guidelines.
Depending on the number of images you have on your website, writing well optimized alt text can be a daunting task. At Sagepath Reply, our team of Search Engine Optimization experts can help streamline your efforts by bringing years of experience to the table. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you optimize your alt text, from creating a strategy to writing it for you.
Dylan Goldman, Sr. SEO & Web Content Manager | Sagepath Reply
Dylan is a search engine optimization and web content expert with over 15 years of experience successfully optimizing websites to increase their organic visibility and drive organic traffic.