ALT TEXT for SEO

Alt Text, also known as “alt attributes”, “alt descriptions” or “alt tags”, is a written description you place onto an image featured on your website. If an image were to ever fail loading on your website, Google can read the alt text of the image to rank you. Alt Text is not something you see written on or around the image on the front end of your website, but something that ends up being coded onto the image. You can see this by right clicking on any web page and hitting “inspect element”. When expecting the code for any image, you’ll see that in most cases, images on webpages typically have alt text.

How it looks in a coded format EXAMPLE

<img src=”videogames.png” alt=”videogames”>

Alt Text for Images Examples Below

What other articles will not tell you is the best way to assign alt text. It’s one thing to tell you to avoid over-doing or under-doing alt text, but another one to actually tell you how to apply it to your business. When you use alt text, you want to think what your article is about, not just about what the image is.

Below is a picture of some cheesecake bars (of sorts). Now, not only does the alt text need to be more descriptive for Google’s algorithm, but you need to know what audience you are trying to reach. The alt text should resemble that.

what-is-alt-text

Poor SEO: <img src=”cheesecake-bars.png” alt=”cheesecake-bars”>

This is SEO at its laziest. You can see by typing in cheesecake bars into Google. It returns about 83 million results, which means you have 83 million sets of content to compete with.

Okay SEO: <img src=”cheesecake-bars.png” alt=”berry-cheesecake-bars”>

This is better, but still has tons of competition. “Berry Cheesecake Bars” returns about 11.7 million results. By adding the word “berry”, you’ve gotten rid of over 70 million competitors.

Good SEO: <img src=”cheesecake-bars.png” alt=”blackberry-cheesecake-bars”>

Now we are getting somewhere. “Blackberry Cheesecake Bars” returns about 2.2 million results, you could stop here if you like with a solid chance on ranking for this highly searched keyword.

Great SEO: <img src=”cheesecake-bars.png” alt=”blackberry-cheesecake-bars-vanilla-pecan-crust”>

“Blackberry Cheesecake Bars on a Vanilla Pecan Crust” returns about 625,000 results, which means you have an amazing chance to rank for this long-tail keyword. The only downfall in this case is it is searched less than Blackberry Cheesecake Bars.

Why Alt Text is Important

Alt text is important for two reasons:

  1. Readability
  • Putting alt text on an image allows screen readers and browsers that block images to read what the image is about. This is beneficial for those that are visually impaired or not able to identify an image for any other possible reason. Believe it or not, 7.5% of users still use Internet Explorer, so expect these users to have longer loading times for images and videos.
  1. Machine Learning with Images
  • Just because Google’s algorithm can identify an image, doesn’t mean it’ll optimize it for SEO. If it were up to Google, it’d probably label the cheesecake bars as “Dessert”. Putting alt text on your images not only improves your SEO ranking, but it also improves Google’s algorithm by allowing it to see the image in the same way you do.

For example, Google might see the image below as a grumpy man with mustache sitting at a computer desk, when it’s the scene where Ron Swanson discovers the internet uses cookies to collect data and advertise to him, so he throws out the computer.

what is alt text

By using Alt text for SEO, you can let Google know so much more about this image, and help your audience find it.

How do I apply alt tags without code?

If you are not a coder, but have a website using a content management system or CMS platform like WordPress, Wix, Squarespace and others, you’re able to add alt text to an image as you upload it. It’s typically under a text input box labeled ‘alt text’. This is what it looks like in WordPress:

How to Write Good Alt Text

  1. Describe the image well. The more specific you are about the image, the greater chance you’ll rank for the relevant keyword you’re targeting. Keeping it under 125 characters is ideal.
  2. Avoid keyword cannibalism. If you try jamming too many keywords into your alt tags to rank for even semi-relevant terms, the outcome backfires. Referring to the cheesecake bars, making your alt text something like “black raspberry cheesecake bars cheesecake dessert desserts date night dessert fancy cheesecake bites” will negatively impact your SEO. Google won’t take points away from you, but, it will get confused on which of those keywords you’re attempting to rank for.
  3. Don’t replace text with images. Images alone will not make your article rich in SEO. You still need to have at least 500 words in an article for Google to find it beneficial to users. We recommend writing articles with at least 1,200 words for best results.
  4. Don’t include image or picture of in the alt text. Google already knows the alt tags applies to images, so you don’t have to specify it.
  5. Longdesc=”” for HTML, Description in CMS. If you need to place a longer description on your image, say if you’re selling a complex product on Amazon, you can use long descriptions to go over 125 characters.

Is SEO Free?

Unlike Pay Per Click or PPC Marketing, SEO is more budget friendly depending on how you intend on using it. Hiring a marketing agency to manage and improve your SEO will obviously cost you. But if you’re willing to pay in with time and effort, you can implement SEO on your own for free. Answer The Public is a great free tool you can use to search for keywords daily. There is a limit, but it’s better than Moz’s free tool that only gives you 10 search queries per month.

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If you need free image content, Pexels is a great website to acquire free image content for your website. If you are selling or advertising something you cannot get an image for on Pexels, Peter Mckinnon discusses how you can take great photos from your mobile phone.

If you’d like to learn more about SEO and budget friendly ways to start your business, we’re starting a YouTube channel that goes more in depth on SEO and marketing tactics. Click here to check it out.