How To Use Alt Text for SEO

How To Use Alt Text for SEO

4 min
02 May 2022

What Are Alt Texts?

Let’s first very briefly cover alt texts. They began as a screen-reader tool to describe images to visually impaired persons.

It has evolved to appear in place of an image on a website when it doesn’t load correctly.

Alt texts also allow your site to rank higher in Google’s SERPs because it helps search engines understand pictures with a purpose on your website since they can’t see them. 

Overall, alt texts create a better experience for visitors to your site, so you’ll want to make sure you implement and optimize them.

How To Use Alt Text According to John Mueller

During an office-hours hangout, Mueller answered many questions about alt text. According to this expert, adding alt text to images is essential for search engines to comprehensively crawl your website.

According to Mueller during the meeting, “(alt-text) helps search engines to understand what this image is about.” He also mentions that you should have different text for your alt text. That way, it better helps those who use screen readers. 

Plus, having different text for images is something search engines look for! Mueller doesn’t recommend reusing alt text in images. He explains it in the following quote from the office hangout:

“I wouldn’t just blindly copy and paste the same text that you already have… because that doesn’t help search engines, and it doesn’t help people who rely on screen readers.”

How Alt Text Impacts SEO

If you want your image to rank higher in image searches, alt text is extremely helpful from an SEO standpoint. According to Mueller, focusing on increasing accessibility will generally also boost your site’s SEO.

Alt texts also help search engines better identify the image and recommend them to others when they want to find them. However, they also slightly impact the rest of the page. 

According to a Tweet by Mueller clarifying his statements from the hangout, he describes Google as reading alt texts as another part of the webpage. Its main purpose is to rank images higher in an image search, not always a general web search.

Not having alt texts can drastically negatively impact your SEO! Search engines can’t understand images without alt text, causing them to rank your page lower than those using alt texts correctly.

Overall, if you’re working on your webpage’s SEO, don’t forget to add brief and descriptive alt texts to your images! You’re harming your website and making it less accessible if you don’t add a descriptive alternative text.

How To Use Alt Text Correctly

A question asked during the session brought up whether you still need to write alt text for products when there’s already descriptive text beneath a product. However, the alt text replaces the image, making it easier for screen readers.

So, if you have an eCommerce site that places text under your images, you still want to have alt text for your product images. While it may seem redundant at first- it’s not! You’re helping your site rank higher in SEO terms while making it accessible for people.

The alt text also helps Google understand what the image is. Still, you need to make sure you are not duplicating text in your alt texts. According to Mueller, the best practice is to have the product’s title under the image. At the same time, the alt text describes the item without saying the product’s name.

Best Way To Use Alt Text

When writing good alt text, you need to be descriptive yet concise. You can try describing the image aloud, then writing down what you say. Most of the time, a few words is all you need.

People who use screen readers also recommend that you avoid using the phrase “Image of…” as it can become very repetitive for them. Harvard recommends using testing tools to check your alt text after you have it on your site. The group also suggests that you make sure all images describe actions instead of appearances.

Lastly, use keywords sparingly in your alt text for SEO purposes. Search engines may lower your rank due to keyword stuffing if you do! Your main objective should be to use alt text to accurately and quickly describe an image. If you can do that, your website is sure to benefit.

Overall, using alt text correctly (and with screen reader users in mind) can help your website rank higher in SEO. Plus, more people will be able to enjoy your content online!

When To Not Use Alt Text

There are still instances you won’t want to use alt text! These situations include images or decorative graphics. 

For example, you won’t need to add alt text to a divider on your page. These images generally don’t provide more content to the site, so you don’t need to include more context. A person using a screen reader doesn’t necessarily need to know where all your graphic dividers are. Alt text on these graphics can make it harder for them to navigate your website.

Overall, make sure to use common sense when adding alt text! You’ll do just fine.

Trust the SEO Experts!

To summarize, SEO experts, such as John Mueller, can offer a lot of insight into how to boost your results. If you want your brand’s site to rank higher, a great place to start is with accessibility. The more you focus on making your site accessible, the better it will do with SEO.

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