What is image alt text and why is it important?

Having a website with good usability is key. Here’s a simple way to ensure that.

What is image alt text?

Visuals are an important part of any website. They help us understand and process information better as well as make your web pages a bit more appealing. But you also want to make sure that you create the best user experience (UX) for all of your visitors and that’s where alternate (alt) text can help. It not only increases the accessibility of your site but also helps with your search engine rankings.

Here is everything you need to know about image alt text and the best way to implement it.

What is image alt text?

Images can serve different purposes, for example, adding visual appeal or additional information. Alt text is a description of the purpose of an image on a webpage. It’s used to improve the accessibility of your website so that visually impaired users can still access the information that your image is trying to relay. Alt text is also displayed when an image fails to load.

Why is alt text important?

Sometimes, images are more than just for decorating your website. They can hold information that increases the value of your content. For example, a chart. If your user were reading your blog post about the increase in raspberry sales in the UK over the past decade, they might benefit from seeing a chart depicting the increase. But, if for some reason they can’t access the chart, you still want them to benefit from it so they don’t have a less positive experience.

And humans aren’t the only ones that appreciate visual enhancement. Although they can’t see images, bots can read them and that’s another reason why alt text is important. Search engine crawlers use it to index web pages. They also read alt text to gain a better understanding of the information on your pages.

Does alt text improve Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)?

Yes, alt text can improve SEO because it’s a key search engine ranking factor. As mentioned, crawlers use alt text to index pages. They read them so that they can better understand what your web page is about and then rank its relevance. So adding alt text to your images can lend the crawlers a helping hand so that they can rank you for the content that you want to rank for.

How to write effective alt text

Writing alt text isn’t just about stringing together a few words and hoping for the best. There are a few rules that you should follow to optimize your images effectively. These include:

  • Be as specific as possible

Alt text explains what’s going on in an image so it’s important to do it right. Try to convey the image’s message or meaning clearly so that you’re adding value to and understanding your content for those who can’t see the image.

  • Be concise

While it might be easy to get carried away with the description, you should remember to keep it short and concise to retain clarity. It’s advisable to not use more than 125 characters for alt text. 

  • Include keywords

Don’t forget that search engine crawlers look for alt text so including your keywords will help your content rank for relevant search queries. But you shouldn’t stuff them in if it doesn’t make sense to do so. 

  • Use SEO best practices

Alt text can help you with your SEO so you should still follow SEO best practices. For example, while adding keywords in alt text can boost your rankings, you should avoid keyword stuffing. You want the alt text to be helpful and if you overload it with too many keywords, your content could lose relevance.

  • Add context where it’s needed

Sometimes an image may be based on the context on the page. For example, you may be reading about the first day of exams at a college and then scrolling down to see an image of a group of students. Instead of describing the image as just a group of students, try to add context like “College students nervously waiting to write their first exams.” 

  • Don’t include “this is a picture/image of”

Google and screen readers know when they come across an image so adding that it is one in your alt text becomes redundant.

Good examples of alt text

A group of friends ending their day at the beach around a campfire

Alt text: A group of friends ending their day at the beach around a campfire


tutor helping student

Alt text: A Business School tutor helping a student with their assignment during class

Woman standing in snow

Alt text: A lady in an orange puffer jacket standing in front of a wooden lodge in the snow

Final thoughts

Alt text can improve your site’s accessibility and SEO. Remember to add value to your content with alt text so that all your visitors have an optimal experience. When writing alt text, ask yourself what the purpose of the image is, how can you describe it concisely and accurately,  if you’re using the correct terminology and what the best way is to convey the message, for example, using a list.

If you’re struggling with SEO and need a little boost, our experts can help you improve your rankings. Contact us today for a free quote.

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