What is Alt Text?

Aaron Haynes
Jul 21
Quick navigation

Image Alt Text – Examples and Guidelines for 2021

SEO isn’t only written content. As the below image demonstrates, Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) show image results more frequently, meaning you should also target image results to get the most out of your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

‘Alt text’, a contraction of ‘alternative text’, is a brief written description of an image. In this article, we look at how you can optimize your website’s images and alt text for SEO and use your pictures to attract a more significant amount of relevant organic traffic to your website.

You’ll learn:

  • What is alt text?
  • Why is alt text important?
  • How to write good alt text
  • We’ll share three great examples of alt text

What is alt text?

Alt text is a short written description of an image.

Also referred to as “alt attributes” or “alt descriptions,” alt text descriptions are lines of HTML code that explain in words the content of the image and are one element of on-page SEO.

Traditionally, descriptive alt text was created so that digital screen readers could speak the alt text for images on a webpage. This function was used to describe the context of the image to website users with visual impairments.

Now, alt text also serves two other functions:

  1. If an image fails to load, the webpage will instead display the alt text. This helps visitors fully understand a website, even if the graphic files fail to load.
  2. Search engine crawlers, such as Google, Moz, use the alt text and the image file name to index and present it as a result to a search engine’s users’ search query.

It can be helpful to think of image alt text as the version of a webpage that Google sees, portrayed beautifully by this image from Blue Corona. It helps us understand what goes into the HTML attributes of an image:

We see the left-hand version, a visual image. But Google’s and other search engine crawlers see the right-handed version, a series of code.

Alt text is optimizing this code so that crawlers get more information about what is on a webpage.

Why is Alt Text Important?

Alt text is important to your SEO efforts because:

  • It gives you a head start on your competitors, many of whom might not be leveraging alt text
  • It is easy to do and can attract organic traffic to your website who otherwise might pass you by
  • It makes your website more user friendly, particularly for visually impaired users who use screen readers, and gives them a better user experience

Getting your alt text right is part of your on-page SEO down, which is essential if you’re to maximize the results from your off-page SEO efforts.

Alt Text FAQ

Image Alt text examples

One of the best ways to understand what alt text is is to take a look at some examples that show poor and good alt text use.

In this first example, the website editor has failed to comply with image SEO best practices. They have:

  • Failed to name the image properly
  • They have also failed to include any alt text

As you can see in the HTML code, search engine crawlers have no way of understanding that the image is a financial graph representing the Dow Weekly.

With an empty alt attribute, there is no alt text describing the image, and the image file (img src) name is irrelevant to the image. Thus, crawlers can never link that image to a relevant search query. Thus they can’t rank that image in their SERPs, as they have no information to contextualize it.

However, this example from Venngage.com is the first result we got from our Google search for “poster design ideas.”

As you can see, the HTML code for this image is optimized for recognition by search engines.

The image file name clearly states what the image shows (creative-poster-ideas), as does the alt text (Creative Poster Ideas).

Thus, search engine crawlers can understand precisely what the publisher desires to use these images for. They can also link this image with relevant search queries and present the result to searchers looking for this type of content, attracting more relevant organic traffic to the website.

How do you write good alt text (for SEO)?

Writing good alt text has a specific formula:

  1. Be specific. Be brief. Say what the image is about in as few words as possible.
  2. Don’t use terms like “image representing…” or “picture to show….”. These are irrelevant words and only confuse crawlers.
  3. Don’t do keyword stuffing in your alt text. Only use keywords if they suit your image and flow with the purpose of the article.
  4. Keep alt text for educational images, and use it sparingly for decorative images. For example, don’t use alt text on page dividers, borders, or branding graphics.

How important is alt text for SEO?

Adding alt text to your images is important for SEO because it gives Google and other search engines more information on your website.

Google is constantly updating its search engine algorithms to make sure its users get the most relevant results to their queries as possible. Thus, anything you can do to boost the relevance of your page is important for SEO.

While you can still rank well for search queries without using alt text, it should be included as part of a comprehensive SEO strategy to optimize your results in the shortest amount of time possible.

Summary

Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of alt text and its importance to SEO.

You can think of alt text like adding a brief description to a graph in history or science class. The description is there to help readers quickly understand the content and relevance of the graph – the same goes for image alt text.

By adding as much information as possible to your web page’s content, including images, you help search engine crawlers better understand and categorize your web page. In doing so, you make your page more rankable, which results in more organic traffic, which results in more sales. To see how we at Loganix can help improve your alt text and SEO, consider our SEO services. We’d love to help.

Written by Aaron Haynes on July 21, 2021

CEO and partner at Loganix, I believe in taking what you do best and sharing it with the world in the most transparent and powerful way possible. If I am not running the business, I am neck deep in client SEO.

Never miss an article again.

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best content directly to your inbox.

Now it’s your turn.

Now I’d like to turn it over to you to spark a debate or lead a new discussion.

What in this post were you excited about? What was useful? What would you like to read more about?

Or maybe you just have a question about something you read.

Either way, let us know in the comments below.