Millions of Americans have a visual impairment or are blind, and those numbers are expected to increase in the coming years. Making the Web more accessible is a primary concern for this group. Keep reading to find out all you need to know from the top Scottsdale SEO agency in Arizona… Phoenix SEO!
Alt text for images is one key factor in this. What might surprise you is how important alt-text is for not just accessibility but for your Scottsdale SEO too.
Why is alt text so important to SEO, and how can you make sure you’re adding it for your website? This guide provides the answers to these questions and more.
Adding Alt Text to Your Images
The term alt text is short for “alternative text.” In all technicality, it stands for an attributed used in HTML code. The information encoded in the tags describes the appearance or function of an image on the page.
These are sometimes known as “alt attributes” or “alt descriptions.”
If you’re working in the back end of your website, you can add them to the HTML code any time you have an image. Inside the “img src” tag, you’ll add “alt=” before closing the tag.
Following the alt tag, you’ll add your description in quotation marks.
If you’re using a content management system like WordPress, then the process for adding alt text is a little different. In the post or page editor, simply click on an image. The right-hand sidebar will display “Media and Text settings,” which includes a box for entering alt text.
Other platforms will allow you to enter alt text in other ways. Even Twitter encourages users to add alt text to images and GIFs they want to tweet.
Why Does Alt Text Matter?
Before diving into tips to optimize your alt text for SEO purposes, it helps to review how alt text affects your SEO efforts.
As noted above, millions of Americans have visual impairments. Blindness and low vision may prevent them from seeing websites. To correct this, people can use screen readers.
Unfortunately, screen readers can’t “read” images. They can, however, read alt text. When you supply alt text, you make it so people with visual impairments can “see” your images.
As noted, this is going to be even more important in the coming years, as the number of people with visual impairments is expected to rise.
Some people may also use screen readers for other reasons. Some people may use one temporarily after having eye surgery or after an accident. Other conditions, such as dyslexia, may make a screen reader appealing.
Alt text thus makes your images and your website more accessible for more people.
Mobile and the Push for Accessibility
Until recently, there hasn’t been a lot of concern about accessibility. Some legal decisions have made website owners sit up and take notice. An example is a court request for UC Berkeley to make its online content accessible.
Some take this to mean that businesses could be penalized if they fail to provide accessible websites for their clients.
A bigger push toward accessibility has come from the increasing adoption of mobile technologies. Mobile demands lighter, faster websites. It also has a variety of screen sizes, and poor connections may mean images don’t load quickly or at all.
Providing alt text can be a solution to these challenges. The website can rely on the alt text to speed up loading times or to optimize display on certain devices. Good mobile design is often accessible web design.
Google has been the deciding factor in increasing mobile-friendliness and accessibility. The search engine giant has seen how the two go hand in hand, and recent changes to their algorithm reflect this.
To that end, Google’s started mobile-first indexing, as well as ranking sites on their mobile-friendliness. Page speed and more factor into this.
Another factor in the ranking algorithm? If you guessed alt text, you’re right.
Why Include Alt Text in SEO?
One reason may be that alt text actually helps Google’s own web crawlers. Much like screen readers, web crawlers can’t actually “read” images. The alt text description provides them with more information about the image.
That makes it easier for the crawlers to contextualize your page. With a better understanding of what the page is about, Google can better match your content to search queries.
Google’s entire aim is to direct users to the page that best answers their queries. They want to be sure users are getting an optimal experience.
Alt text can improve the user experience, both for those with disabilities and those who are using mobile devices. When you consider that, it makes perfect sense why Google would consider alt text as part of good SEO.
Alt Text Tips for Better Scottsdale SEO
Now that you understand why alt text is so important for your SEO and for your users, it’s time to learn how to write better alt descriptions.
The first tip is to keep in mind that alt text is short. You usually won’t have more than 140 characters. That used to be the same length as a tweet or an SMS message.
It’s also about the length of a meta description. You don’t need to describe your images in painstaking detail. Just telling your readers what the image is will often be enough.
Decorative images, like your company logo, may not need a description. It’s still a good idea to add an alt description. You can keep it vague, like “company logo.”
There’s no need to include “picture of” or “image of” in alt text. It’s assumed that the screen reader can parse that much. Save your characters for important information.
Alt Text Isn’t a Caption
Another key point to keep in mind is that alt text is not a caption. Captions are intended for people who are seeing the image. They may comment on some attribute of the image or offer a pithy insight.
Alt text should describe what the image is or information sighted visitors can glean from looking at the image.
If you provide both a caption and alt text, make sure they work together to describe the image. Screen readers can read the caption, and captions will load even if images don’t.
Don’t duplicate the caption as your alt text. Each should be unique and add value. Never editorialize in the alt text.
Use LongDesc for Complex Images
What about alt text for something like an infographic? You may have a complex diagram or another image that shows how to do something.
Alt text isn’t appropriate for these types of images. You can still provide it, but remember that your alt text should be short.
If you need a longer description, then add the longdesc tag to your HTML. You can also provide a link to explanatory text.
Include SEO Keywords in Alt Text
Including alt text with your images is one way to improve your SEO. Whenever it’s possible, though, you should try to include SEO keywords.
If the images are relevant to your topic, this won’t be too hard. If you’re writing about Bitcoin, for example, your alt text might simply say “A single Bitcoin in front of a stock market ticker.”
This is pretty good alt text. It includes your keyword, and it tells the reader what’s in the image. It doesn’t editorialize.
It also doesn’t provide unnecessary information, like what color the stock market ticker is. Provided it doesn’t overlap with your caption, this alt text would score some pretty good points.
If your keyword isn’t “Bitcoin” or “stock market,” though, you may have a harder time ensuring your keywords are in the alt text.
You have two choices here. One is to reconsider your image choice. If you can’t get the keyword in the alt text, is the image relevant to your content?
The other is to leave your keyword out of the alt text. It’s better to describe the image accurately than to try and stuff a keyword into the alt text.
Avoid stuffing keywords into alt text.
Form Buttons and Text as an Image
If you use an image as a button anywhere on your site, be sure to include alt text. Otherwise, people may not know to click it or what it will do.
You should also avoid making text into images. It’s not recommended to put up a picture of a letter, for example, because the screen reader can’t read it.
If you do need to provide text as an image, include a long description or a plain-text copy of it for accessibility.
SEO Doesn’t Need to Be Difficult
Alt text is just one of the many factors that can help boost your Scottsdale SEO. There are many other simple adjustments that can give your website a boost.
Need help with your SEO strategy? It’s time to call in the experts. Discover how simple SEO can be when you have the right partner on your side.