We mentioned ALT Text in our Search Engine Optimisation jargon buster blog a few weeks back, and thought it warranted a bit more explanation… The bottom line is that it’s a pretty crucial element of search engine optimisation, and relatively easy to incorporate and yet it is often ignored.
It’s all about images…
Despite what you might think from the term, ‘ALT Text’ is actually all about images. More specifically, it’s text used to describe images that are posted on your web pages. People who use screen readers – visually impaired or blind internet users – rely on ALT Text to understand images on a web page. The screen reader is a software programme that ‘reads’ text on a computer using a voice synthesiser or braille display. By adding well-crafted ALT Text to an image, the screen reader can describe the image to the user. Incidentally, if you’ve got an image that serves no purpose other than to look pretty, you can give your image an ‘empty’ ALT Text attribute, so the screen readers skip over it.
So far so good, but what does all this have to do with SEO?
In addition to making the internet more accessible, ALT Text serves an important function in the search engine optimisation game. Google’s robots that scan internet content can’t read images so they will use the ALT Text assigned to an image to establish the content of the websites they are looking at. Google values ALT Text – in fact in their Image Publishing Guidelines, Google specifically explains how the bots use ALT Text to establish the relevance of images in response to search queries.
Well-crafted ALT Text is worth the effort
The dual purpose of ALT Text – making your website more accessible to internet users with visual impairments while at the same time improving its SEO – is a clear indication that you need to be taking more time to ensure that your ALT Text is properly written, and not just an afterthought (or worse, ignored altogether). When adding images, you can add ALT Text as html code. Some Content Management Systems, WordPress for example, make it easy, providing a text box to complete when you upload your image.
In the words of Google: “focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context”. The Image Publishing Guidelines give a great series of example of how to write ALT Text. You can use ALT Text to give meaning to a ‘buy it now’ button – so for example if you are selling candles online and you have a special offer selling candles for £1, and a call to action button linking to your online shop, the ALT Text could be “Buy lavender scented candle for £1”. If you make wedding cakes and have an image of a pink 3 tiered wedding cake on one of the pages, the ALT Text could be “cake” or “Wedding cake” but even better would be “three tiered pink wedding cake”. SEO Yoast suggests that you should have at least one image on each web page with ALT Text that contains one of your focus keywords for that page.
Don’t keyword stuff!
Beware, though! Stuff your ALT Text with keywords and you could be at risk of having your website being perceived as spam. Using the wedding cake example, ALT Text along the lines of “wedding, wedding cake, bride, groom, engagement cake, christening cake, celebration cake, wedding cake maker, weddings in Wales” would not be ideal.
ALT Text is a fairly simple, yet pretty fundamental aspect of your website and your search engine optimisation strategy. Keep it descriptive yet clear and concise and you should see an improvement in your SEO results. And if you need a hand – get in touch!