As online spaces have become more and more accessible, alt text has become an important part of the conversation. As a marketer, you may know that providing accurate alt text is essential for complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, what many miss is that creating SEO optimized alt text is an excellent opportunity to gain organic visibility and appeal to an untapped market.
In this blog post, we will discuss what image alt text is, why you need it, and how to create effective and SEO optimized alt text for your website.
What Is Image Alt Text?
Alt text, also known as alternative text, is a line of text that helps describe images used on websites.The primary purpose of using alt text is to help people with visual impairments access your site. When applied properly, alt text helps visitors who are visually impaired experience your site’s images through a screen reader.
ADA Compliance with Image Alt Text
While it may seem like a minor detail to some, serving proper alt text on your website is a legal requirement for companies operating in the United States. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), creating and optimizing your alt text is an essential part of accessible web design standards. 8% of the U.S. population, approximately 20 million Americans, experience visual impairments. Being ADA compliant means your website is able to reach and engage with a significant number of users and potential customers.
To ensure that you comply with ADA regulations, your website and online services must include image alt text to provide an equivalent online experience for disable and non-disabled users. With million dollar lawsuits hitting large corporations including Target and Domino’s Pizza for not including image alt text, not incorporating alt text on your website can leave your business liable to lasting legal ramifications.
Why Is Image Alt Text Important for SEO?
In addition to contributing to a more accessible internet, optimizing your alt text can help boost SEO. Implementing alt text fulfills an ADA requirement, but optimizing it for SEO creates an avenue to boost your organic rankings.
In addition to providing image context to your users, alt text provides a description of the image for screen readers and search engine crawlers. With the emphasis and focused advancement of Google image AI, optimizing your alt text for SEO helps major search engines like Google understand what is included in the image you are sharing, how it relates to your content and site as a whole, and communicate that to users searching the internet everyday.
Your image alt text can be one way to add keywords and phrases to your content. While providing screen readers with an accurate description of what is in the image this is also an opportunity to add related keywords to the alt text. For example if you have a photo of red shoes you could write an alt text that says “red shoes” or you could craft an alt text that says “red high heel pumps”. The more accurate descriptive alt text can help your image to come up in search results better than other less informative alt text.
With Google Search relying more heavily on image search results, having images with beneficial alt text on your site can give you an edge over your competitors.
Tips for Writing Effective Image Alt Text
Having proper image alt text is not only important for ADA compliance, it can bring your website a competitive edge in the search engine results page. Below are a few tips and best practices to keep in mind when optimizing your alt text for SEO:
1. Keep your alt text concise
When it comes to writing alt text, it is important to keep it short and sweet. According to the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1, your alt test should be no longer than 100 characters. So, for best practice, avoid lengthy descriptions or stuffing your alt text with irrelevant keywords. Instead, it is key to focus on describing the essence of the image in just a few words.
2. Provide Context
When writing your alt text, be sure to describe not only what an image shows, but also what it means within your overall site and content. Ultimately, descriptive context not only helps visitors better understand the purpose of your site’s visual content, it will also help search engine crawlers to better understand the purpose of your site as a whole. With this extra information, search engines like Google are better able to place your website in front of the right audience.
3. Include Relevant Keywords
Every solid SEO strategy begins with keywords. Including the right keywords in your alt text can help improve your website’s ranking in search results. However, don’t go overboard with including keywords in your alt text. In addition to depleting your already conservative character limit of 100, stuffing too many keywords into your alt text can actually hurt your organic ranking.
4. Avoid “Image of” or “Picture of”
A common mistake for writing alt text is starting with the phrase “image of…” or “picture of…” Since screen readers and search engine crawlers can immediately spot and identify image files, including it in your image alt text is a redundant gesture. Instead, use the extra character space to add as much relevant context and keywords as specific as possible to help improve both your SEO and the user experience on your website.
Alt text is often overlooked or forgotten, but it is an important part of any website’s accessibility and SEO. Optimizing your alt text is an important part of SEO and can help your website’s ranking in search engine results pages. At Direct Agents, all SEO clients receive an audit of their alt text and other key technical issues to ensure ADA compliance and bring your site to its full organic potential. By providing concise, optimized alt text for all of your images, SEO can improve your site’s search engine ranking while also making it more accessible for people with visual impairments.
Zhi Zeng, SEO Coordinator, Direct Agents