Image Alt Text Usage Recommendations

Guide for image alt (alternative) text usage recommendations, best practices to write & describe pictures using HTML for SEO & accessibility

Updated on February 13, 2024
Image Alt Text Usage Recommendations

Adding alt text for images is the first principle of web accessibility and SEO optimization. It is also one of the most difficult to implement correctly. The web is replete with images that have missing, incorrect, or poor alternative text. Like many things in web accessibility, determining appropriate, equivalent, and alternative text is often a matter of personal interpretation. Through examples, this comprehensive guide will teach image alt (alternative) text usage recommendations and best practices to write & describe pictures using HTML for SEO and accessibility.

Why Alt Text Matters

  1. Accessibility: Alt text ensures that all users, regardless of visual impairments, can understand the content on your website.
  2. SEO Benefits: Properly optimized alt text can boost your website’s ranking in search results by providing search engines with relevant keywords.
  3. User Experience: In scenarios where images cannot be displayed due to slow connections or technical issues, alt text offers a descriptive substitute, maintaining the user’s experience.

Image Alt Attributes And Title Attributes?

This is a complete HTML image tag:

<img src=“image.jpg” alt=“image description” title=“image tooltip”>

An image’s alt and title attributes are commonly referred to as alt tag or alt text and title tag. But technically, they’re not tags; they’re attributes. The alt text describes what’s on the image and the function of the image on the page. So if you use an image as a button to buy product X, the alt text should say: “button to buy product X.”

The alt tag is used by screen readers, browsers by blind and visually impaired people. These screen readers tell them what is on the image by reading the alt tag. When you hover over the element, the title attribute is shown as a tooltip. So, in the case of an image button, the image title could contain an extra call to action. However, this is not a best practice.

Context is Everything

When determining appropriate alternative text for images, context is everything. The alternative text for one image may be vastly different based on the context and surroundings of the image itself. Guide for image alt (alternative) text usage recommendations, best practices to write & describe pictures using HTML for SEO & accessibility.

Image Alt Text Best Practices

Ultimately, image alt text needs to be specific but also representative of the topic of the webpage it’s supporting. Get the idea so far? Here are a few essential keys to writing compelling image alt text with SEO in mind:

  1. Keep your alt text fewer than 125 characters. Screen-reading tools typically stop reading alt text at this point, cutting off long-winded alt text at awkward moments when verbalizing this description for the visually impaired.
  2. Use your keywords, but sparingly. Only include your article’s target keyword if it’s easily included in your alt text. If not, consider semantic keywords, or just the most important terms within a longtail keyword. For example, if your article’s head keyword is “how to generate leads,” you might use “lead generation” in your alt text since “how to” might be challenging to include naturally in the image alt text.
  3. Describe the image, and be specific. Use both the image’s subject and context to guide you.
  4. Don’t start alt text with “picture of…” or “Image of…” Jump right into the image’s description. Screen-reading tools (and Google, for that matter) will identify it as an image from the article’s HTML source code.
  5. Don’t cram your keyword into every single image’s alt text. If your blog post contains a series of body images, include your keyword in at least one of those images. Identify the image you think most represents your topic and assign it to your keyword. Stick to more aesthetic descriptions in the surrounding media.

How to Add Alt Text to an Image in WordPress

WordPress allows you to add Alt text for your images when you upload them using the built-in media uploader. You can also add alt text to an image by visiting Media » Library and clicking the Edit link below the picture. Tutorial for image alt (alternative) text usage recommendations, best practices to write and describe pictures using HTML for SEO & accessibility.

How to Add Image Title in WordPress

You will see a title field When you upload an image using the built-in WordPress media uploader. WordPress uses this title field to handle your media files and should not be confused with the title attribute used inside an image.

The title you add while uploading an image is only used by the WordPress media library to display the list of your media files. While this title will help you locate media files in the WordPress media library, it is not the title attribute we discuss. Here is how you would add the title attribute to your images in WordPress.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid

Overlooking Cultural Sensitivity

Always be mindful of cultural sensitivities when describing images. What might seem like a straightforward description to you could carry different connotations for people from diverse backgrounds. Aim for neutrality and inclusiveness in your descriptions.

Forgetting to Update Alt Text

If you update an image but the context or content changes, remember to update the alt text accordingly. Outdated alt text can confuse users and search engines, leading to a mismatch between the image and its description.

Ignoring SEO Opportunities

While it’s important not to force keywords into your alt text unnaturally, don’t miss the opportunity to optimize images for SEO. Research relevant keywords that align with your content strategy and incorporate them into your alt text where appropriate.

Conclusion

Incorporating thoughtful and well-crafted alt text is a small but powerful step toward creating a more inclusive and searchable online presence. Following these recommendations can improve your website’s accessibility and SEO, ensuring your content resonates with a broader audience. Remember, the goal is to make the internet a more navigable space for everyone, and alt text plays a crucial role in this mission. Start implementing these practices today and watch your content’s reach and impact grow.