How To Write SEO-Friendly Alt-Text For Images

The world of search engine optimization is constantly changing, shifting gears right beneath our feet – oftentimes without any warning or advance notice whatsoever.

For example, not all that long ago Google search results – main search results – started showing a flood of images in the traditional text only search engine results.

This pushed traditional “above the fold” search results (the most commonly visited search results) deeper and deeper down the page.

At the same time it allowed savvy marketers and search engine optimizers that understood the value of alternative text to quickly cannibalize the top spots and push a flood of targeted traffic to their pages versus their competitors.

In today’s hyper competitive business environment you simply can’t afford not to be updating your search engine optimization efforts on a regular basis, and you definitely can afford not to have alt text in place on your page any longer, either.

Image results are a valuable source of targeted organic traffic. But there also often overlooked. If you’re looking to gain a serious advantage over your competition – particularly when it comes to laser targeted search engine optimization campaigns – this isn’t a bad place to focus a lot of your energy.

Let’s dig a little deeper!

What Exactly Is “Alt Text”, Anyway?

Sometimes referred to as alternative text, alt tags, or alt descriptions all of these umbrella terms are used to describe the exact same functional text your website should be loaded with.

Every time you upload images to your website you have the opportunity to put in place “backup” alternative text should that image failed to load for one reason or another. In the past, when internet connections were ridiculously slow and not at all as reliable as they are today this text was very important – it concisely described to visitors the content in images that simply didn’t load.

Today, however, this alt text isn’t quite as important as a placeholder or as a replacement with internet connections as high-speed and as stable as they are right now. But it is a very valuable piece of the on page search engine optimization puzzle.

Adding Alt Text to Your Images

Every major Content Management System (CMS) – including WordPress, responsible for powering hundreds of millions of websites all over the world – gives you an easy opportunity to input alternative text on EVERY image (and really every piece of media) you upload to your site.

You’ll want to take advantage of these tools to streamline and speed up this process, particularly if the backend and administrative portion of your CMS makes this process straightforward.

Of course, you could also go the “old-school” route and handwrite the HTML code necessary to put alternative text on all of your images and your media (the tag is just the “alt=” tag). Most of the time you won’t have to go to these lengths, however – especially if you’re using modern CMS platforms to get your site up and running in the first place.

The real important thing to focus on here is being as descriptive and as specific with your alt text as humanly possible.

Not only should your alt text be laser targeted to the actual image you are having it “replace”, but it also has to be laser targeted to the audience that you are hoping to attract to your platform into your content – and it should also be crafted with a mind towards search engine optimization as well.

Tips and Tricks for Writing Better Alt Text

Keep Things Simple

The absolute worst thing you can do when writing alternative text (particularly when doing so for search engine optimization results) is to keyword stuff the description, to overload the alt text portion of this content, or to make it obvious to the search engine algorithms/spiders at Google that you’re looking to game the system.

Keep your alt descriptions types, concise, and limited to a single sentence that is highly descriptive. Try to stay under a dozen words or so if you can to improve your odds of success.

Be Specific

Secondly, you’ll want to make sure that you are as descriptive and as specific as possible when crafting your alt text.

Rather than writing all text for a picture of Tom Brady winning another Super Bowl as “football player wins championships”, you might instead write “Tom Brady wins his sixth Super Bowl for the New England Patriots”.

The more ultra specific and descriptive you get, the better your alt description becomes, and the more “search result juice” your alt description will bring to the table.

Context is King

It’s also important that you contextualize your image as much as possible, not only for the benefit of the visitors you have landing on your site should this content need to be displayed in place of your images but also for the search engine algorithms as well.

As opposed to writing “woman points at a computer screen” you might instead write “Local business school professor points to the computer screen of a student”.

You provide a lot more context for your visitors as well as the search engine algorithms that are going to use all of this text (and everything else) to determine where you should be positioned in the search engine results for the keywords you are going after.

A couple of other tips and tricks you want to keep in your back pocket include, but definitely aren’t limited to:

  • Try to keep your alt text limited to 125 characters or less
  • Eliminate “picture of…” and “image of…” and instead dive right into what you have to describe
  • Only include keywords in one or two alt text descriptions per page
  • Never keyword stuff any of your on page content, including alt text descriptions

Keep all of these key details in mind and you’ll have nothing to worry about when it comes to boosting your search engine results with the help of alt text tags like the ones we broke down above.

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