Why You Should Add ALT Text to Your Images

In last week’s article, I talked about having a website that is ADA compliant – especially for the visually impaired. One of the requirements for an ADA compliant website is using ALT Text for your images. Also called “alt tags” and “alt descriptions,” alt text is “the written copy that appears in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load on a user’s screen.” (Source)

Benefits of Using ALT Text On Your Website

  • Visually Impaired: Screen readers allow visually impaired users of the web to know what an image looks like. If there’s no ALT Text, the screen reader can’t describe the image. By having a good ALT Text description in place, the reader can have a better understanding of what the image is all about. 
  • Image Doesn’t Load: In the case that an image doesn’t load, the ALT Text will display so you don’t have to wonder what the image looked like. 
  • SEO Functionality: As smart as Google is, it can’t look at a picture and know what it is. If you have your ALT Text in place, Google can “read” what it’s about and thus help in your search rankings.
How To Write Good ALT Text

Main Rules to Follow:

  • 1. Be Descriptive – let the reader know what the picture is about. You don’t need to go overboard but you don’t want to limit it to just a couple of words either.
  • 2. Add Keywords – add the keywords that you want to rank for in your description. However …
  • 3. Don’t Stuff It With Keywords – that is, write the ALT Text as a description and not just a list of keywords. That doesn’t work for Google and can actually hurt you more than it can help you. 

Here’s a good, better and best example of my favorite picture I’ve taken of Hamilton, MT.

  • Good: Hamilton
  • Better: Downtown Hamilton Montana 
  • Best: Aerial view of Hamilton Montana looking west down Main Street

Notice I didn’t include my business name or anything about building websites (my keywords). They didn’t apply to this image. No need to “stuff” the ALT Text with unnecessary words that a) aren’t helpful and b) could hurt my SEO.

Where You Add the ALT Text

This is actually easier than writing the ALT Text and coming up with the description! Because the sites I build are done in WordPress, I’ll explain how you add them using the WordPress platform. 

  • Login to your website to access WordPress dashboard.
  • Click on Media in the upper left corner of the dashboard.
  • Select an image … and then locate the Alternative Text field on the right side.
  • Add your descriptive text and then close the image with the X in the upper right corner.

That’s it! You can go back to perviously uploaded images and add your ALT Text … and then with every picture you upload moving forward you can add the ALT Text as you go along. 

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