Why do images need alt text? And what is it, anyway? I bet you just sit around, idly counting ceiling tiles, wondering about the meaning of alt text.
Nah. Chances are you don’t even know what alt text is. But you should care to know about this often overlooked, but very important, feature of SEO. So I’ll tell you.
Meet your little friend, alt text.
Just like your name identifies you, alt text (aka, alternate text) identifies an image.
On each of the images on your WordPress website, when you place it or edit it, there are specific fields for information. First comes the URL. That usually gets filled in automatically, so all you need to know is that it’s there. Next is the title. Make it the same as your page or post title for easy connection.
Then comes the caption. Sometimes this is a good place to put your keywords too, since it will show up along with the image, on your website. If you don’t want the caption showing on your page, the description is a great place to put additional keywords. It will still get noticed by the crawl spiders, but it won’t display on your page. Think of it as a notation on the back of a photograph.
Following the caption is Alt Text. The term is short for ‘alternate text’, and it’s what appears if for some reason the image doesn’t show. Broken links, very small screens, Win95, whatever. It’s also called ‘alt tag’, and has another important function. When a visually impaired or blind person hovers over the image on your website page, their screen reader vocalizes the text in the alt text/alt tag. Clearly, images need alt text.
Make the message fit the purpose.
Depending on the function of the image, put various messages there. If your image illustrates a product, input a call to action such as, ‘Buy your Texas tee shirt now for $25’. This will cover both situations, whether the image doesn’t display for you, or whether you need to have the message read to you. If your image is intended to explain a part of your content, a call to action isn’t necessary (unless you feel otherwise). Your alt text here could say, ‘Texas tee shirt design Texas/Not Texas’.
In both examples, use the same keyword/key phrase. Here, we’ve chosen ‘Texas tee shirt’. You still have your identifier, but it’s used in different ways.
Stuff your turkey, not your keywords.
Suppose you have several images on the same page or post. You want to optimize them all for basically the same thing, but using the same keyword or key phrase will actually hurt your search results. Not only is it a spammy practice, but the search engine crawl spiders will lose interest and go elsewhere. They know when you’re trying too hard.
Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer and you want to post the images of the most recent celebration. There are at least 100 photos, and while they are all from the same event, each is different somehow. Use that to your advantage. Remember, images need alt text, and everyone needs a name. It’s how we identify ourselves and each other. The same goes for your images.
You will have already developed a relationship with the bride and groom before the Big Day, so you know at least some of the people in their wedding party. Decide on a basic keyword or phrase. Here let’s choose, ‘Ham & Cheese wedding’. Add a modifier to set apart each image and make it easier for a searcher to find the photos they want. To find adorable images of the ring bearer, make your alt text, ‘Ham & Cheese wedding ring bearer Horseradish Condiment’. For more than one ring bearer image, add 1, 2, 3, 4 or however many you need.
Presumably you also have photos of Mr. and Mrs. Condiment, parents of little ring bearer Horseradish. Their alt texts might be, ‘Ham & Cheese wedding Mr. Sea Salt Condiment’ and ‘Ham & Cheese wedding Mrs. Dijon Condiment’. She’s French, you know. This way, a search for ‘Ham & Cheese wedding Condiment’ will turn up results for the whole family. Much easier than looking through 100 or so photos to find 3.
Location has a place in alt text too.
In the previous example, the location of the wedding should be added to your image alt text. Make sure it gets included to avoid confusion later. You may have shot the Ham & Cheese wedding in Smithfield, VA and later the bride’s sister marries the groom’s brother. So, there’s another Ham & Cheese wedding to identify correctly. In a perfect world, they’ll be married somewhere else, perhaps Green Bay, WI. Your basic alt text entries would look like this: ‘Ham & Cheese wedding Smithfield VA ring bearer Horseradish Condiment’ or ‘Ham & Cheese wedding Green Bay WI groom Cheddar Cheese’.
Are you beginning to understand why images need alt text?
Images need alt text! Really!
But if both couples have their events in the same locale, add the date to distinguish between the two. Like this: ‘Ham & Cheese wedding Smithfield VA 1/1/18’ and ‘Ham & Cheese wedding Smithfield VA 7/4/18’. In the case of a double wedding, you could use each couple’s names: ‘Ham & Cheese wedding Smithfield VA 8/18/18 Virginia & Cheddar’ and ‘Ham & Cheese wedding Smithfield VA 8/18/18 Spiral & Stilton’.