Alt Text stands for alternative text. This is the text you type to help computers identify what an image is about. The alt text is a separate text you type in your content management system. It helps people with visual impairment.
But how does it help SEO? And what steps should you take to optimize your website images through the alt text attribute? Today, you will learn several tips on how to optimize your website’s images using the alt text attribute.
Use the proper file name
Images from phones have a default naming convention. For example, many phones use names like IMG _12345. What I strongly recommend is that you name your file the way it should be. What I mean is that the name should be relevant to what the image is about.
For example, instead of IMG_12345, rename the file as cat-jumping-away-from-cucumber.jpg. Never upload the image with the default file name.
Why is this important? A descriptive file name makes it easier for search engines to understand what the image is. No matter how advanced technology is, computers still do not see images. Search engines like Google rely on names.
If you name your file correctly, Google is going to index that image and its source URL accordingly, thus improving your chances of ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs), especially on image search.
Use long descriptive alt text
Once you have renamed the file, you can now upload the image to your content management system. From there, you can start your alt text optimization.
An alt text has to be long. If the picture is that of a black cat, do not just use “black cat” as your alt text. A better alt text is “black cat in living room jumping away from cucumber.”
Any computer that reads this will give a visually impaired person a clear idea of what the image is about. In this case, a cat in the living room jumping away from a cucumber.
The next benefit to this is that search engines will not only index the text based on the image’s file name, but they will also index the text from your alt text.
Use Alt Text if you are linking out
Sometimes, we link out to other websites using images. In this case, the image itself is hyperlinked to another website. You need to think of your alt text as the anchor text.
No, the alt text is not actually linked to an outside source, but it is the image. Usually, we put captions below our images, right? What you can do is to use the same texts in the caption and the alt text.
In our example earlier, we used the alt text “black cat in living room jumping away from cucumber.” If you are linking the image to another page, you have to use the same text in your caption.
Why is this important?
Google looks at both the caption and the alt text, and then it tries to make sense of how it is related to the web page you are linking out to. It is possible that you can link an image to another page on your website.
If Google could read the alt text, it has better chances of putting that image on the top of SERPs about images. It could also understand that the image is that of a “black cat in living room jumping away from cucumber,” and the algorithm will try to make a connection between that text and the web page you are linking to.
Do not use alt text on all images
There is a common misconception that alt text optimization is applied to all images. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are images on your site that do not need alt text optimization. For example, you do not need to use alt text for icons. There are also times when you need to add a stock image for a slider. You do not need alt text for that.
Always remember that alt text optimization is only for two reasons: search engines and by helping the visually impaired.
If you do not think an alt text is necessary, just leave the alt text area blank. However, you still have to rename the file properly. Some text readers will read the file name if there is no alt text found.
Write the alt text correctly
My last tip is that you should write your alt text the right way. Earlier, I mentioned that it should be long. On top of that, here are some more things to consider:
- Brevity – use long alt text, but each word must matter
- Use keywords – use your main keyword once in the alt text, but no more than that; do not stuff your alt text with keywords or Google will penalize you for it.
- Do not say it is an image – it is a waste of words. Do not say “this is an image of…” Text readers, humans, and search engines know already that this is an image.
You also need to keep watch of redundancy. Do not use the same alt text and file name. It is okay to use the alt text as a caption from time to time, but not always. I would only recommend using alt text and caption the same way if you are linking the image out.
Bonus tip: Resize your images
Here is a bonus tip about images, but not necessarily for alt texts.
Even if you are using WordPress, there are default media sizes that these tools use. For example, if the media size of your WordPress theme is 500 x 500 pixels, the “frame” for that image is 500 x 500 pixels.
If you upload an image that is 350 x 350 px, WordPress will stretch that photo to compensate for the 150 x 150 px that you are missing on both sides.
And what happens?
Your image becomes blurry. If it is blurry, your site visitor will not like the experience and leave, thus affecting your bounce rate.
The same thing goes the other way around. If your image is 4000 pixels wide, but the “frame” for images on your site is only 600 px, you are putting an unnecessary burden on your server. What happens in this situation is that image will seem to buffer.
As the site visitor opens your page, the image will load slowly, like a curtain going down slowly. This happens because your frame was only designed for 600 px.
If this happens, your website will load so slowly, and this will have a bad impact on your SEO. The only solution is to resize the image according to the maximum capacity of the frame.
Summary: How to Optimize Your Website’s Images Using the Alt Text Attribute
Alt text is one of the least used texts in search engine optimization. Now that you know, you need to start applying these techniques to improve your search engine rankings.
Should you change all your alt texts? Yes, you should. All it takes is a few days of work anyway. What I suggest is that you change the alt texts in at least three of your web pages per day.
You should be done in time, and you will be able to improve your rankings and give your users a better experience.
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