The Importance of Alt Text

Hi, SEers. Welcome to the first Mae Day of April. Thanks for visiting with me today.

Let’s chat alt text.

I’ve blogged about this on Story Empire in the past, but I think it bears repeating. Several times, vision-impaired visitors to my personal blog have thanked me for using descriptive text in conjunction with my images. Why? Because it allows them to “see” the images I’ve placed. Screen readers make this possible.

Everyone should benefit from the same reading experience, which is why I’m a strong advocate of alt text.

In addition to aiding vision impaired users, alt text also displays when a browser fails to load an image, and helps search engines to better categorize the images they discover.  If you use stock photography, many sites already deliver alt text descriptions with your purchase. I use BigStockPhoto.com, which loads descriptive text in the caption field. I cut this and move it to the alt text field. Sometimes it’s necessary to tweak a bit, but most of the description is already there.

If you’re using your own photos or a free image site like Pixabay, you’ll need to add alt text from scratch. To get a feel for best practices, let’s experiment with the photo below which I pulled from Pixabay.

white cat washing front paw

Here are three alt text options you might use with this photo.

White Cat
Accurate, but the description  doesn’t tell a vision-impaired user much.

White Cat Grooming
Better. Someone who can’t see the image now has an idea of what the cat is doing.

White Cat Washing Front Paw
Best yet. It’s descriptive while keeping the alt text short.

Adding alt text is easy. If you’re using the Classic WordPress editor, alt text is entered in the top field (see below). I also add it in the description field as well.

screenshot of white cat image in WordPress Classic editor, showing alt text

If you’re using Gutenberng, click on your image then select the black settings sprocket from the upper right corner of the screen. The image settings screen will display, which includes a box to enter alt text.

screenshot of white cat image in WordPress Gutenberg editor, showing alt text

Regardless of the editor you’re using, adding alt text is easy, and it makes a world of difference to those with vision impairments.

One final benefit of alt text, is using keywords. On my personal blog, From the Pen of Mae Clair, I frequently blog about crytipds, the Mothman legend in particular. Any time I post a photo remotely related to the Mothman, I tag it with that all-important keyword.

As an example, there is an abandoned WWII munitions site in Point Pleasant, West Virginia where the Mothman was sighted in the late 60s. I’ve visited the area and taken numerous photos. Whenever I post one, my alt text includes mention of the Mothman. I might say “algae-covered pond in TNT, home of mothman.” With enough mentions of the Mothman, Google may start to recognize me as an expert. Then, if I’m lucky, when someone searches “Mothman” Google will rank my blog favorably.

Be careful, however, not to engage in “keyword stuffing.” I wouldn’t want to label that same pond photo with alt text that read “mothman pond mothman TNT mothman home mothman mothman.” If Google thinks you’re using alt text in a deceptive attempt to gain SEO, you’ll be penalized in search results.

It takes a while to develop a habit for using alt text. I still forget now and then, but for the most part, any time I add an image to a blog post, alt text is part of the process. It’s a good practice and it makes sense.

What about you? Do you use alt text on your blog? If you haven’t in the past, do you think it’s something you’ll try? Let’s chat in the comments below.

Ready, set, go!

Bio box for author, Mae Clair

143 thoughts on “The Importance of Alt Text

  1. I always appreciate when people include alt text, especially if they haven’t included an image caption that’s descriptive, so thanks for reminding people about doing this.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Okay, thanks, Mae. I always add hashtags to the Alt-Text box, but now I’m wondering if it should just be what I usually put in the ‘Description box (a full description) and add hashtags in the ‘Description’ box. It makes sense if the Alt-Text box is what screen-readers read and helps those with sight impediment.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Mae. You’re very welcome. I just figured I’d ask someone who deals in it all day.

        I’m getting ready to have them do the alt text on all the picture which are permanent on my blog.

        Can’t be going round telling people they need alt text in their blogs if mine doesn’t have it.

        LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi again.

        Sorry, didn’t see this or I’d have mentioned this before.

        One of the two ladies who own and run Two Pentacles has a blind daughter, so she has an extremely good working knowledge of all things accessible.

        My goal is to hopefully get people to start offering alt text in their eBook photos. I didn’t know about them when I published my last book. In the paperback there are photos but I don’t have them in the eBook because at the time of publishing those assisting me didn’t know how to do it.

        The formatting necessary to do it in Kindle books is strict and so we had no choice but to leave it. One day I hope to do another version of that eBook with photos.

        Anyhow, have a great day.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Hugh and everyone.

      So, I’m back with an answer from my friends at Two Pentacles Publishing, who specialize in adaptive communications. (Screen readers, Magnifications, Braille, Alt Text Etc.)

      Here is what Colleen says.

      Hi Patty,

      That’s such a good question!

      So the short answer is – yes. Hashtags usually work in Alt-Text (though not in every situation), however they’re redundant. Plus, if your goal is to have a person who uses a screen reader have a comfortable experience on your website or social media profile, hashtags in your Alt-Text is going to hinder that.

      In addition to being a clean-looking way to add a photo description, Alt-Text is used for Search Engine Optimization (or SEO). The words in your Alt-Text box automatically turn into keywords for Google searches and direct traffic to your page. For example, if your Alt-Text description is “Flowers in a vase beside a slice of pizza on a plate”, flowers, pizza, and plate all become keywords for that image. And if you post enough photos of flowers, pizza, and plates on your site, Google will recognize that and show your site sooner in searches for those keywords.

      Hashtags are the social media version of these keywords and are basically only used on platforms like twitter or instagram.

      So basically, you can use hashtags in your Alt-Text, but at that point you’re probably better off just including them in the post and leaving the Alt-Text for descriptions.

      Hope this helps!

      -Colleen

      Liked by 2 people

      • That’s brilliant, Patti; thank you so much. I’ll stop adding hashtags to the Alt-Txt box. I hope you don’t mind another question, but does the screen reader read the captions under images on blog posts?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Good morning again Hugh and everyone.

        I get my comment notifications in my email and so am able to simply hit reply and answer.

        I’m always happy to help. At times I have hesitated to speak up in comments but Mae’s post was so engaging and friendly it made it easy to talk.

        I also fear saying too much and so with that blabbering thought I shall leave you all for a bit. I’ve a magazine to proofread.

        Please feel free to ask questions anytime. And if anyone would like me to preview their blogs to see how accessible they are, you may drop me a link via email.

        Have a wonderful day.

        Thanks Mae for making this conversation possible.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hi.

        So, I want to take a moment and explain something that those not familiar with screen reader software (Called Voice Over or Talk back on your smartphone) are not going to know.

        So, when I am reading along and I come across things like Hashtags. Which by the way I use in their proper places quite often, what I and others using screen reader software hear is something like, either, number sign Elephants dancing In the Rain or Hashtag Elephants Dancing In The Rain. You see, the sign for the Hashtag is spoken.

        That’s the same with things like the dollar sign Left and right brackets, the equals sign, and underscore Plus Etc.

        If anyone wants to know what screen reader software sounds like it’s easy to do.

        You can simply turn on the voice over for your Smartphone or if you’re using a computer just enable your windows narrator. Read a few things and you’ll have a great idea of what our experience is.

        I encourage people all the time to do this as it will help you make your work that much more accessible for those with print disabilities.

        For me since we do have some built in descriptions in some applications, which make a few photos automatically described, (Facebook has its own built in descriptive software for example) the most annoying things I run into are memes, info graphics, and the ever dreaded screenshots.

        LOL.

        I hate like dickens to be reading along and suddenly hear, screenshot, Screenshot, Screenshot.

        Really disruptive and gives me no info whatsoever.

        I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been reading something which would have helped me considerably which was instructive had the screenshots had alt text added.

        OK. Shutting up now.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you, Mae, for highlighting and explaining this important accessibility feature. In the past year I have been diligent in describing my post photos, after learning how helpful that is to my blogging friend Carol Anne of Therapy Bits, who is blind. She made a suggestion that I begin the description field with the phrase: Description for people with visual challenges. Those are key words people look for to find those descriptions. Thanks for explaining the technical aspects!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Rebecca. Thank so much for dropping by and sharing. I especially appreciate the additional information Carol Anne recommended you use. I was unaware about starting the field that way. That makes a great addition to this post. Thank you, and thanks to Carol Anne as well! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: *Press This* The Importance of Alt Text #181 | Its good to be crazy Sometimes

  4. Thanks for giving this blogger an education, Mae. I didn’t know this existed. I volunteer for an organization that brings the news to the visually impaired. I read my own newspaper from home on my cellphone. I send voice memos, and the articles can be accessed by others. Cool concept!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pete, I’m so glad I was able to shed light on an important aspect of blogging. And how awesome that you volunteer for an organization that benefits the visually impaired. What a perfect fit with your background in education!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Mae, I didn’t know what Alt text was. I have recently being trying to add photo captions and some descriptions but, to be honest, I don’t post many pictures other than for Thursday Doors posts so I hadn’t ever really thought about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mae, just in case anyone else is floundering with this, I looked and looked for the Attachment Details area in my Classic Editor, because I thought it would be on the editor page. I didn’t realize you had to upload the photo first, then click to “Insert,” and it would come up there. I guess I’ve never even glanced at that menu before, but I think I’ve got it now, by golly! (One of these days, I’m actually going to have to learn how to blog properly, instead of just blundering around in ignorance! DOH!! 😀 )

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! Yep, you have to load the photo, then you can add the details for it, including alt-text. I think WP made a change and you do have to hit insert now, but you can also open the photo in your media library. With the old editor you were able to enter the alt-text and other details there. I admit it can be a challenge sometimes with WP always switching things around. So glad to hear you are experimenting with this!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve always loaded my images by click on the tab at the type that says “Add Media” but I never modified anything there, and somehow, never noticed all those options on the right. I know, I know. Pathetic! But I’m noticing now! 😀 One question. Once you’ve added the Alt Text, does it show for everyone when they hover the mouse over the image? Or is it just for the screen readers to pick up?

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: #ReblogAlert – This Week on #StoryEmpire | The Write Stuff

  8. I do add ALT text to my blog photos, Hootsuite, and Buffer. Sometimes I forget, usually when I’m in SEO hell in an attempt to satisfy Yoast. LOL But I agree, it’s important. Great reminder, Mae. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello John. We who depend on such things will appreciate your Effort.

      Something all of you should know is that there are a ton of blind bloggers and blind readers of blogs. So, me for example, if I visit a blog and the posts there are full of graphics or photos I cannot identify I am most likely not going to not return to that blog. I am also not going to follow and I am most certainly not going to recommend it to my blind friends or clients.

      There are lots of blind authors who depend on blogging to promote themselves just as sighted ones do and so we’re very unlikely to network with people who do not acknowledge special needs.

      Just my marketing muses.

      Thanks.

      ABOUT PATTY L. FLETCHER

      Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. She is Also a Social Media Marketing Assistant.

      To learn more see: https://www.facebook.com/tellittotheworld/

      Liked by 3 people

      • Hi Jon, I like on Twitter that when you add a photo it asks if you want to include alt text. I wish blogs would have that feature. It would be easier to help people keep it in mind. But since WP did not bother to listen concerning that nasty editor I have no hope of them listening concerning anything else it is why I moved my website.

        ABOUT PATTY L. FLETCHER

        Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. She is Also a Social Media Marketing Assistant.

        To learn more see: https://www.facebook.com/tellittotheworld/

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hi John and all. I will not put a link because I think that is not appropriate but Site Ground is who I moved my blog to and this made it possible for me to download a wonderful editor plugin like the old we used. It is also so much more accessible. I paid $396 for 36 months of service including some rockin security. You cannot know how wonderful it is to be back in the driver’s seat of my blog.

        I would also just like to take this opportunity to say to you guys, I think it is wonderful that you’re so open minded to the alt text. If you should ever wish to have your eBooks contain photos which are accessible to the blind I can refer you to a company who specializes in doing so for the client.

        Please do reach out to me to learn more.

        Mae I am so grateful to you for this post.

        Sorry, didn’t mean to high jack but you guys are all folks I either follow or have read before. Great to have this conversation with you.

        Being a blind author and business owner has its challenges but I cannot imagine doing anything else and knowing that people are willing to learn what they do not know and be open about using it is a great gift to me and others as well.

        Hugs, and Light to all.

        PS. My apologies. I get a bit passionate.

        ABOUT PATTY L. FLETCHER

        Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. She is Also a Social Media Marketing Assistant.

        To learn more see: https://www.facebook.com/tellittotheworld/

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hi.

        The cost is rather minimal if you use this company. If you have your pics and you know where you want them, they do all that work for you. You really should check these people out. They can make so many different things accessible for you for very little cost.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Wow, Mae! Your post just enlightened me greatly. I’ve never even given this a thought as to how it might work with SEO. When I use a Pixabay image, I always give credit but I never thought about using alt text for my own photos. I will from here on, though, especially on my Tarot reading card pictures. Thank you so much for the information!

    Liked by 2 people

    • So glad you found the post helpful, Jan. Keywords can definitely benefit you with SEO, and the alt text tags help vision impaired users so it’s a win-win all around. When I use bookcovers on my blog, I give a brief description, list the title, and the author. When I’m sharing my own work, adding the title and author name is yet another plus for SEO 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • Good morning Mae Jan and all. I’m a totally blind blogger, and many other functions. I have recently begun working with some wonderful ladies who specialize in addaptive communication, especially alt text. I am so happy to see you advocating and teaching about alt text. it is so very important. I’ve noted that Twitter and LinkedIn also offer the ability to add alt text to photos. So this is truly exciting to me.
        I’m in the midst of a blog site transfer but when it is complete I plan to come back here and reblog this post.
        Thanks again and have a great day.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hello, Patty. Thank you so much for visiting and sharing. When I get comments like yours, it reinforces how important alt-text is. I am thrilled to be able to share the importance of alt-text, and so glad when others tell me they will start using it.
        Wishing you all the best with your blog transfer, and thank you again for letting me know you appreciate the post. You made my day! 🙂

        Like

      • Hello again Mae.

        I have saved the URL to the post and plan to share with my writer’s groups and onto FB Etc. It is very important that this start being the “New Normal” 😊

        Sorry, couldn’t help it!

        😊

        ABOUT PATTY L. FLETCHER

        Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. She is Also a Social Media Marketing Assistant.

        To learn more see: https://www.facebook.com/tellittotheworld/

        Like

      • I really appreciate all those shares, Patty, and hope that the majority of bloggers will start using alt-text. It’s a “normal” we should all embrace 🙂

        Like

      • Hi Mae.

        I’ve been hung up all day with this site transfer. Who on earth knew it would be so much work. But soon, you’ll see your post shared.

        ABOUT PATTY L. FLETCHER

        Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. She is Also a Social Media Marketing Assistant.

        To learn more see: https://www.facebook.com/tellittotheworld/

        Like

      • Hi, Patty. I don’t do Facebook (I ditched it a few years back), but I did try to follow your blog and couldn’t find a “follow” button anywhere on the site. Maybe it’s because of the transfer you just did. You might want to check into that.

        Like

  10. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who was totally unaware of ALT text and what it means, much less how to use it. I will make an effort to do so from now on. Thanks so much for explaining, Mae, and for providing such good screen shots. And also, for pointing out the importance of tagging, too. I’ve been blogging for close to twenty years and never knew any of this. DOH! headsmack Now I understand, and will be making changes! GREAT post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! I’m so glad this post was helpful, Marcia. You can do so much with alt text. It’s a benefit to you as a blogger and to vision impaired visitors. I’ve been doing it for years, and the more you do it, the more it becomes habit. Sometimes when I’m in a rush with a post, I might forget, but for the most part, I just make it part of my posting routine!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I do enter alt text for my images, and the text used to show up when I hovered the cursor, but not anymore. (Lost with one of the WP upgrades.) I just checked on my latest post. The text is entered, but not displayed. The title of the post shows up at alt text on the home page, but even it doesn’t show up on the individual post page. Weird. I’ll have to keep fiddling with it!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hmmm…that’s strange, Priscilla. Are you entering it in the right box? I honestly can’t remember if I used the new block editor or the classic editor when I wrote this post (I wrote it some time ago and then scheduled it ahead). I do know that the block editor has changed things up. Even if you don’t see the text displayed when you mouse-hover, I bet search engines still see it, and it would show if the image doesn’t display. I’m going to fiddle around with it some more, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good question, but yes, I am. I went to an incognito window to see if my alt text showed up. It didn’t. It’s just so strange because it used to work. There have been other mysterious changes to my theme as well, like the default color scheme changed. I may have to change themes and see if that helps, but, yikes, I dread all that fussy work.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Priscilla, that happened to me a few months ago. I opened my blog and the color scheme was different. I had to fiddle with it to get it to a point I liked, but it happened after a change WP did. I’m going to have to check out the alt-text images on my blog as well. If I come up with anything, I’ll let you know!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to hear that, Harmony. I do think it’s important. And it’s also helpful with SEO, so it’s a win-win all the way around. I think the more you practice it, the more likely you are to remember 🙂

      Thank you for the reblog, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: The Importance of Alt Text | Story Empire | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

  13. Mae, thank you so much for sharing about alt text here. I’ve never used it and certainly will start to now you’ve pointed this out with such a helpful explanation. (Better put a post it note next to my computer so I remember!) Also a good idea to tag the photos!

    Liked by 2 people

      • I would especially love it if those who write about their art or photography would do it so I could enjoy their images of paintings or photos taken.

        ABOUT PATTY L. FLETCHER

        Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. She is Also a Social Media Marketing Assistant.

        To learn more see: https://www.facebook.com/tellittotheworld/

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Mae. I actually stopped following a blogger once because I wrote and asked if she might start using alt text in her posts so I and other followers like me could enjoy her art. She wrote back to say she couldn’t see why a description would do any good because paintings were to be seen not described. I managed not to blast her publicly.

        ABOUT PATTY L. FLETCHER

        Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. She is Also a Social Media Marketing Assistant.

        To learn more see: https://www.facebook.com/tellittotheworld/

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh gees. I have experiences like that on a weekly basis. You cannot imagine the ignorance of some people. I mean, I understand that some people don’t think about doing it and I get that people must be educated about things, but when you hear some of the nonsense I put up with you’d just be amazed.

        My favorite is, “You’re blind? Why, you don’t look blind.” I cannot ever seem to stop myself from saying, “Hmm? I’m sorry, what does that look like I’ve never seen it?”

        ABOUT PATTY L. FLETCHER

        Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. She is Also a Social Media Marketing Assistant.

        To learn more see: https://www.facebook.com/tellittotheworld/

        Liked by 1 person

      • I skim through a lot of posts every-day but that caught my attention and I had to read it. I have been writing about the different challenges of disabled writers and readers for some time now but this was quite good.

        Here is what we screen readers hear read when we come upon a photo with no alt text.

        Now, occasionally the software will read that it is an image that may contain dog or cat or cake. But most times, when reading a blog all we get is either the word Graphic or Graphic No Label. Nothing more.

        So just imagine that you picked up a magazine and whilst the article about the scrumptious cake was very interesting, all the photos were whited out and marked with nothing but those words. That’s our experience. And do not even get me started on screenshots because all we hear is screenshot.

        Boring!

        ABOUT PATTY L. FLETCHER

        Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. She is Also a Social Media Marketing Assistant.

        To learn more see: https://www.facebook.com/tellittotheworld/

        Liked by 1 person

      • A couple of years ago, I did a post called Challenges of the disabled writer.

        Thing is it’s not just blind or visually challenged who have issues with things on screen. There are people who have trouble with background color, font style, and size, and a plethora of other print related issues.

        Anyhow, great post.

        ABOUT PATTY L. FLETCHER

        Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. She is Also a Social Media Marketing Assistant.

        To learn more see: https://www.facebook.com/tellittotheworld/

        Liked by 1 person

  14. I haven’t done this, Mae:) It makes good sense and is helpful to add this in. I will try to remember to do this with my pictures. Thank you for sharing this information:)

    Liked by 5 people

We'd love to know what you think. Comment below.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.