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