Using Alt Text for a People-Friendly Website

We believe websites are for people. That means it’s crucial to understand how your visitors use and experience your site, realizing that will be different for different people! Many organizations forget about website visitors who use screen readers—software that allows people with visual impairments to use a computer. 

Alt text, is one of many tools intended for these people. And, as we’ll see, implementing it has some additional benefits in the way of SEO.

You should be using alt text!

What is alt text?

Alt text stands for “alternative text,” and is sometimes (mistakenly) called “alt tags.” It’s simply text, embedded in website code, that’s tied to the images on your site.

Here’s an example of an image tag and its corresponding alt text:

<img src=”dog.jpg” alt=”A black lab chasing after a tennis ball” />

What is alt text for?

Alt text exists first and foremost for screen readers, so that users with visual impairments can understand the content of your images. Alt text is especially important for images that serve important UI functions, such as buttons.

Second, alt text appears in a web browser before an image loads (which is usually only noticeable on a very slow Internet connection), or if an image fails to load at all. Even though most of your visitors won’t have trouble loading images, it’s still a best practice to include an alt tag for these situations.

Third, using alt text for your images has some SEO benefits. See below for more information on this!

How can I change alt text?

Unless you’re coding a website by hand, you’ll need to use your site’s CMS to do this. Start by looking in your CMS’s media library for a field to add alt text. If you need help, we’re always around to lend a hand!

Does alt text help with search engine ranking?

Yes! While computers are able to recognize the content of images to some extent, they often need our help. Using accurate alt text to clearly describe your images can help your pages rank for their content.

The important thing to remember here is that alt text is not a place to simply add keywords or phrases you want to rank for. Because alt text is designed to help people, your best SEO strategy is to use it for that end! Remember to simply describe the image with appropriate detail. 

More information

For more reading on the topic, including more tips on writing good alt text, check out Alt Text for Images from Moz.

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