Alt Text Best Practices
What is alternative text (alt text) and how to use it effectively?
Although a picture is worth a thousand words, it may be worth nothing to someone unable to see it. Without the proper parameters in place, disabled or visually impaired people may not be able to access the content from images inserted in webpages or posted on social media. This leads people to miss out on vital information about you, your company, and content. A solution to this issue? Alternative text.
What is Alternative Text?
Alternative text (or alt text) is a form of descriptive text used to detail the appearance and function of an image. This text is then read aloud to visually impaired or disabled users. It also can be utilized in place of an image if it fails to load, as well as indexed by search engines to understand the contents of your page, making your images appear higher in related searches.
The Benefits of Using Alternative Text
The biggest benefit of using alt text is the accessibility aspect. The inclusion of an image on a webpage, an article, or wherever it may be, denotes some level of importance or relevance to the information being conveyed. In the case of infographics, charts, and images with texts, such information could be vital to a person’s understanding of content, and if they’re unable to see it, they won’t process the information and/or take action as needed. By implementing the use of alternative text, any viewer, regardless of disability, could access all of your material, helping them access your content in its entirety.
Search Engine Optimization Ranking
Alternative text is also beneficial for SEO purposes. Having alt text on your photos allows search engines to determine what your photos portray, which can lead to enhanced ranking, and images/content appearing higher in search results.
Alternative Text Examples: Good and Bad
Some people fall into the trap of using alternative text for “keyword stuffing,” or trying to bring their image higher up in search results by applying as many words as they think will appear in a related search. This approach does not take into account the purpose of alt text for the visually impaired and therefore does not fit the accessibility standard.
An example of keyword stuffing is alt text that looks like this:
“Young child smiling at the camera, sitting in a snowy frozen plane of snow and ice during winter or Christmas with their arm around a husky dog. Mountains, skiing, snowboarding, sledding, hat and gloves, snowball fight, blue ski jacket, yellow or green snow pants.”
Good alt text is quick, to the point, and describes the image at hand. For example:
“A young child wearing winter gear sits in the snow and smiles at the camera with their arm around a husky dog.”
Alternative text is an integral part of making your content accessible, as well as a helpful way to make your content appear more relevant in search results. Read this blog for a step-by-step guide to writing good alt text, and take advantage of this tool to help your content reach a broader audience.