Alt text is short for alternative text and basically means text that accurately describes an image.
Read on for a catch all explanation of how and why to add alt text to your images across a bunch of platforms… and how to make it way more interesting than most other peoples!
What is Alt Text?
As mentioned, alt text is text next to an image (at least in HTML terms) that accurately describes the image. It may sound irrelevant but is helpful for multiple purposes including helping people with visual impairments and helps a lot with SEO.
Take this image for example:
A good example of alt text for this image would be “A close up of a grey and black tabby cat sat down on a grey rug” as it is very descriptive and specific.
Why is Alt Text important though?
Alt text makes the Internet more accessible to people with visual impairments as screen reading software such as ChromeVox (built into Chromebooks) or Fire Vox will be able to read the alt text to the person.
However, it also contributes to SEO because Google is all about making the Internet accessible and they reward websites with accessibility features. So overall, you help blind people access the Internet AND help your website climb to the top! Jackpot!
But, how do I add alt text to my platforms?
Adding alt text to your website is as simple as ever! For most ordinary CMSs (e.g. HubSpot), all you do is log into your dashboard, click on your media library, select an image and there should be an option to add alt text. See, it only takes 2 minutes at most.
The good news is that it’s easier than ever to add alt text to your social media posts, as Instagram and Twitter have started prioritising this a lot more in recent years.
How do I add alt text to Instagram?
1. Click the “+” at the top right corner of your screen,
2. Choose a photo you want to upload or take your own
3. Choose a filter and crop the photo
4. Click on ‘advanced settings’ and there it is: the option to add alt text.
How do I add alt text to Twitter?
For Twitter, it is just as easy:
1. Press the “Tweet” button on desktop or the ‘+’ on mobile.
2. Choose an image you want to upload.
3. There will be a button in the bottom right of the image that says “+ALT” and then you can write whatever you need to write.
It really is that simple and something that every website should include. Just a small amount of time to improve SEO and of course to help people with visual impairments.
How should alt text be written? What does good look like?
In reality, alt text isn’t as plain and simple as it may sound. There are a lot of practices you should be doing to improve the quality of your alt text.
Here’s our top 5 tips:
1. Describe the image and be specific
This may sound obvious but alt text that doesn’t describe the image or isn’t detailed enough doesn’t help anyone.
2. Keep it to 125 characters or less
This ensures that it doesn’t bore the readers and listeners and also naturally makes you be more concise.
3. Don’t start your text with ‘an image of’
Instead get straight into the juicy bits. This will bring the character count down and make the alt text way clearer.
4. Use your keywords sparingly
You can add your key search terms to improve SEO but only use them if it works with the image you are describing. If you use them in every image, Google could class the website as spammy and bump it down the rankings.
5. Review for spelling errors
Alt text is useless if there are spelling mistakes everywhere and no one can understand it.
Great alt text examples:
Here’s an example of alt text from our Twitter:
"Two very excited smiley faces. Left is a bald old white man with a terrible beard and a manic smile. And right is a young white woman with blonde hair, a nose ring and a big smile. They look on the verge of binge drinking."
Here’s more alt text examples:
"A close up of The Chief, a Half Whippet, quarter Border Collie and quarter Greyhound wearing a shirt. He is looking at the camera with his ears out streched, looking quizical."
“Tall grass on a sand dune with the beach and ocean surf in the background on a sunny day.” (image and text from South Carolina University website)
Inclusive alt text
If you aren’t 100% certain of someone’s gender, you can never assume it. So instead you can use terms such as masculine person and feminine person to describe someone.
If you want more juicy SEO tips check out our other blogs on how to help your website rank really, really well.
This post was written by Noah who enjoyed a week of work experience at Noisy Little Monkey.