Marketing Monday: How To Write Alt Text To Help With SEO

Originally Published January 2020

In this vlog and blog, we’ll explain:

Today we’ll learn:

  • What Alt Text Is
  • Why Alt Text Is Important
  • What Alt Text Looks Like And How To Use It

Also, be sure to check out our YouTube video on the subject if you prefer to watch rather than read.

Laptop computer with "alt text" tag on screen next to sample image, titled with blog title and Cohlab logo.

What Alt Text Is

Alt text (alternative text), also known as “alt attributes”, “alt descriptions”, or sometimes “alt tags,”are used within HTML code to describe the appearance and function of an image on a page.

You enter alt text when uploading media to your website, and can edit it afterward as well so it’s not set in stone. The cut off for alt text is around 120 characters, so you do have to be brief.

Why Alt Text Is Important

First of all, adding alt text to photos is a principle of web accessibility.  Visually impaired users using screen readers will be read an alt text to better understand an on-page image and how it fits in with the text around it.

Alt text is also displayed in place of an image if an image file cannot be loaded. So if your connection is interrupted or there’s an error on your website, at least that alt text is still going to be displayed even if the image can’t.

Alt text also provides better image context and descriptions to search engine crawlers, helping them to index a website and image properly.

What Alt Text Looks Like & How To Use Alt Text

Let’s take a look at some Alt Text in the wild.

Here we’re on the Doritos website (https://doritos.com/products/doritos-cool-ranch-flavored-tortilla-chips), Cool Ranch of course. The alt text for this image is “DORITOS® COOL RANCH® Flavored Tortilla Chips”.

A way we could improve that is we could give the size and color of the bag as well. So you could write: “9-3/4 oz. blue bag of DORITOS® COOL RANCH® Flavored Tortilla Chips.”

Doritos website, cool ranch pages showing back-end code of website.
State of Minnesota business page showing backend code.

Another Alt Text example out in the wild would be at the State of Minnesota business page (https://mn.gov/portal/business/).

So here we have an image and the alt text says: “A person addressing of a group of people in an office.” Now, that’s okay, it’s pretty good alt text. It’s a little weird but it gets the point across.

If it just said “Office”, which a lot of websites do they just have a one-word description or they use the file name as the alt text, that’s not as good. It’s okay, but it’s not as good.

This is pretty good. Other places can often leave the alt text blank, they’ll just have ” “. That’s a big no-no, no description, nothing to help the search engine or visitor figure out what this image is about.

Another big no-no is keyword stuffing your alt-text, something people did a long time ago. Something like: “Business People Person Talking Speech Businessperson Businesspeople Office Learning Computers”. No.

So the next time you upload an image to your website, look at your options – there should be an alt-text input box, similar to this.

Thanks for watching. Check out our other Marketing Monday videos in our YouTube playlist to help you learn how to develop your website and handle digital marketing for your company.