You have a website (or thinking about starting one). You add images to your media library, and you see a field that says Alt Text. What is that?
Alt text is a field in the media library for all website content management systems (WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, etc.) that helps explain an image. Alt text is an abbreviation for alternative text. This is copy you write to describe the image on the page.
This copy helps visually impaired visitors to your website understand your content. Screen readers explain the visuals that accompany the written word on your webpage. Also, search engines crawl the copy to better understand the context of the image for image search results.
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In other words, unique descriptions for images on your website help with accessibility of your content for visually impaired individuals. It also helps categorize your image if someone uses “image search” on Google.
Alt text makes your website accessible, an important feature for visitors to your site, as well as for search engines. Search engines want to make sure all content on the web is accessible to everyone. By writing alt text copy, if someone is using a screen reader to deliver the content, they don’t miss out on understanding how the image helps bring the words on the page to life.
If for some reason an image file can’t load on a page, the description of the image will appear – again helping the visitor to your website understand how the image helps bring the words on the page to life.
And the copy you write for the alternative text helps search engines better understand the image for indexing and to rank your picture in image searches.
How should I write alt text?
When writing copy for images you should be descriptive. Think about how this copy is used – when the copy is read to a visually impaired visitor or appears if the image won’t load. The words should be able to paint a picture in the readers mind of what the image shows.
Say you are uploading an image of a quilt. You might add alt text copy: “Quilt”. Well, that is not very descriptive. And, if you are a quilter, you probably have multiple quilts on your website. What makes this one different? Alt text copy should be unique for each image.
Maybe a better description would be “Red and black modern quilt with triangles” or “Triangle Quilt III, a black and red quilt in my series exploring color with triangles in a modern quilt design”. Which of these gives a better visual in your mind of what the image is all about?
How long should alt text be?
Recommendations are that alt text should be 125 characters or less. So, keep your descriptions short and concise, but descriptive.
Tips for writing alt text
Include information on how the image relates to the copy on the page. This can help search engines better understand how the words and images relate to the primary reason you publish this page on your website. You don’t need to say “picture of. . .” or “image of . . .” Google and screen readers already know this is an image.
Browse through more biz tips written specifically with makers in mind.