Aside from keywords, headings, meta descriptions, and backlinks, images are also a factor that impacts the search engine ranking. You have probably noticed that when you search for something online, the first page of results is often stacked with pictures.
This is a sign that search engines are more and more committed to including images in their ranking algorithms. This makes webpage owners focus more on the development of so-called alt texts, which are descriptions that appear in the place of images on a site to facilitate screen reading and boost page ranks.
But, let’s take a deep dive into what is alt text for an image, how it helps your website grow, and how to create an alt text so that it improves your online visibility.
An alt text, also called alt description, is a tool that allows you to describe a picture on your website, making it more accessible for visually impaired internet users and web crawlers. The alt text can’t be seen anywhere next to the image, because it is written as HTML code.
To see it, you have to right-click the image, then press “inspect the HTML”. Users that have a bad vision can use a screen-reading tool to listen to the description of the picture and imagine it. Another purpose of an alt text is to appear on the screen instead of an image when it can’t be loaded.
So, if your internet connection is bad or for some reason your device isn’t compatible with the image, you will get a descriptive text instead that allows you to imagine what or who was on the picture.
Webpage crawlers have also to benefit from alt texts. Since they can’t perceive images, they use the alt descriptions to perform a full assessment of your website, which eventually can lead to the improvement of your SEO and rankings in the search engines.
The ultimate mission of an alt text is to help users who can’t see the picture understand it. That’s why you have to make sure the description adds meaning and provides as many details as possible while not exceeding the recommended word count.
When you write an alt text, make sure it doesn’t get longer than 125 characters. This is the point where screen reading bots stop pronouncing the text. The rest of the characters are cut off, making the text seem awkward to blind listeners.
The alternate text has to put the subject in a clear context to help the user or screen reading machine to understand better what is going on in the picture. It shouldn’t be neutral and general.
For example, if you use a picture of Michael Jordan performing a slam dunk during an NBA game, you shouldn’t describe it as “a man plays basketball”, “a basketball player scores a 2-point shot” or “Michael Jordan performs a slam dunk”.
The last one is the best description out of the three options mentioned, but it’s still incomplete. The missing element is the place or the event. When you add it, you should obtain something like this:
“Michael Jordan scores a slam dunk to make it 56-48 against Indiana Pacers in the NBA playoffs”.
This description would pretty much offer good visualization of the picture to those that can’t see it. The word combinations “a spectacular slam dunk” or “a memorable slam dunk” seem to provide more emotions and virtually transfer the user in the vibrant atmosphere of the game, but subjective adjectives are not recommended to use in alt texts.
Instead, you can use critical adjectives that add context. Let’s take the image of a polar bear eating some fish. Instead of saying “a bear is eating fish”, it’s much better to say “a polar bear is eating fish”.
If you don’t mention it’s polar, many people would imagine a brown bear hunting in a pond surrounded by forests.
You can use keywords in your alt text to increase its SEO potential, but you are not recommended to use keywords in an abusive way. Stuffing the alt text with keywords that don’t describe the image will compromise your promotion in the search engine.
The search engine screen-reading bots will perceive the text as absurd and not user-friendly, decreasing your website rating. Even if your target keyword fits naturally in the description of the picture, avoid using it many times, as this will alert the search engine that the text is exclusively SEO-oriented and not intended to help the user.
Alternatively, you can use keyword variants or syntactic modifications. For example, if your target keyword is “how to ride a horse”, you can use “horse riding”.
While you may have many images on your webpage, avoid adding your target keyword to the alt text of each of them. It will make search engine algorithms qualify your website as SEO-oriented rather than informative and user-friendly.
Choose a picture that is most representative of your site and add there the keyword. This will be enough to help your page get better visibility in the search engine.
When it comes to writing alt texts for an e-commerce website, you may be tempted to use very bright language with adjectives and calls to action to drive sales. Still, it will only make the store’s ranking fall.
Try to stay as neutral as possible, providing clear descriptions with well-defined subject and objective attributes, such as “blue city bike with 29-inch wheel aluminum frame and 24 speeds”.
This will contribute to more search matches, as most people search for a certain size, color, and physical features, rather than a fantastic bike for unforgettable city rides.
Alt texts have a positive impact on SEO as they allow the search engine to understand what is the entire webpage about and decide on whether it deserves to be promoted in ranking or not.
The more relevant your alt descriptions are, the better chance they will appear high in the image search results. Since the alt text can have keywords as well, the image can appear both in the web search and image search, providing the users with two channels of accessing your page.
Sometimes, users want a visual explanation to their question and if you don’t use alt texts, you lose many potential visitors. For example, users might look for the best sleeping positions.
You have an article on your page where you describe each position and attach an image to each of them. Can you guess through which channel most users will access your blog?
If your answer is the image search channel, you are right. No matter how aesthetically well it’s written, a text describing sleeping positions will always lose to pictures showing sleeping positions.
Now, imagine the pictures from your blog didn’t have keyworded alt texts. They wouldn’t appear in the image search results, but only in the web search results. And since most users search for the best sleeping positions in the image search, you lose a great occasion to get some new visitors to your site.
To sum up, alt texts allow those that can’t see the pictures on your page to understand what they are about. At the same time, alt texts help you boost the traffic to your site by increasing your image search ranking.
Since more and more people prefer images instead of texts when searching for something on the internet, you have to adjust to this trend and stack your website with pictures and alt descriptions.
To ensure the alt text satisfies search engine requirements and enjoys SEO benefits, it must have a length of 125 characters or less, be as objective and descriptive as possible, have a clear context, and use a reasonable amount of keywords.
If you ever need a helping hand in getting your Houston company at the top of Google, look no further and book a call with BizcaBOOM, an SEO Company in Houston, so that you can get more calls coming in. Or if you’re in need of a professional web designer in The Woodlands, feel free to contact us here.
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