What is a picture old day SEO

Alt text and SEO: How to optimize your pictures

Alt text (alternative text) describes an image on a website. It's in the HTML code and is usually not visible on the page itself.

But why is the alt text so important? And how can you use it to improve SEO and user experience?

In this guide you will learn:

Why is the alt text important?

Alt text is important for four main reasons.

1. The alt text improves accessibility

Millions of people are visually impaired and many use a screen reader to consume content online. The content shown, including images, is converted into an audio format.

Images without alt texts pose problems for screen readers, as there is no way of communicating the content of the image to the user. As a rule, these images are ignored, or worse, long and useless file names are read out for the images.

Google points out the importance of alt texts for users with screen readers in their SEO Starter Guide.

2. The alt text can increase the thematic relevance ’

Google analyzes words on a page to understand its content.

For example, if a page mentions poodles, labs, and retrievers, Google will know they are breeds of dogs.

But what does that have to do with pictures?

Sometimes the context comes from the image, the content of which Google cannot analyze.

Using alt texts helps Google Images understand which leads to a better understanding of your site and its content.

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3. The alt text helps you to rank in the Google image search

Google Image Search is the second largest search engine in the world. It is responsible for 20.45% of all searches online and thus receives more searches than YouTube, Bing and other search engines combined.

This provides an opportunity to generate traffic from the Google image search.

See below the number of clicks on our Ahrefs blog from Google image search over the last three months:

According to Google's John Mueller, alt text is an important part of optimizing Google image search:

Alt text is extremely helpful for Google Images - if you want your images to rank there. Even if you use lazy-loading, you know which image will be loaded, so get that information in there as early as possible & test what it renders as.

- 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) September 4, 2018

4. The alt text serves as anchor text for image links

The anchor text describes the clickable words that link a website to another page. Google uses it to learn more about a website and its content.

But not all links are made up of text, some are made up of images.

Google explains:

If you decide to use an image as a link, it helps Google to know more about the page you are linking to if an alt text exists. Imagine you are creating anchor text for a text link.

How to add alt text to your images

Just add an alt attribute to the

Tag in HTML code.

Image with alt tag:

If you're using a modern CMS, you should be able to add the alt text without searching through the HTML.

WordPress, for example, offers a field for the alt text when adding an image to a page or post.

This works similarly in other CMS systems.

Here are instructions for the most popular systems:

Should you add alt text to all images?

No, that is a common misconception.

If the image is only used for visual reasons without any substantial informational content, then there is no need for an alt text.

For example, some websites use icons to differentiate content:

These icons are for visuals only, which is why you shouldn't use alt text. In this case, you would annoy users with screen readers and not offer any SEO added value for the site.

The same goes for general images and stock photos:

The use of an alt text “Bathtub and Candle” is not helpful for readers with visual impairments as this information is not necessary. A better solution would be for the screen reader to ignore the image completely.

There is one important point to consider ...

If an image does not require alt text, it is best practice to add an empty alt attribute. This is useful because some screen readers read out file names if there is no Alt attribute, while most screen readers ignore images with empty attributes.

It looks like this:

Learn more about this topic in the WebAIM guide.

How to write good alt text

Creating the alt text is not rocket science. Follow these five best practices.

  • Be brief. Long alt texts are annoying for users with screen readers. Use as few words as possible (use the longdesc attribute if a long description is necessary).
  • Be precise. Focus on describing the picture.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing. This is not the place to go to include as many keywords as possible.
  • Avoid stating that it is an image. There is no need to include “picture of…” or “photo of…” in the description. Both Google and screen reader can recognize this independently.
  • Avoid the unnecessary. Do not repeat information that already exists in the context of the image. For example, if you are using a photo of Steve Jobs and the caption below the photo is “Steve Jobs”, there is no need to repeat this in the alt attribute. Google should understand that the caption is the same as the alt text.

Also, remember to use alt text for buttons. Otherwise, screen readers may ignore them and prevent visitors from interacting with your website.

Examples of good and bad alt texts

Let's use a few examples to make sure we understand what works and what doesn't.

Bad: <img src=“Käsekuchen.png” alt=“Foto eines Käsekuchens”>

OK: “Cheesecake”

Well: <img src=“Käsekuchen.png” alt=“Käsekuchen mit Erdbeeren”>

Preferably: “cheesecake

Bad: “Steve

OK: “Steve

Well: “Apple

Preferably: “Apple

Bad: “Bild4”

OK: “Orange

Well: “Orange

Preferably: “Orange

Note the naming of the serial number in the last example. This is a best practice, especially for images on e-commerce product pages.

How to identify and solve problems with alt attributes

There are many tools you can use to crawl pages to find missing alt attributes, including Ahrefs Site Audit.

But missing alt texts are not always a problem, as not all images require alt text.

For example, see the following missing alt attributes:

The filenames make it clear that these images do not require any alt text. They are for visual purposes, which means screen readers should skip them.

So instead of crawling pages to find every missing alt attribute (there are usually many missing on most pages), it is better to review pages that are already receiving traffic and optimize alt texts for those pages.

There are two reasons:

  1. These pages are used by users with a visual impairment. 2.4% of all US citizens have a visual impairment. That is an average of 1 in 42 people, and if your site receives 10,000 visitors a month, 240 of them are not getting the content right.
  2. These pages can potentially generate more traffic. Alt texts can lead to images ranking better in Google's image search, which in turn leads to more traffic. Even a traffic increase of one percent for a page with 10,000 visitors brings 100 additional users.

You can do this:

Step 1: Find the pages that are getting the most traffic from organic search

Check Google Analytics, Google Search Console or the “Top pages” report in Ahrefs ’Site Explorer.

Step 2: check your alt attributes

Install the free Alt Text Tester Chrome Extension, load the page with the most traffic and activate the extension.

You should see the alt text whenever you hover your cursor over an image.

If an alt attribute is missing you will get a warning.

Check the alt text for a few images on the page. You will quickly get a feel for whether these are optimized or whether there is potential for optimization.

For example, it only takes a few seconds to find out when scrolling that all the images in the following post are well optimized ...

... while this does not apply to the following page of The Mirror:

Step 3: repeat this process for more pages

Repeat this process for the pages on your website that are viewed most frequently. This should give you an overview of whether the optimization of your alt texts is good or requires further work.

Since most websites generate the majority of their traffic with just a few pages, the effort involved should be limited.

For example, only ten posts on the Ahrefs blog generate 51% of all organic traffic ...

... so we can check and optimize the alt texts for the pages with the most traffic within minutes.

Final thoughts

Alt-text optimization is important, but it's not the general recipe for image SEO. You should also optimize filenames, use responsive images, so-called lazy loading and many other points into consideration.

Learn more on the subject with our list of 12 Actionable SEO Image Tips.

Translated by Heike Radlanski. Heike deals with all aspects of online marketing and product management.