Do You Use Alt-Text for Images? Here’s Why You Should

A curved video wall filled with a variety of colorful images123RF

Many of us have noticed a WordPress field for images labeled alt-text. I suspect the majority don’t know what it means.

Yes, you should be using that alt-field to add alternative text whenever you post an image on your blog. Even if your blogging platform doesn’t offer a convenient field to add it, you can do so with HTML coding.

I can rattle off three good reasons to make use of the often-ignored space in the image form. The primary reason — the one most people might know — probably doesn’t directly affect them. But that should be your free pass to avoid using alt-text.

I’m going to stop right here and make an important confession: In 20 years of blogging, I’ve only recently started filling in that field. So if you go back to my archives, you’ll find plenty of images that don’t have it. I’m working to fix that.

But for now, I’m trying to make sure any new images going forward have something in that field. Eventually, I’d like to have every image on this site eventually upgraded with it.

So let’s look at three good reasons to employ it.

1. It makes your site more accessible.

For those of us fortunate enough to have sight, it becomes easy to forget that many do not. We take vision for granted. We can easily assume that those who are blind or are at least legally blind wouldn’t try to visit websites. After all, they wouldn’t be able to read the text in front of them, right? Wrong.

Thanks to technology, we have screen readers. They provide those with limited or no vision a way to benefit from websites by describing what’s on the screen. They can read out passages of text so that those who might not otherwise benefit from a website still can.

When it comes to images, a screen reader can read out the alt-text entered for that image. The vision-impaired reader may not be able to see the image. But he or she can understand what the image shows and, in context, why it’s there to begin with.

You don’t need to worry about describing images that are just there for decoration. But if they hold a function or if they illustrate something that’s important to understanding the message, alt-text can complete the picture for someone who can’t see the image.

2. It helps your readers navigate around technical glitches.

We have all encountered slow internet service at some point. Sometimes, if we’re on a WiFi connection that’s a bit too slow, pages load only partially. Images will sometimes fail to load at all. Some device settings or connectivity issues can also cause pages to not load. In their place is a white outline where the picture should be.

If you have alt-text added for your images, that text will display in the “hole” where the image should have appeared. That way, your readers can get an Idea of what they should be seeing.

3. It can help your SEO.

If you operate a blog or website, you should know that SEO stands for search engine optimization. SEO refers to steps and strategies to help ensure your site makes it higher in search results. When someone does a web search for a topic you’ve covered, you want to see your site be near the top of the search results. The higher your page ranks, the more clicks your site will likely receive.

Moz tells us that Google uses alternative text as one way to better understand the context of the image. Alt-text is an image ranking feature. But it goes deeper than that:

For general organic search, Google treats alt text like any other text on the page. 

If you’re able to work your SEO keywords into your alt-text, that’s one more place the search engine will see them. That alone could help you boost your SEO.

Let’s consider the image I chose for this post

I did add alt-text to the featured image for this article. In a sense, it is decorative, but it also adds to the context of the article for people who see the thumbnail and a headline. The text you choose doesn’t have to be super fancy or formal. It doesn’t need to be in the form of a complete sentence. It simply needs to describe what’s depicted in the image.

I tried a couple of online alt-text generators.

Ahrefs offers a “Free AI Image Alt Text Generator” that allows you select from multiple candidates. It came up with these three suggestions:

  • A beautiful sunset over a calm ocean with vibrant orange and pink hues reflecting on the water.
  • A bunch of TV screens displayed together, creating a captivating visual spectacle.
  • A variety of television screens displayed in a room.

AltText.AI also offers a free generator that will produce suggested text. It suggested this:

  • A wall of television screens with many different images.

That first one in particular — about the sunset over the calm ocean — seems the furthest off the mark. After all, that’s one of multiple images shown. And the image isn’t about a sunset. If anything, it’s about variety and multiple images.

Here’s what I ultimately decided on:

A curved video wall filled with a variety of colorful images

In WordPress, when you add the text into the Alt-text field, it stays with that image. If you reuse it in another post, the same text accompanies it again. That means that you may not necessarily have images with alternative text that exactly matches SEO keywords. But it will at least be consistent text that properly describes the image.

It doesn’t take a great deal of effort, particularly on WordPress, to add alt-text to images. Given that it could help your readers — whether they’re sighted or not — and help your SEO, why wouldn’t you take that extra step?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.