6 Reasons You Should Always Be Using Alt Text

Including alt text on website images can help increase your accessibility, SEO, and overall improve your visitors' experience. Here's why you should make sure your images have alt text
Written by Justin on November 28, 2022 in ,
Updated: January 14, 2023 | Reading Time: 9 minutes

If you're a website designer, developer, or blogger, you often publish content with lots of images. As great as images are for visual appeal, they can also be a pain for people and robots who can't see them.

Alt text is an often overlooked and underestimated part of website creation and development. However, it's a powerful tool that can help you improve your website's usability and accessibility. Here are six truthful reasons we use alt text, and why you should be implementing alt text on your websites.

What Is Alt Text?

Alt text, short for alternative text, is a brief description of an image that is displayed in place of an image if one can't be displayed. The main purpose of alt text is to provide context and meaning for images on a page, but it also has other important uses. Screen readers use alt text to describe images to visually impaired users, and search engines use it to index the content of a page.

How to Add Alt Text to Images

If you're using a popular content management system (CMS) like WordPress, adding alt text to images is easy. Most CMSs will have a default field for you to add alt text when you upload an image.

In WordPress, for example, you can add alt text to an image by going to the media library, selecting the image, and then entering your alt text in the "Alternative Text" field.

For images that are already on your website, you can usually add or edit the alt text by opening the image in the editor and then clicking on the image to bring up the image settings. From there, you should see a field where you can add or edit the alt text.

If you're trying to add alt text directly in a WordPress post, once you drag and upload the image, simply click on it and you should see a text box labeled "Alt Text" where you can add your alternative text.

Adding alt text to an image uploaded to a WordPress website

If you're using WordPress, there are a few plugins that can help automate & speed up the addition of alt text to your images such as Auto Alt from Filename or Image Attributes Pro if you're using Yoast.

The settings control panel from the auto alt filename wordpress plugin

Reasons To Use Alt Text in 2023

With the new year comes the desire to better yourself and others, right? An often overlooked feature of adding images to websites, alt text shows both your users, website crawlers, and search engines that you care about their experience on your site.

Not only is it the right thing to do for those with disabilities, but using alt text can also improve your website's SEO and click-through rates. Here are six reasons we think you should be using alt text in 2023

Improve Accessibility

Users that visit your website with sensory or visual impairments often rely on screen readers to help them understand what's on a page. Screen readers are software programs that read aloud the text on a website, including the alt text of images.

If an image doesn't have alt text, a screen reader will simply say "image" or give no information about the image, which can be frustrating for users who are trying to understand the content on a page.

By adding alt text to your images, you can help make your website more accessible and user-friendly for people with disabilities.

Web Accessibility Guidelines

In addition to user accessibility, there are legal accessibility guidelines that you need to be aware of. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses to make their websites accessible to people with disabilities, and the alt text of images is an important part of accessibility.

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 is a set of standards for accessible web design, and one of the success criteria is that all non-text content (including images) must have a text alternative.

If you're not using alt text on your images, your website might not be in compliance with WCAG 2.0, which could result in legal consequences.

Search Engine Optimization

Search engine optimization, or SEO, helps search engines understand your images and index them properly. The text around an image, as well as the image's file name and alt text, all help search engines, understand what an image is about.

If you want your images to appear in Google Image Search, you need to make sure they have good alt text. Adding keywords to your alt text can help improve the ranking of your images in search results, just make sure not to stuff them with unnecessary keywords or your site could be penalized.

Did you know more than 20% of search queries are made on Google Images? That's a ton! Why lose valuable traffic to your website because you're not using alt text?

Click-Through Rates

The purpose of adding images to your website is to help improve the user experience and make your content more engaging. But if users can't see the images, they're not going to be able to appreciate them.

Images that are missing or have poor alt text are often not displayed by email clients and can't be seen by users who have image blocking enabled in their web browsers. This means that users might not even know that there are images on your page, which could lead them to leave before they even see your content.

By using alt text, you can ensure that all users will be able to see the images on your page and be more likely to stick around and engage with your content.

Can Google Crawl Images?

As quoted from Google, textual content on the page helps the search engine learn more about the image. Crawlers also look at the page's title, body, image filename, the anchor text that points to it, and lastly its alt text. The company is also starting to use computer vision to learn more about discovered images to further depict what they're about.

This means that having great alt text is not only important for the people who visit your website, but also for the search engine crawlers that are trying to index your site.

Improve User Experience

In addition to the robots stalking your new blog posts, humans read your website too! Internalize how you browse websites, what if you're waiting for a cab with horrible reception and can't view images? How do you interact with the website then? You probably still want to read it, right?

Users with Slow Connections

Images can often be the biggest bottleneck on a website, especially if they're not optimized. This can be a problem for users with slower internet connections. If for some reason an image cannot be properly loaded, the alt text will be displayed in its place.

If you don't have good alt text, users on slower connections might not be able to see any images on your page at all, which would hurt the user experience.

Avoid Broken Images

Images can sometimes break or fail to load for a variety of reasons, but when they do, you want to make sure that your alt text is there to help. For example, if you're displaying an image hosted on another website and that site goes down, your image will also go down.

If you have good alt text, users will still be able to understand the content of your page, even if the images don't load. You could use a plugin like Broken Link Checker to automatically find these broken images on your site.

Provide Image Credit

Alt text can be used to give credit to the source of an image, especially if you're using someone else's photo. If you're not sure whether or not you should be crediting the source, it's always better to err on the side of caution and give credit where it's due.

Not only is it the right thing to do, but it can also help you avoid any legal issues down the road. Make sure to include image credit in the alt text whenever possible. An example of this would be "a picture of a bunny jumping up and down taken from Gettyimages"

It's Easy To Do!

Adding alt text to your images is easy and only takes a few seconds. In most cases, you can just add the alt text in the same field where you upload the image. By taking an additional 10-20 seconds to add some quality alt text to each image, you can make your website more accessible, improve your SEO, and provide a better experience for all of your users.

When Shouldn't I Use Alt Text?

Sometimes, you might come across an image that doesn't need any alt text. In general, you shouldn't add alt text to images that don't contribute to the content of your page or provide any useful information.

This includes things like decorative images, social media icons, and empty space. For example, if you have an image of a dot in the middle of a paragraph, there's no need to add alt text because it doesn't provide any useful information.

If there are any decorative images in your images, a rule of thumb is to add alt text if it's the only image in a page (e.g., your blog's header image) or if the image is used as a link.

For social media icons, you can usually just leave the alt text blank since users will be familiar with these images and what they represent. The only time you might want to add alt text is if you're using a custom social media icon that users might not be familiar with.

As for empty space, there's usually no need to add alt text because it doesn't provide any useful information. However, if you're using an image as a link, you will want to add alt text so users know where the link is going.

In general, you should only add alt text to images that contribute to the content of your page or provide some useful information. If an image doesn't meet either of these criteria, there's no need to add alt text.

Conclusion

Alt text is an important part of accessibility and should be used whenever possible. By adding alt text to your images, you can make your website more accessible to users with visual impairments, improve your SEO, and provide a better experience for all of your users.

If you're not already using alt text, start today! It's easy to do and only takes a few seconds. Just remember to only add alt text to images that contribute to the content of your page or provide some useful information.

By taking a few minutes to add alt text to your images, you can make a big difference for both your users and your website. If you have any questions about using alt text, feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!

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Written by Justin
Justin is the founder of Gold Penguin, a web design and marketing agency that helps businesses increase their revenue using the internet. He writes about the latest software and tools that can help companies 10x their daily workflow & revenue

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