What is alt text?

Alt text is the image tag text that is used behind the scenes. When you use a content management system like WordPress, you’ll have the option to enter alt text when you upload an image, and in most cases, it’s a good idea to make use of this. Alt text is used for accessibility — so that if someone can’t see the image, they’ll still know what it is based on the alt text.

If an image is purely decorative and doesn’t serve another purpose, it’s not as important to enter alt text for it. But if the image is showcasing something important on your website, you should provide alt text for that image if possible. The alt text should describe the contents of the image in a simple, concise way.

If someone is using a screen reader, it will automatically tell them that there’s an image on the page — so even if it’s a purely decorative image, it’s not a bad idea to provide a short, simple description of the image in the alt text. However, you shouldn’t use salesy keywords here — the purpose of alt text is to provide a description of the image, not to improve SEO.

Alt text doesn’t need to be a paragraph or even the length of a tweet — all it needs to do is describe the image in the simplest terms possible. You don’t even have to make it a full sentence. If you feel like you need to write more than that, it might be a good idea to break the contents down in the form of text on your webpage.

So what if you’ve already added an image, but didn’t add alt text? You can use your CMS to edit the image and add alt text, even if you missed it the first time. In WordPress, you can go through each of your images in the Media Library and add alt text there.

We recommend changing the names of the images in the back end of your website to something you’ll remember. That way, you can search for and find images easily — and Google appreciates it as well since they index the names of images.

About Carrie

Carrie Rollwagen is host of the Localist podcast and cofounder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Currently, she works as Vice President of Strategic Planning at Infomedia, a web development company in Birmingham, Alabama. Find the Localist at @thinklocalist on Instagram and follow Carrie at @crollwagen.

Email with a purpose Let's Keep in Touch

Good news (and practical tips) for small businesses — we're not into being pushy or spammy.