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Ready to take your website and social media game to the next level?
Well, buckle up baby, because I’m about to spill the tea on why using alt text for your images is the secret sauce you didn’t know you needed. Move over, avocado toast – alt text is the real MVP!
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What is alt text?

Alt text, short for alternative text, describes an image on a page within the on a website or social media platform. Its primary purpose is to provide a textual representation of the image content for individuals with visual impairments who use screen readers. Alt text serves as a crucial accessibility feature, allowing everyone, regardless of their abilities, to comprehend and engage with the visual elements of a digital platform. Beyond its accessibility benefits, alt text also plays a key role in enhancing search engine optimization (SEO) by providing search engines with valuable information about the image, contributing to better rankings and increased visibility. Essentially, alt text is the unsung hero that makes digital content more inclusive and search engine-friendly.

Alt text is using the alt attribute in an image’s HTML code.

Example:
<img src=”file-name-example.jpg” alt=“Alt description goes here”>

If that line of code up there looks a bit scary, don’t worry! Most CMS systems, like WordPress, have a built in section where you can add these descriptions without needing to know code.

1. Website Alt Text

Here’s an example from my WordPress Media Library:
A screenshot of the WordPress backend, there's a box around the section where you can enter in alt textIf you’re not using WordPress you may have to look around for it, or check a help doc but most major platforms have sections to include alt text these days.

2. Social Media Alt Tags

You can and should use alt tags on you social media posts. These settings are a little harder to find and each platform has them in a different place but I strongly encourage to you to find out where the settings are and start using them!
Screenshots from IG showing where alt tags can be added

Why is alt text important

Alt text is important because it makes images accessible to everyone, even if they don’t load on you page.

1. Make Your Content Inclusive

Alt text isn’t just a fancy term – it’s your golden ticket to inclusivity. Imagine a world where everyone can enjoy your content, regardless of their abilities. Alt text is like a superhero cape for your images, making them accessible to everyone, including those using screen readers. Who doesn’t want to be a superhero, right?

2. Boost Your SEO

Let’s talk about being Google’s BFF. Alt text is like the secret handshake that tells search engines what your images are all about. It’s the key to unlocking higher rankings and driving more traffic to your site. So, if you want your website to be the Beyoncé of search results, alt text is your Destiny’s Child.

Consider what happens when you do a Google image search. Let’s say you’re looking for Mountain Cur puppies (because they are the best puppies so you should be looking for one!) so you type that into google. The images that show up here are because of SEO using on the page and in alt tags. Imagine the traffic you could drive if your images match your services and products!

Google image results page for

Code inspector view to outline how alt tags work

Alt Text Best Practices

Alt text isn’t needed on every single image you share, there are some tips below to make sure you’re adding alt text to the right kinds of images

1. What Images Don’t Need Alt Text?

Decorative Images
Alt text isn’t necessary for decorative images. If your image serves no real purpose other than aesthetics, it’s okay to leave the alt text field empty. Adding alt text to these images can actually be a hinderance to those using screen readers, making their experience clunky and awkward.

Complex Charts and Graphs
Alt text is a wordsmith, not a mathematician. For complex charts and graphs, consider providing a summary in the content instead. Your audience will appreciate clarity over a data dump.

Spacers and Tiny Icons
Skip the alt text for these minuscule players – they won’t be missed.

2. How to use alt tags on the correct images

  • Images of text – those quote graphics or screenshots of text need alt text! Screen readers cannot read the image itself.
  • Icons that denote functionality (e.g., shopping cart icons)
  • Charts that illustrate otherwise unmentioned data
  • Info graphics or other how-to images
  • Images of people, places, and things!

Alt Text Examples

A sample of image and alt text from the Detroit Disability power.

In this example from the Detroit Disability power homepage, they’ve included their descriptive text right next to the image, which is always an alternative to adding this description to the alt text section. But take note of how their describe this image. This is an organization by disabled people, for disabled people, so the way they have done this is an excellent example to model.

The next example is from Nina Tame, one of my favorite IG people to follow and a fierce disability advocate. Nina does an amazing job of always including her image descriptions and she adds them right below her caption, or if her caption is too long, she puts them in a pinned comment of that post.

Yes, adding alt text takes more time and slightly more effort but it really does open the internet to everyone, every where. I encourage you to add it to what you’re doing and put in the effort moving forward.

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