Why’s it important to use image Alt Text?
If you’ve ever wondered about using the image Alt Text, now’s the perfect time to find out the when, why and how of using it.
The image Alt Text (aka alt tag /alt attribute) is important to use for several reasons:
- search engines use the Alt Text to “recognise” images and correctly index them for search results
- reading software for people with impaired vision, use the Alt Text to describe each image
- websites show the Alt Text if unable to display images
- social media, such as Pinterest, uses the Alt Text to automatically populate the image description field
In this tutorial, you’ll learn why it’s important to use Alt Text, and how to add the Alt Text individually or in bulk to your images.
find out why it’s always important to include Alt Text for your images. Learn how to add Alt Text individually to each image, and how to quickly bulk edit the Alt Text after images have been uploaded to your website.
First, we’ll cover the main ways that Alt Text is used:
1. Using Alt Text for search engines
How often have you used a search engine to find a particular image? Many times, I’m sure.
The image results you’re given will depend on the Alt Text used in those images.
If the image is of a pebble-dash house with a blue door, balcony and drive, but the Alt Text is just “house”, then it’s doubtful that house image will show up if someone searches for “pebble-dash house, blue door, balcony”.
Your image will fall into obscurity with the millions of other “house” images. Instead, be more specific – describe that house image Alt Text as “pebble-dash house with a blue door and balcony”.
If you want the search engines to include your image in relevant search results, you need to describe the image accurately and use relevant keywords.
2. Using Alt Text for people with impaired vision or when images don’t display
Keep in mind when setting up your website, it needs to be user friendly for those with impaired vision.
Imagine being unable to see, yet somehow having to find your way around the internet. How difficult would that be?
Special software’s available to read text aloud including reading aloud the image Alt Text. The Alt Text needs to describe the image as helpfully as possible to be easily imagined by those who can’t see it.
The Alt Text is also shown when an image can’t be displayed – perhaps they’ve been disabled in the browser or the image link’s broken or slow-loading.
3. Using Alt Text for social media
From what I can tell, the Alt Text you’d use to benefit images in search results or for those used with impaired vision, differs slightly to what’s required when images are used as links on social media.
When Pinterest uses the Alt Text to populate a Rich Pin’s description, it’s more appealing to the viewer if the description describes the related post, rather than just explaining what the image is. Using the “house” example above, the Alt Text could read: “The top 10 benefits of living in a pebble-dash house with a blue door and balcony”, or literally the description of your post, eg “The top 10 benefits of a frugal lifestyle” (ie not even mentioning the house)…. that’s assuming the topic of your post doesn’t need other keywords!
Don’t just include a list of keywords, the Alt Text should read properly and make sense.
The ideal Alt Text needs to describe the related post whilst still describing the image itself.
Now that we know the “why” and the “when” of using Alt Text, here’s the “how”.
How to include image Alt Text
In WordPress media library, you’ll see the following fields for each image:
- URL – the webpage for the image itself, auto-populated by WordPress
- Title – if your browser allows and/or you’re using an older version of WordPress, the Title text shows as a tool-tip when the cursor hovers over an image
- Caption – the wording shown beneath your image
- Alt Text – used to correctly index and describe the image
- Description – stored as post content for the image webpage
Make sure you type each field properly. The only field that you perhaps won’t need as often is the Caption field unless you’d like the image labelled on your website.
Most times you’ll add the Alt Text whenever you upload an image.
How to add image Alt Text individually
To add image Alt Text individually, you can type the Alt Text each time you add an image to your post using the Media Library:
That method’s fine if you’re adding Alt Text for each image as you go along, but it’d take a long time to have to revisit each uploaded image if you forgot to include Alt Text at the outset.
Sometimes (as was the case for me!) you’ve already uploaded lots of images before having understood the need to effectively use Alt Text. That’s when it’s useful to know how to easily edit them without wasting time.
Thankfully for those of us who aren’t too hot on coding, there’s a plugin to make editing Alt Text much easier.
How to edit Alt Text when the images are already uploaded to your website
There are plugins available to bulk edit your images to have the same Alt Text, eg the plugin Media Library Assistant. However, if you’d prefer the Alt Text to be relevant to each image/post, you’ll need a plugin such as Media Library Alt Fields.
As you can see from the screenshot, it’s not been updated for quite a while but still has over 7,000 active installs. I decided to go ahead and install the plugin as I’ve yet to find a successful alternative, more recent option. There were no issues upon install for me, but just in case, please ensure you’ve first backed up your website before installing.
The Media Library Alt Fields plugin means that there’s no need to revisit each post and laboriously click into each image.
Instead, there’s an editable “Alt Text” column added to your Media Library. All the images are shown on the same screen next to the title and post information, so you can quickly fill out each image Alt Text.
It’s easy when you know how, and the plugin’s perfect for having to update all your image Alt Text ready for Pinterest.
If you found this post interesting or have a question, leave me a comment below, as I’d love to hear from you.
Note: This article is intended to be a general resource only and is not intended to be professional advice.
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