Why Image Alt Text Matters in SEO

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alt text and seo
Posted in: SEO Optimization

Image alt text is a short text description of any web image. Aimed to help people with visual impairments understand the content via screen readers, alt tags can also improve digital experiences for those with a poor internet connection. 

In other words, any person who – for one reason or another – can’t see an image on the web, should still be able to know what the image features. That’s the meaning behind alt text. 

Along with accessibility, image alt text is a very popular notion in SEO. But just how important is alt text for SEO? And does alt text still help SEO in 2024? Let’s figure it out.

Why Is Alt Text Important for SEO?

While the initial purpose of the descriptive text was to serve as a placeholder displayed in case the image couldn't be loaded for any reason, alt text has become even more important for SEO practices. Based on a study by Moz, images with descriptive text are more likely to appear at the top of Google Image Search results. Google itself highlights the importance of using alt attributes to understand image content in its Image Publishing Guidelines.

Historically, the reason why alt text for images became important in SEO is because search engines’ crawlers couldn't see images. Not using alt tags on images meant that crawlers wouldn't understand what any image was featuring. It wouldn’t know if an image was relevant to the text content, either, preventing both images and pages from ranking as highly as they could. But what about today?

Has Image Recognition Replaced Alt Tags?

While there admittedly have been significant advancements in image recognition, search engines still heavily depend on metadata and textual information to 'see' and categorize images. What's more, image recognition still has room for errors, as showcased in this study. So even though the technology advances further, it's unlikely that search engines will be willing to take full responsibility for interpreting users’ images for them any time soon.

That’s why for SEO alt text does matter, even in 2024. It’s still up to you as the one uploading images to provide context for every shared visual and this way boost your credibility and competitiveness. 

What Search Engines Do With SEO Image Alt Text

When a search engine’s crawler can read your alt text, it learns what the image is about. Since algorithms determine the relevance of web pages based on keywords, they also can pinpoint keywords in your alt attribute for images and see the page as more relevant to the related queries.

You don't have to be too keyword-crazy, though. Google is smart enough to tell when you put in a lot of keywords for the sole purpose of trying to make sure that the page ranks better. But if you use a few keywords naturally then your images and pages will rank higher.

How to Use Alt Text for SEO

There’s only one takeaway here: any time you upload an image – be it for blog posts, tech tutorials, infographics, or something else – make sure to add an image alt attribute. 

Many CMSs now help to do this with the help of a user-friendly interface. But always take the time to check the HTML version as well. Here's what the SEO image alt text code should look like: <img src="X.jpg" alt="[X Image description]">.

When writing alt image text, simply follow the 2 rules:

  • Avoid vagueness
  • Don’t stuff keywords

Avoid Vagueness

To understand ‘vagueness’ better, let’s look at some alt text SEO best practices:

  1. Good Practice: <img src="myimage.jpg" alt="[Image description]">
  2. Bad Practice: <img src="myimage.png" alt="My Image">
  3. Bad Practice: <img src="myimage.png" alt="">

Why is point 2 a bad image alt text? Because writing ‘my image’ doesn’t describe your visual and provides zero value to both users and search engines. It’s too vague and broad.

Instead, you should always make an effort to describe the pictures you’re sharing in detail. Leveraging image alt text SEO tools to generate high-quality descriptive alt tags can also be a great workaround that we’ll take a better look at later.

Don’t Stuff Keywords

Now, here’s another example of bad and good image alt text SEO practices:

alt text for SEO best practices: bad (missing alt text), bad (keyword stuffing), better (1 keyword), best (a full descriptive sentence with a keyword).

As we’ve mentioned, the use of keywords in the description is what unites alt text and SEO. If you don't use keywords in your alt texts, you miss out on the chance to boost the rankings of your pictures and web pages. So, it may seem that the second bad example is better than the first one. 

However, imagine unleashing this flow of needless synonyms on a visually impaired visitor – do you think they’d appreciate it more than the lack of any alt tag? Probably not. Chances are, they’d appreciate your silence more.

Any bunch of keywords or a sentence that includes all of your keywords will easily be recognized as ‘keyword stuffing’ by any search engine, too. So instead of overdoing it, your best alt attribute SEO approach is logically using 1-2 main keywords in the text. Good grammar and syntax also matter. 

How to Write Alt Text for SEO in Magento  

We’ve already cleared up the fact that image alt text is crucial for SEO and accessibility alike. However, it can be very time-intensive as well as just manually boring for companies to add or edit alt tags in multiple images. And if you want to revise all the images in your database, the scope of work is enormous.

In case you own a Magento-driven website, you can speed up and simplify such workflows with special alt text for images SEO extensions. For example, Amasty’s Magento 2 SEO plugin includes an Alt Tags Generator that automatically creates alt tags for product and category images in bulk.

Here’s how this alt text SEO extension works:

  • Every time you upload a new product image to your store, the extension automatically generates an alternate text for that image.
  • You can review and revise the descriptions whenever needed.
  • The alt text generated by the module never stuffs keywords.
  • Alt image text for all images is SEO-friendly and aimed at improving your page and picture rankings.
  • All alt descriptions are meaningful and valuable.
  • The module and the code it produces work on all browsers and devices.

Read More: Best SEO Settings for Magento 2

Boost Your Website SEO with Image Alt Text

Accompanied by effective alt text, visuals play an important role in the growth of your website. Whether you’re dedicating time to craft high-quality alt text or leverage alt text SEO tools, your efforts will definitely result in positive outcomes. After all, you can never get enough of higher discoverability, improved search engine rankings, and longer visiting sessions.

Frequently asked questions

Alt text, or alternative text, is descriptive content added to an image's HTML tag. In SEO, it helps search engines understand the content of an image, contributing to improved accessibility and search engine rankings.

  • Be concise and descriptive – Clearly convey the image's purpose.
  • Include relevant keywords naturally – Avoid keyword stuffing.
  • Consider the image context – Provide all the information needed for better user understanding.
  • Maintain good grammar and syntax – Ensure readability and professionalism.

Yes, alt text significantly contributes to SEO. Search engines rely on it to understand and index images. Well-crafted alt text with relevant keywords enhances the overall visibility of your content in search engine results. It also improves accessibility, making your website compliant with web accessibility standards and thus improving its image according to Google's standards.

According to a study by Moz, images with descriptive text have a higher likelihood of appearing in Google Image Search results. Google itself emphasizes the importance of alt attributes for understanding image content. Google's Image Publishing Guidelines recommend using descriptive alt text to improve image search optimization. With approximately 20% of all searches on Google being image searches, optimizing alt text is a strategic move for better SEO.

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