Until recently, I was just uploading my pictures to WordPress and not paying any attention to the alt text, titles, or descriptions. I didn’t really understand the point or see the benefit of using alt text and titles for images…but I was wrong.
Turns out, properly labeling your pictures only takes a few seconds and can be a great way to increase traffic and make your site easier to navigate for readers with disabilities (I had no idea!).
First, let’s talk about what “alt text” is – and how you need to use it.
Alt text is a short description of your picture. It was designed so that people who use screen readers (a screen reader converts text from your computer into audio, for people who might be blind or unable to read, or braille). If a person reading your blog is blind, they wouldn’t be able to see your images – but alt text lets them know that there is an image, and explains what it is.
Furthermore, some readers might have images disabled on their computers…when you have an alt tag, they’ll see the text and know what the picture is, even though they can’t see it.
These days, alt text is also important for SEO purposes. Google can’t read your images based on the picture alone, so they use the alt text to recognize pictures (so if you want an image to show up in Google Images under a relevant search, it needs to be labeled properly).
Here’s an example of a recent image I used, and how I assigned the alt text and title.
The image I used was one of my daughter playing with a shovel. It was for a post about things toddlers love.
The alt text is “toddler carries around a shovel.” This is what a reader would see if the images on their screen were disabled. This is what a blind reader would hear, or read, on a screen reader. And this is what Google will pick up if someone were to search for pictures of a toddler with a shovel.
For the title, I elaborated a bit – you can’t read it all, but it says “Toddler girl carries around a shovel.” The title text is not currently indexed by search engines, but does give you a chance to expand on the alt text. The title text will show up if your reader hovers their mouse over an image on your site.
For the description, I told a quick story of the photo but you could also describe the blog post in a sentence…the description will show up when you use a thumbnail of the image to link to a larger image.
So, the short story is – use your alt text, titles and descriptions. It only takes a few seconds, and is a great tool for increasing traffic and making your site more user-friendly.
If you want to dive in a little deeper and learn more about this topic, check out these posts:
- Image ALT vs. TITLE: Using ALT & TITLE Attributes in Image Tags by John Vantine
- Alt Attributes: Describing Your Images for Better Web Accessibility by Jennifer Kyrnin