This post was last updated on June 24, 2020.
What good is having an outstanding photography website if no one can actually find it online? This is why you need to put some effort into optimizing your site and getting your pages to rank higher on search results. Known as SEO, this practice will make it possible to show up on Google, Bing, and the likes when someone searches for: ‘wedding photographers in San Francisco’, for example. The more exposure you get on search result pages, the more prospective clients will see your work and book your services.
In this article, we’re going to focus on one small step for you, but a giant leap for your SEO: alt text. The potential benefit is huge: your photos will stand a greater chance of appearing in image search results, which means more traffic to your site and a nice SEO boost. Without further ado, let’s discover what alt text actually is, why it’s important and how to write alt text for images:
What is alt text?
Alt text, short for alternative text, is a small piece of text intended to describe an image, photograph, chart or any other picture on a website. The alt text only appears in the source code of your website, as a line of HTML code also known as the alt attribute.
As search engines can’t actually ‘see’ pictures, at least for now, they check your site’s code to find out what’s on your photos. Alt text allows search bots to understand your images and the context in which they are placed, and thus index them more accurately.
Why is alt text important?
Adding alt text to every image you upload to your website is crucial for three main reasons:
Your images can be found on search engines: Images with good alt text stand a better chance of appearing on visuals-focused platforms such as Google Image Search. Keep in mind that images account for a significant percentage of searches and appear at the top of the SERP (search engine results page) for many queries. This means that just by adding alt text for images, you can multiply your site’s traffic exponentially.
Your website will have better SEO: Search engines tend to perceive websites with SEO friendly images as more optimized. In addition, the increase in traffic you’ll be getting can help boost your ranking.
Your website will be more accessible: Visitors with a visual impairment use screen readers to understand what’s on a web page, as well as which pieces of information are in a site’s source code. Adding textual descriptions to your images helps make your website accessible to all types of users, allowing them to browse your website and enjoy it freely.
How to write good alt text
Let’s discover some alt text best practices you should apply to your website:
Define your goals
Add relevant keywords
Describe the image accurately
Keep it short-ish
01. Define your goals
The same image can tell many different stories. You need to figure out what story you want to tell, based on the objective of your website. Depending on whether you’re a photographer, a chef or a web designer, your image goals will be different. Let’s take a look at the image below, for example.
Let’s say that you’re in the tourism business, and are currently offering boat tours on a lake. In this case, the location becomes more important and therefore you would want to mention it in your alt text. So instead of writing a generic description like “A boat on a lake surrounded by mountains,” you may opt for something more tourist-oriented, like “A scenic cruise on Lago di Braies.”
If you were to present this image in your photography portfolio, however, it would be a different story. In that case, you may want to highlight a certain genre, like nature or landscape photography. Your alt text would be something like this: “Beautiful landscape photography of a lake with mountain view.” Lay out all the possibilities, and decide what’s most important to mention based on your goals.
2. Add relevant keywords
Keywords are the phrases (or queries) that your potential clients would type into Google when looking for you – or a photography business like yours. Keywords are tightly related to your goals, and they are crucial for your website. If you want your images to show up as a result for certain keywords, it’s good practice to insert them into your alt text.
As a photographer, your keywords will likely include: the type of photography you specialize in (e.g. pet photography), your name (e.g. photo by John Doe), or a combination of the two (e.g. photo by animal photographer John Doe). So how do you find these key phrases? Put yourself in the searcher’s shoes and do some keyword research to find what it is that people search for when looking for images like yours.
Tip: Don’t overdo it with the keywords. Nobody (including search engines) wants to see this: “cat photographer Jane Smith taking beautiful cat photography of a cat in a bay.” Remember to make it sound natural and focus on explaining the image to humans, as opposed to Google bots.
3. Describe the image accurately
You’re probably sick of hearing the popular saying: “A picture says a thousand words.” But when it comes to alt text, it pretty much hits the nail on the head. There are so many ways to illustrate what’s in a photo. Explaining your images in the most accurate way possible will help search engines better understand what’s going on, on the screen.
In addition, it’s wiser to use simple and commonly used words. Anything too fancy or sophisticated is less likely to be used by searchers. A great trick that can be used is to try and describe the image as if you were talking to a friend who cannot see it. This will help you write more precise alt text for your images.
4. Keep it short-ish
Indeed, the photograph of this pixel perfect breakfast below evokes many words. However, your alt text shouldn’t be endless. The recommendation is to write a maximum of 125 characters, otherwise your alt text may not be read completely by search engines.
Stay away from long image descriptions like this one: “Belgian homemade waffles covered in blueberries and rainbow colored sprinkles on pink plates with pretty napkins and a cup of tea with milk and a teapot all laid on hexagon white tiles.” When it comes to alt text, words are like calories - you don’t want to overindulge.
Keep it short by describing the focal points of the image: “Appetizing breakfast of waffles with toppings and tea.” Most of the time, you can also omit phrases such as “a picture of” or “an image of” to reduce your character count. Alt text already implies that this is an image, so mentioning it once again is superfluous.
Nevertheless, if you work in the food photography field, you’ll want to compete for keywords related to your area of expertise. In that specific case, adding the words “food photography” to the description makes total sense. The alt text will thus become: “Beautiful food photography: appetizing breakfast of waffles with toppings and tea.”
How to add alt text to images
It’s extremely simple and intuitive to add alt text on your Wix website. Here are the steps you’ll need to follow to optimize your images and galleries for SEO:
To add alt text to your Wix Pro Gallery:
Click the gallery
Click Manage Media
Select an image
Insert your alt text underneath Title
To add alt text to a single image:
Click the image
Click the settings icon
Enter your alt text under What’s in the image? Tell Google
How else can I improve my image SEO?
Alt text should be your main focus when it comes to image SEO. However, there are additional ways you can use images to improve your website’s SEO. First, you’ll need to make sure your images load quickly on your site. To do so, employ certain website features that optimize your images without compromising their resolution or use a free image resizer.
In addition to alt text, your image caption can also indicate to search engines what the context of your image is. Here, you can be more creative, while making sure to remain within the context of your professional photographer website. It’s also a great place to add words you wouldn’t normally in your alt text.