Alternative text (called alt text) is used to describe images to search engines. It’s part of both on-page SEO and Google Image optimization. Search engines can’t read images like we can, so they partially rely on us to write descriptive alt text to understand the image is about.
Just like how you would optimize a piece of content, we want to include the keyword here, but we don’t want to do keyword stuffing. This is where some people get confused, but I will save you the reading with this quick tip… you’re better off using alternative text to accurately describe an image than to include keyword(s) that DON’T describe the image.
Alternative Text Best Practices
- Each image should have a completely unique alternative text
- Alternative text should accurately describe the image
- Avoid keyword stuffing, just use it to describe the image
- Only use an exact keyword match if it makes sense to the image
- Try using partial keyword matches to avoid keyword stuffing
- Before uploading an image, label the file name as the alt text you want to use
- The file name will be used as the alt text (only for visual editor/featured images)
If your homepage is targeting the keyword “web design chicago”don’t edit every single image on that page for that keyword. If you have an image of yourself, you could use “chicago web designer” in the alt text since it makes sense. Or if you have a web design icon, label the alt text as web design icon (a partial keyword match is still good). But do NOT use “web design chicago” everywhere – you want to use natural, unique alt text for each image.
Editing Alternative Text In WordPress
If you’ve already uploaded an image to WordPress with a bad file name (DSC386748) you should reupload these images if you want them optimized, since the file name is part of SEO.
Before uploading an image to WordPress, label the file name as the alt text you want to use. By default, WordPress will automatically use the image file name as the alt text. Doing this also gives your images correct image file names which are used in image optimization. For images outside of the visual editor and featured images (eg. those in widgets) still label your image file names before uploading them, but you will need to set their alt text manually…
Widgets / HTML
Images in your widgets or anywhere outside of the visual editor need the alt text labeled manually. You can do this by editing the HTML (see photo below), or an easy alternative is to paste the image in the visual editor (so WordPress assigns the alt text automatically), the “text” button to see the HTML, copy that images HTML, and paste it into the widget.
For featured images, as long as you label the image file name as the alt text you want to use before uploading the image, WordPress will automatically use the file name as the alt text.
You don’t need to set alt text for bullets, social icons, or other images that aren’t relevant to your content. I covered pretty much everything these is to optimizing image alternative text in WordPress and how it relates to SEO. Please share my article if you found this helpful, or drop me a line in the comments if you have a question about alt text or SEO.