The Alternative Text of Images: A Complete Guide to its Importance and Use

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In the digital world, images play a crucial role in the presentation of content. They can tell a story, provide a visual context or simply make a web page more attractive. However, without proper alternative text (often called 'alt text'), these images may not reach their full potential in terms of accessibility and optimisation SEO. But what exactly is the alternative text and why is it so important?

What is Alternative Text?

The alternative text is a short written description of an image on a web page. When an image cannot be displayed (due to connection problems, errors in the code or other reasons), alternative text may appear in its place. This text also serves as a description for screen readers, tools used by visually impaired persons to navigate the web.

Moreover, search engines, which cannot 'see' images like humans, rely on alternative text to understand their content. Therefore, good alternative text can help improve the visibility of a web page in search engine results. More information on how search engines work can be found at here.

Why is Alternative Text Important?

The importance of the alternative text lies in three fundamental areas: accessibility, SEO optimisation and improving the user experience.

  1. Accessibility:
    The web was created with the idea of being a place accessible to all, regardless of the user's abilities or condition. In this context, alternative text plays a key role. People with visual impairments or disorders such as total or partial blindness often use screen readers to surf the web. These devices read aloud the content of a page, but have difficulty when they encounter an image. This is where the alternative text comes in: it provides an audible description of the image, allowing these people to understand its context. Furthermore, in situations with unstable Internet connections, where images may not load, the alternative text ensures that the user still gets an idea of what the image represents.
  2. SEO optimisation:
    Search engines such as Google, Bing and others work tirelessly to provide their users with the most relevant results. However, unlike humans, search engines cannot 'see' images. Relying on alt text, they understand the context and meaning of images, and use this to determine the relevance of a page to a given search query. Well-written alt text, therefore, not only makes the image accessible, but also contributes to the page's SEO ranking, increasing the likelihood of being found and viewed by potential visitors.
  3. Improved user experience:
    Imagine that you are surfing on a web page and come across an image with a question mark or a broken icon due to a loading error. You might feel frustrated or confused. The alternative text combats this negative experience by offering a written description of the missing image. Even if the user cannot see the image, its presence is still perceived thanks to the alternative text, which provides context and keeps the user informed.

In summary, alternative text is not only a recommended practice for web content creation; it is an essential element that ensures accessibility, search engine visibility and a solid user experience.

How to Write an Effective Alternative Text?

Writing an effective alternative text is not only a technical matter, but also an art that requires precision, attention to detail and sensitivity to users' needs. Here are some detailed tips on how best to do this:

  1. Be Descriptive but Concise:
    A good alternative text should act as a mini-narrative describing the essence of what the image portrays. For example, instead of writing 'man', you could write 'man smiling with a hat'. However, there is a fine line between being detailed and verbose. Too much text could confuse or bore the user, especially those using screen readers. The key is to strike a balance: provide enough information so that the user can understand the image without feeling overwhelmed.
  2. Avoid Redundancies:
    Screen readers are designed to identify images and announce to their user that it is an image. If you start your alt text with 'image of' or 'picture of', you may end up creating unnecessary repetition. For example, a screen reader might say 'picture, picture of a cat', which sounds redundant.
  3. Use Keywords with Moderation:
    Search engine optimisation (SEO) is crucial, but it should not compromise the primary function of alternative text: description. So, while you may be tempted to insert keywords to improve your ranking, make sure these words are actually relevant to the image. Context and relevance are crucial.
  4. Avoid Filling with Keywords:
    Keyword stuffing, or the act of filling your content (including alt text) with keywords, is not only frowned upon by search engines, but can also deteriorate the user experience. Google and other search engines have become extremely sophisticated and can identify and penalise unethical practices. Your goal should always be to provide value to the user, not to try to 'trick' the search engines.

Writing an effective alternative text requires practice and thought. Always keep the end user in mind and do your best to provide a useful and meaningful description.

Example of Alternative Text

Imagine you have an image of a black cat sitting on a red sofa. A good alternative text could be 'black cat sitting on a red couch', while a bad example would be 'cat couch house pet black red'.

Conclusion

Now that you understand the importance and use of alternative text, it is essential to implement it in every image on your website. This not only improves your SEO optimisation, but also makes your site more inclusive and accessible to all.

Do you have problems or questions about the alternative image text? Please do not hesitate to contact us. You can open a ticket by sending an email to support@gtechgroup.it or also contact us on WhatsApp by writing to 0465 84 62 45.

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G Tech Group was born conceptually in 2011 and entrepreneurially in 2013 from an idea of Gianluca Gentile its founder.

The aim was to create the first Social Web Agency not a classic web agency that deals with social but an agency that shares its resources and ideas with other agencies and also connects different agencies, creating a real network.

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