How To Create Correct Alt Tags For Optimising Image SEO

Gary Green
Gary Green
November 29, 2021

Alternative text, also known as 'alt text', is a word or phrase that is entered in HTML for a website and provides a description of an image.

This is because Google doesn’t automatically know what an image is of, so it relies on the content attached to it to give it meaning.

Here we’ll examine multiple aspects of alt text so you can learn how to properly optimise your images for SEO.

Why Does Having Alt Text Matter?

There are many reasons why you should pay attention to optimising the images on your site with alt text. It improves how accessible and relevant your content is, allowing you to rank the image within the context of Google Images, as they are essentially the anchor text for pictures.

If you label your images correctly, it gives Google the ability to determine how relevant the page is to the searcher. It also helps those with sight impairment, as some software can change alt text to audio, telling the user what the picture is of.

In the UK it’s estimated that two million people have sight loss in some form, and over 350,000 of these are registered as blind or only have partial sight. That’s a huge customer base, and imagine how frustrating it can be for someone using a screen reader to hover over an image and be given incorrect information, or none at all.

Adding Alt Text To Your Images The Right Way

If you are using WordPress, then simply amending the image details will give you the opportunity to add alt text and an alt description into the appropriate box. Many other modern content management systems such as Wix and Squarespace will have similar features which don’t require you to hard code the alt text.

However, if your website is custom-designed, all you have to do is create an attribute in HTML, it is easily identified by <img>. The final code should appear as <img src=“puppy.jpg” alt=“black Labrador puppy”>. It doesn’t take much to give your images a real boost in value, and you’re not only helping your own SEO but you’re making your website as a whole much more accessible to those who are visually impaired.

Does Every Image Need Alt Text?

Don’t feel that you have to add alt text to every single graphic on your site, because if they are solely there to be decorative and not informative, then you should leave these alone. An image should only be created with alt text where it is going to provide a useful piece of information for the search engine or user. If you aren’t going to put alt text on an image, the best thing to do it to create an empty value, so that a screen reader isn’t going to read aloud long and complex file names.

What’s The Secret Behind Creating Quality Alt Text?

Getting alt text right is an important aspect of your website, so use the five following rules and you can’t go wrong:

  • Keep it short and sweet – use as little text as possible, just 1-3 words should suffice: ‘white lily flower’, ‘blue macaw parrot’ or ‘shaker style wardrobe’.
  • Make it accurate – be descriptive in just a few words ‘tall pine tree’ vs ‘tree’ or ‘rural country house’ vs ‘house’.
  • Don’t add too many keywords – there’s no need to stuff keywords into the alt text as they are primarily descriptive.
  • Avoid using words to describe what it is – you don’t need to write ‘picture of a ...’ or ‘image of a ...’ because that’s already a given due to the format it’s in.
  • Try to give a new angle – if the image is of a celebrity and the text description below states their name directly, then you shouldn’t add this redundant alt text in.

Always remember that form buttons should be given appropriate alt text too, as someone using a screen reader may skip right past the button and not be able to effectively use the page.

Let’s take a look at some examples of both poor alt text and correctly written alt text:

An image of a blackcurrant tart with whipped cream on top:

Worst: <img src=“tart.png” alt=“image of a tart”>

Good: <img src=“tart.png” alt=“tart”>

Best: <img src=“tart.png” alt=“blackcurrant tart with cream”>

An image of a castle:

Worst: <img src=“castle.png” alt=“castle picture”>

Good: <img src=“castle.png” alt=“castle”>

Best: <img src=“castle.png” alt=“medieval castle winchester 1067”>

How To Correct Poorly Performing Alt Text

There are now many tools available in the SEO arsenal to detect issues with alt text by crawling the code of your website and identifying the items. Sometimes alt text should be left blank as described above, so a manual audit of the site is preferred for this, using your intuition to identify decorative vs. informative images and then create the appropriate text.

Pay special attention to the already ranking pages which have traffic flowing to them. Remember that those visitors with a vision impairment will be much better catered for on your site if you take the initiative to make your site accessible to them.

Ranking your images in Google Images too helps to boost traffic, and even if the amount you get is only 5% more, if you already have 10,000 visitors, that equates to an extra 500 visitors per month. It doesn’t take much time to optimise alt text properly, but the benefits you reap can really add up.


It’s a huge step forward that you’ve realised how important alt text is to your overall SEO authority, and it doesn’t take much of an effort to give your images a boost no matter how big your site is. Going forward, make sure you mention it to anyone involved in uploading content to your website that the alt text is properly optimised.

What’s more, alt text is only one small part of optimising images, and you can do so much more to give those images on your site a real boost such as tailoring filenames properly with SEO in mind.

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