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The Power of Alt Image Descriptions


A young businessman sitting at a desk with a laptop and a cup of coffee.

We all know that visuals dominate within the digital climate, often dictating whether we read on or move on. In February alone, it was recorded that 63 million images were uploaded to Instagram. How annoying it would be if, for whatever reason, you were unable to access these images! Leading us to think about accessibility. Accessibility is key in all areas of life, including the all-important digital world.


Inaccessible images can cause a whole host of problems. This is where Alt image descriptions come into play, often overlooked but incredibly important. They serve as the bridge between visual content and those who rely on screen readers or have visual impairments. Not only do they ensure inclusivity, but they also play a vital role in search engine optimisation (SEO), making them a valuable asset for website owners and content creators.


Google open on a computer screen.

Understanding Alt Image Descriptions

Alt image descriptions, short for alternative image descriptions, are text descriptions added to images on web pages. These descriptions serve as a textual representation of the image content and are read aloud by screen readers to visually impaired users.


Additionally, they are displayed when images fail to load, providing context and clarity to all users.

 

Enhancing

For individuals who rely on screen readers or have visual impairments, alt image descriptions are a lifeline to understanding visual content. By providing detailed and accurate descriptions of images, website owners can ensure that their content is accessible to all users, regardless of their abilities.


From product images on e-commerce sites to infographics on educational platforms, alt image descriptions enable everyone to fully engage with the content.


An Accessibility attachment for a laptop

 

Improving SEO

Beyond accessibility, alt image descriptions also have significant implications for SEO. Search engines like Google use alt text to understand the content and context of images, which can influence a page's ranking in search results.


By optimising alt image descriptions with relevant keywords and descriptive language, website owners can improve their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) and attract more organic traffic to their site.


Best Practices for Alt Image Descriptions:

When creating alt image descriptions, it's essential to follow best practices to ensure effectiveness and accuracy. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

 

  • Be descriptive: Provide a concise yet detailed description of the image content, including relevant keywords and context.

  • Use keywords strategically: Incorporate relevant keywords into your alt text to improve SEO without keyword stuffing.

  • Keep it succinct: Aim for alt text that is no longer than 125 characters to ensure compatibility with screen readers and avoid overwhelming users.

  • Avoid redundant descriptions: If the image content is already described in the surrounding text, opt for a brief alt text that adds value rather than duplicating information.

  • Prioritise essential images: Focus on providing alt descriptions for images that convey important information or serve a functional purpose on the page.

 

Three scrabble pieces on a table spelling out SEO

Conclusion

Alt image descriptions are a vital component of web accessibility and SEO strategy. By prioritising inclusivity and optimising alt text for search engines, website owners can create a more inclusive and discoverable online experience for all users.

As we continue to strive for a more accessible and equitable digital landscape, let's recognise the power of alt image descriptions in shaping the future of the web.

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