Time to get alternative! How image based SEO can improve your website’s search ranking

Picture of an alternative gothic lady discussing image alt text

No. Not that kind of alternative.

I’m talking alternative text for images on your blog and website.

“What are those?” I hear you cry?

Ok, I don’t, I’m not hearing voices.

But all joking aside. Image alt text is important for your website’s search engine optimisation, and it’s such an easy thing to do you might be kicking yourself for not doing it yet!

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What is image alternative text?

Essentially, it’s text within an HTML tag that describes the appearance and function of an image within a page.

Sometimes, it’s known as alt text, alt attributes, alt descriptions or alt tags. But they all mean the same thing.

Did you know that it’s actually a legal requirement to have image alt text on your website?

No?

I thought not. It isn’t particularly well known amongst the small business community. Let’s change that!

Featured blog post image with the title on a blank card held by a content writer in Derby

The Equality Act 2010 imposes a duty on service providers to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable disabled persons access to their services – yes, this includes your website. If you are selling things online or presenting information – you are providing a service that falls under the EQA remit.

It means that you must anticipate the needs of potential disabled visitors wanting to use your website, and the main disability that might make it difficult to fully access your website is visual impairment.

Alternative text was created to enable screen readers to describe the image to a visually impaired person using your website


Disabled access button according to the equality act 2010

It’s a simple process.

Whenever a screen reader comes across an image, it’ll read out the alternative description that has been provided.

If no text has been provided – the screen reader will completely skip over the image. So, the person reliant on the information given by the reader has no idea there was even an image there.

Or worse, they’re trying to read a product description and know that there must be an image attached, they’ve been excluded from accessing it.

Ok, so that’s why image alternative text is important. But this blog is supposed to be about SEO, right?

Sure, and the answer to that is simple. Search engine ‘spiders’ will read the image alt text in much the same way as a screen reader will. Enabling them to gain a greater understanding of what the content is about, and how that image relates to it.

The simple act of adding alternative text every time you upload an image to your website will ensure your website is disability friendly, and make it easier for search engines to index it appropriately.

But we can do better than that.

By adding search keywords, phrases and your location to image alt text, you’re ensuring that your content is fully optimised for Google and other search engines.

Ok, so we’ve covered what image alternative text, why it’s important and how it works with SEO.

So, how should I write my image alt text?

Describing the image is the first step.

Now, you don’t need to be super detailed here. Just a simple description of what’s going on.

Take this image as an example.

How would you describe it to someone unable to see it?

A woman lying on her stomach with hot stones applied to the skin of her back

That’s sufficient for someone to understand what’s happening and how.

See, it’s very simple.

Picture of a stressed content writer receiving hot stone treatment in Derby

Now, we need to use a keyword to connect that image and alternative text to the copy or content it’s positioned within.

I’m going to say that it’s within a blog post titled ‘Effective Holistic Therapies That Reduce Stress’.

I’ve included hot stone treatment as one of the therapies, and I’ve inserted a picture to show what it entails. But I want to make sure Google knows that my focus keyword for the blog is ‘holistic’, so I’d adjust the alt text to something like this

‘A woman lying on her stomach experiencing the holistic therapy ‘hot stones’ – with three stones placed on her back’

The aim is to include the search keyword or phrase as naturally as possible. If it seems out of place is that because you could be using a better one, or because the image isn’t the right one for the message you’re trying to deliver?

Don’t forget that local SEO is crucial for small business owners


Google is constantly trying to deliver a personalised service to its users, and that includes matching their search results to websites in their locality (or say that they are).

It can be useful to add a location to an image alt text to reinforce the geographic area of your target audience.

Now don’t go overboard with this. I’d suggest no more than one image per page has a location in it, and that it must be relevant to the content of that page and the chosen picture.

So, how might you go about it?

Picture of an seo guru using Google on an iPad in a popular Derby bar

Let’s have another example with this image.

I’m writing a blog about working in different environments, and I’ve added this picture to a section about working in a café.

As I live and work in Derby, I want to make sure Google puts me in search results for ‘content writer Derby’, so I want to add my location to this image.

My alternative text would look like this

‘a picture of a content writer holding up an iPad she’s using to research blogging ideas in a popular Derby café’

See how it works?

Now it’s your turn. Go through every image uploaded to your website and add alternative text, if it isn’t already there. If you have that already, can you add a search term or location to make the alt text work harder for your website?

I know it’s time-consuming.

That’s why I’ve created a special offer for my loyal blog readers.

If you contact me today with the phrase ‘let’s get alternative’ I will add search engine optimised alternative text to the images on your website for £99 (some terms and conditions apply). Click here to contact me right now.

About the Author Zoe Hughes

Zoe is an experienced content writer specialising in the health and wellness sector. Zoe now combines her writing skills with marketing and search engine optimisation to provide a complete content marketing solution to her clients.

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