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What are Alt Tags for Images and Why Do You Need to Fill Them Out?

Images are a critical part of your website and business blog. After all, whether your visitors are visual or not, pictures give a lot of information about you and your business and can make a blog post far more digestible.

As you upload images to your Wordpress or Joomla website, you may notice a section that says “alt.” This is called the alt tag (although technically it’s not a tag). What is that, you wonder? Do I need to fill that out? The answer to the latter is yes. Here is why.

What is an alt tag?
“Alt” is short for alternative. The text you put in the alt box is what screen readers will read out loud for computer users who are visually impaired. This box is not required for you to fill out, so many Raleigh and Cary business owners leave it blank. However, if you do that, a visually impaired person hovering over the image will not hear anything, so he or she will not know what the picture or graphic contains.

Alt tags are also displayed when an image cannot be loaded for some reason. For example, your email account may not load all images until you click “display images.” However, the program will display the alt text for those images in the meantime.

Alt Tags for SEO
Alt tags aren’t just for the visually impaired. Google has indicated alt tags can improve a site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO). That said, you shouldn’t cram a bunch of spam into your alt tags or any other place in your image, either. Here are some best practices to follow:

● Name the image something useful. The filename counts, too. If your image has a name that is numbers, like DSC 08954, you should rename it before you upload the photo to your website. The filename should, in part, describe the image or its purpose.
● Use descriptive text in your alt tags. Again, don’t cram tons of words in there, but you want more than just one word. Instead of “tree,” you can write, “Maple tree with red leaves.”
● Notice that you don’t have to write “image of” or “picture of” in the text. That part is already explained.
● Do stuff the alt tag with keywords. If you sell shoes, you can write, “Green Adidas sneakers with xyz design,” but don’t write, “sneakers, green, Adidas, shoe, shoes, best shoes for running, urban sneakers.”
● Fill out captions when you can. The captions, too, are read aloud by screen readers, so use them to describe an image and its relevance to the nearby text.
● If you have buttons or other clickable tools on your page, you absolutely must include alt tags for these. The alt tag tells a visually impaired person what action they must take on those spaces. Try to think about your website as if you can’t see it. What would someone miss if a computer is reading text out loud? Add alt tags to those buttons that say “button to subscribe to our email list” or “button to buy [name of product].”

If you have questions about alt tags or another aspect of your website, contact us to get help.

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