Image Alt Text is one of those things that gets tossed around a lot in the world of SEO, and as photographers, we hear it even more. Why? Because we live in a world of images, this comes up a lot for us.
It can boost or hurt your SEO but believe it or not, it’s not meant to help your SEO game. Here’s what it is and how to use it.
What exactly is Alt Text for Photos?
Alt text is simply an accurate photo description so users with visual impairments can understand your picture using a screen reader. This exact text is also displayed in place of your image if it fails to load. Lastly, it does provide content information to search engines so they can understand the intent of your photograph and web page.
Most web builders will have a function after uploading an image to add a short piece of text tagged to your photo. FOREVER. Just kidding, it’s not forever. You can easily change this if you realize it’s wrong.
Image Alt Text and the relationship to SEO
OK, so now that we’ve covered what alt text is, let’s discover how this works in your SEO.
While Alt Text is not intended as an SEO tool, it definitely can be secondarily. As screen readers use this to understand your photos, so does google when it looks to understand the content of your website.
Below are five alt-text examples on a family photography page. You can see that they all enhance the idea of family photography.
- Downtown Spokane Family Photo with parents and two children
- Black and white image of a child by a tree
- Dad with daughter at Spokane River
- Family Photo with baby Fall Colors
- Family photo with dog at a lake
However, if your alt text said things like Red Wagon, Maple Tree, True Love…. Google would be confused when it looked at your content.
Best Practices for using Image Alt text
So even though image alt text was not designed as a secret weapon for your SEO, it does come into play.
Here are 3 best practices for setting up alt text to keep its use as intended AND encourage good SEO.
1. Do NOT change your alt text to match your SEO goals. First and foremost, Alt Text is designed to help visually impaired users. If you post a horse picture on your family photography page, it should say “horse,” not “Spokane Family Photographer .” Hard Stop.
2. If you naturally post photos representing your page, the alt text will align with your SEO goals.
That means pictures of newborns on newborn pages and families on family pages. This may sound like a no-brainer, but people often add photos for looks that aren’t about the page. This is OK. Remember that your alt text doesn’t always need to align with your SEO goal.
3. As a photographer, we have a lot of photos. Using the exact alt text for several images is OK on your portfolio. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Keep it simple and keep it accurate.
More SEO resources
I’m a full-time family and newborn photographer now, but my previous career was all about helping businesses grow. That’s why I’ve created a series of SEO-related posts demystifying SEO and the non-camera part of being a photographer. Here are a few of my favorites.
If you’re looking for more, join my small business newsletter here. I share actionable SEO tips and strategies to move the needle in your business twice a month.
MB – A Spokane, WA-based photographer serving other heart-led businesses with SEO strategies and support.