What is alt text? Short for “alternative text,” alt text is a written description of a website visual. It pops up if an image fails to load. It allows screen-reading tools to decipher an image for visually-impaired users. And, it can be used as part of an SEO strategy.

Has this happened to you? You attempt to access a website, blog, or article, and the accompanying infographic, photo, or other artwork fails to load. Instead, you’re treated to a brief, two- or three-word text sentence describing the image.

Welcome to the world of web accessibility and its mainstay, the alternative text. Known as “alt text,” and sometimes as “alt tags” or “alt descriptions,” this tool provides users with descriptive, written content, as an alternative to visuals.

Why use alternative text?

Alternative text serves the following functions:

  • It is read by text-oriented screen readers, providing image accessibility to the visually impaired
  • It steps in if an image file fails to download, or if a user doesn’t want to view the image
  • When used with the right keyword, it can positively impact a website’s search engine results page ranking

Alt text best practices

The basic rules when it comes to creating alternative text are: Be brief and be bright. Effective alternative text content must be highly descriptive. And it must be short as in, less than 125 characters.

Well-crafted alternative text with judicious use of keywords can also help improve your SERP ranking. But be wary of keyword overuse. You don’t want to trigger spammy red flags.

Alt text examples

Finally, there are a few ways to input alternative text. Some backend website functions list an automatic “alt text” square or box, allowing you to type in your two- or three-word content.

Failing this, you can use the following HTML code:


Example: The alternative text for a photo of a black cat yawning could be as follows:

<img src=”BlackCatPhoto.jpg” alt=”yawning black cat slit eyes”>

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