Alt text is an image description that helps search engines to better understand images on a site and take them into account when ranking. Sometimes, other names are used: alternative text, alt attributes, alt description, or alt tag.
Alt text is included in HTML code and is not visible to users, but it will be displayed if the picture, for whatever reason, does not load. This text is also “understood” by screen readers used by visually impaired people.
What Does “Alt Text Too Long” Mean?
Image descriptions should not be too long and detailed. Standard alt text is 125 characters or less. In this case, the search engine will “read” the alt text completely. If an alt text is longer, it will not be identified by Google and screen readers.
An example of a standard alt text design:
<img src=” black-t-shirt.jpg” alt=”man in black t-shirt”>
The src attribute includes an image name and location, the alt tag contains a text description of image content.
What Triggers This Issue?
Although similar images can be described in different ways, depending on the content type and target audience needs, the main mistakes when writing alt text are too detailed description and the use of too many keywords.
An optimal format for alternative text implies brevity, simplicity, and accuracy. It is not necessary to include keywords in the alternative text, while an excessive number of keywords, on the contrary, is not advisable. There are other aspects that cause the error. Read more about them at https://moz.com/learn/seo/alt-text.
How to Check the Issue?
There are services that scan the site and find images without alt text. It is also possible to check the availability of alt text with the help of special browser add-ons, for example, Alt Text Tester for Chrome.
Most modern CMSs allow quickly adding missing descriptions. However, the alt attribute is required not for all images. It is not added to illustrations that are design elements not requiring the attention of search engine crawlers.
We recommend focusing primarily on images from pages with organic traffic. Here, it is necessary to not only add alt attributes but also work with the URL structure. In addition to formatting alt text, it is recommended to perform other measures to optimize images, which are important for search engines and can affect site position in search rankings. For more details, watch the video by John Mueller:
Use Sitechecker to find pages on your website with missing alt texts and other alt-related issues. Just run an audit to see what needs fixing.
Why is This Important?
A properly formatted alternative text will be useful for SEO. Alt text helps search engines to understand page content better, and it is responsible for:
- displaying the image for search queries in Google Images and Google recommendations;
- conforming to the principle of web accessibility when visually impaired people use screen readers;
- creation of an additional context in search for indexing an image by search crawlers.
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How to Fix the Issue?
To compose a good alternative text, follow five principles.
- Brevity. Alt text length matter if, for some reason, you cannot limit it to 125 characters, you need to apply the longdesc attribute, created for long descriptions.
- Accuracy. Despite the requirements for the number of characters, do not be limited to one or two words if they do not accurately reflect what is shown in the picture.
- No unnecessary details. There is no need to include in the alt text words indicating the file format and content type, such as “picture,” “image,” “photo.” The search engine does not need such clarifications.
- Keywords. The use of keywords in the alt attribute will allow the page to rank better in search engines. However, make sure that there is no over-spam.
- No duplicates. Do not duplicate information available in the image caption on the site ─ for search engines, a caption is actually an alternative text.