Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why You Need "Alt Text" Tags

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What exactly is "alt text"? AltText is something you may have heard of, but aren't sure what it is, or what it's purpose is. When you upload an image to your blog, the "alt text" is the stuff you normally won't see, but it describes your image to those who can't visually see your image.

And there are other purposes - a search engine bot (robot) is what crawls through your website or blog and indexes your pages and posts. These bots can't "see" images, they only read text. If your image doesn't have alt text, the bot doesn't know it's there, so your article or website might look like it has a lot of big spaces to the bot, and very little actual content.

This is particularly a problem for those whose sites contain a large number of images - such as mine do. If you want to be indexed properly and have your sites and pages show up well in search engine results, you need to optimize your images by using alt text. It also makes it difficult to get approved for AdSense if you have a lot of images, but no alt text tags. After all, AdSense wants sites or blogs with a lot of good, original content. If it can't see your pictures, then there could be a lot of content "missing" as far as the AdSense bot is concerned.

Another good reason for using alt text is your visitors themselves. Some people still do have dialup connections, and some can be pretty slow when they need to load a lot of images. Because of this many dialup users turn off image loading in their browsers, which means they will only see a blank page if you have no text, or very little text and a lot of space where the images should be, or simply a bunch of boxes with red "x"s in them in place of your images. If you use alt text, these browsers will see that text so they will at least know what the image is.

And then there are those browsers who are blind, or classed as "legally blind". And before you ask, yes the blind do surf and enjoy the internet. At least when people consider them and use alt text for the images. There are voice programs which read text on internet pages that are used by the blind. Their computers read to them, but this software can usually only recognize text, just like a search engine bot. If there's no alt text, there's nothing for the software to read.

Lastly, if you own the image (and you should if you are uploading it) or if the image is being posted with permission of the owner, you can also add this text in the alt text area, or you can add a caption to the image so people are given proper credit for the images.

Those who don't use alt text as often as they can could be missing out on a lot of visitors.

So, how to put the alt text on your images? If you use a blog service like wordpress or blogger, they have box right in the imager uploader where you can type your alt text. Below are screenshots of how to add the alt text to your blogger images:

Screenshot showing how to add alt text to images inserted in blogger posts.

  • upload your image into your post
  • click the image to get the options box
  • click properties
  • type description in the text box that opens and click OK

Screenshot showing the place for adding alt text to blogger images.

Make your blog or website more accessible by using the Alt Text whenever you upload an image - this newer method works on old previously uploaded images as well!

(note: originally posted by me on another of my blogs)

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