How much attention do you pay to the images you select for your website or blog posts? And, when you select an image, do you take the time to select an appropriate file name, alt text, and caption for it? Believe it or not, these elements are quite important, for two reasons.
First, image metadata is important for accessibility with a number of screen readers. There are many people who may be visually or otherwise impaired and when they interact with your website, they may be counting on that metadata to understand what the images are trying to convey.
The rules for image alt text are easy: just describe what’s in the photo as simply and concisely as possible. Don’t say “image of”— accessibility programs will automatically recognize that it’s an image and let their users know. Also, only use alt text on images of substance. If you have a random inspirational stock image on your website, you can set the alt text to “alt=”” (null)” to create a more streamlined experience for those with screen readers.
As far as image captions go, keep in mind that screen readers will read both alt text and image captions. Having both of these attributes is useful for SEO, but if you give the same information in both that can get repetitive for those using screen readers. Also, by including the exact same information, you’re wasting an opportunity to provide more context to the search engine that could ultimately help your SEO.
Image search is alive and well. It always has been, despite the fact that websites may have seen less traffic coming from image searches in the past few years. When Google introduced the “View Image” feature in 2013, users were able to see the image without actually visiting the site it came from. Now that this feature is gone again, users who want a closer look at your image will have to visit your website, and this is a whole new source of incoming traffic. If other search engines follow Google’s lead on this, websites might see even more traffic from these kinds of image searches.
And the more accurately you name your image and make your alt text and captions, the more likely that image is to show up under an image search for that subject matter.
So, the opportunity here is quite clear. Marketers can easily hit two birds with one stone. Using appropriate file names, alt text, and image captions can both help those with special needs use your website and help search engines identify your images for what they are, thereby exposing them to a wider audience.
Do good and profit?! Start focusing on the quality of your image metadata today!