Google’s John Muller assists on how best to utilise alt text in the context of SEO.
In Google Office-hours Hangout in Google Office-hours, Google’s John Mueller answered a question about the best way to use alt text to enhance SEO. He also denied the idea that there’s a limit of 16 words on alt text and suggested methods to utilise the Alt Text suitable for SEO.
Alternative Text for Images. is a correct reference ALT text. The main aim of providing an alt text is to describe what an image is about for users accessing a web with a screen reader.
Screen readers have aided devices that assist those with visual impairments to access documents on the internet and other documents.
A screen reader is a device that reads documents on computers loudly so that the user using the documents can listen to the words written.
The question was:
“Google said that there’s a maximum of 16 words that you can use in your alt text.
And the question is, does Google read the rest of my alt text and what does this mean for usability?”
Mueller answered the question:
“And I think the important part here is we don’t have any guidelines regardingwith regards to how long your alt text can be.
So from a Google Search point of view, you can put a lot of things in the alt text for an image, if that’s relevant for that particular image.”
16 Word Alt Text Limit?
The person asking the question referred to what they believed to be the Google restriction of only 16 words that could be used as alt text.
The idea could come from an SEO test that sought to determine whether the text in the alt text of images could be searched on Google Images.
The test was conducted using non-existent words (essentially gibberish), and it gave a result that Google couldn’t fetch images by using more than 16 words to search for them.
Testing with gibberish Google results in inaccurate “SEO test” results.
The primary purpose of using gibberish is an inaccurate method because the google algorithm is plotted out to rank exact keywords and not gibberish.
In the case of gibberish, it could likely occur that Google will use the standard algorithm (since it’s not applicable) and attempt to do a straight search from query to a page, which isn’t the way Google usually is working.
The extent to which this error affects the SEO test remains an open inquiry.
The 16-word limit was not imposed by Google but was established from the results of an SEO test.
Mueller Explains How to Use Image Alt Text
Mueller then explained the way Google uses alt text in images, and what that means to how you can use alt text for SEO .
“When it comes to the alt text, we primarily use that to better understand the image.
So if someone is searching …in Google Images for something that kind of matches the alt text, then we can use that to understand that your image is relevant for that alt text on that specific page.
That’s kind of the primary use case of the alt text.
We do also use the alt text as a part of the page. But that, to me, that’s usually something that is already visible on the page anyway.
So it’s less something that is critical to the page itself.
So I would really use it as something that applies to the image and I would use it for usability and for Google Images to better understand that specific image.”
What Words to Use in Alt Text
Muller then explained how to choose the best words for the image alt text.
“And I think what might also be worth mentioning is when it comes to Google images, you don’t necessarily need to describe exactly what is in the image.
But rather, kind of like what this image means for your particular page.
So if you have a picture of a beach, you could use an alt text and say, Oh this is a beach.
But you could also say, this is the beach in front of our hotel, or the beach that we took a photo of when we were doing a chemical cleanup.
And kind of those intents are very different, and people would be searching in different ways in Google Images to find more information there. And giving that extra context always makes sense, in my opinion.”
Use Alt Text to Provide Context
John Mueller essentially encouraged SEOs and publishers to include words that convey an explanation for the image on the page’s content so that when an electronic screen reader encounters the image, the background of how the image is related to the contents of the page will be more apparent.
If you doubt what you should include in the alt text, it’s best to consider how you can describe the image to those with visual impairments and then incorporate this description in your alt text.
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