What Is an Alt Text (+ How to Write One to Rank High)

What Is Alt Text: Quick Definition

Alt text is a short description of what happens in an image on a web page. It’s not the caption of an image.

The idea is to describe images to people who cannot see them.

The secondary purpose is to describe the image for search engines to better understand your content.

This is a complete guide on writing an alt text in different scenarios and contexts.

After reading this guide, you are the master of alt texts and know how to make your posts accessible to everyone! You will also learn what’s the key difference between alt text and image caption. 🙂

Stay tuned!

How to Write a Good Alt Text?

Alt text example of an image of a gray cat wearing glasses

Alt text should be a short but specific description of what happens in the image.

In an ideal world, the alt text delivers the same value to those listening to the post as those reading it.

To write a good alt text, imagine yourself describing the image over a phone to someone with as few words as possible.

I think the best way to learn how to write good alt texts is by taking a look at some good examples.

By the way, feel free to watch a video version of this post:



The following image is in a blog post about the best beaches in the UK. In the image, there’s a woman looking at the sunset on the beach.

A woman enjoying a beautiful sunset on a beach in North Berwick, UK

Bad Alt Text:

“Sunset beach image”

The alt text above is too vague. It does not convey any meaningful information about the image.

It simply states that it is a picture of a beach without describing the details, leaving no context about the content of the image. 

This can be frustrating and does not contribute to a positive user experience.

Good Alt Text:

“A woman enjoying a beautiful sunset on a beach in North Berwick, UK.”

This alt text provides a concise yet informative description of the image, conveying the key elements and setting of the scene.

Let’s take a look at another similar example before moving to those trickier ones.

Example 2


The following picture is in a blog post that recaps FC Barcelona’s season 2018-2019.

"Spectator view of FC Barcelona playing against Atletico Madrid in Camp Nou in 2018"

Bad Alt Text:

“Soccer game in a full stadium”

This description isn’t helpful at all. It leaves the reader with a very vague understanding of what’s happening.

In this context, many readers are Barcelona fans or follow soccer closely. They might find it insightful to know the game that’s in question in the image.

Good Alt Text:

“Spectator view of FC Barcelona playing against Atletico Madrid in Camp Nou in 2018”

Much better!

But it’s not always this easy. Let’s repeat this example image in a different context.

Example 3


Let’s insert the image from the previous example into a different context.

This time, the image is in a blog post about the health benefits of sports.

Soccer game in a full stadium

Bad Alt Text:

“Spectator view of FC Barcelona playing against Atletico Madrid in Camp Nou in 2018”

In this context, this alt text gives too many details. Even though this would’ve been a perfect alt text for the previous example.

Here, most readers don’t know about FC Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, or Camp Nou. And even if they did, it brings no additional value.

The people who see the image don’t care. So shouldn’t the ones that cannot see it.

Good Alt Text:

“Soccer game in a full stadium”

Because it’s an article that talks about sports, not soccer, a high-level alt text is better!

Example 4


A product review of Adobe Photoshop vs Affinity Designer in the section “Which one should I choose”.

Bad Alt Text:

“Road sign in the middle of a desert pointing in both directions”

In this context, the image is just a decoration that breaks up the text. It doesn’t provide any additional value to the readers of the review. Thus, an alt text can only confuse the listeners of the post.

Good Alt Text:


Yes, that’s an empty alt text. It’s not a mistake.

If the image doesn’t provide additional value to the reader, don’t specify the alt text. This way you save the screen readers’ time and don’t confuse them with irrelevant alt texts that don’t support the content.

Alt Text Checklist

Here’s a quick checklist for writing the perfect alt text.

📌1️⃣: Provide a detailed yet short description of the image. 

Use the blog post topic, context, and image context as the guidelines. Write a short yet descriptive text for people that cannot see the image.

🌐2️⃣: Include additional context that aligns with the topic of your content. 

If the image is generic, adapt the alt text to the page’s content.

For example, if you have a stock image of a scoreboard that says 5-1, you can call it either a soccer score or an ice hockey score depending on your blog post topic.

📏3️⃣: Keep it under 125 characters. 

Screen readers usually stop reading at this point, which can make longer alt text cut off at weird places.

🚫4️⃣: Don’t say “picture of” or “image of”. 

Instead, dive straight into the description. 

Screen readers and search engines already know it’s an image. You don’t need to mention this! 🙂

⚠️5️⃣: Not every image needs alt text. 

Generic images usually don’t really provide any extra value to the listener of the post. 

Those are just visual elements that break up the text. Thus, it’s sometimes a good idea to not specify alt texts to those images at all.

Purely decorative images or ones already described in the nearby text can have an empty alt attribute. 

How to Set Alt Text in WordPress?

But how do you specify the alt text?

If you’re running a WordPress site, setting the alt text is easy:

  1. Open up a blog post.
  2. Click “Edit”.
  3. Click on an image.
  4. Choose the “Block” section on the right-hand side settings tab.
  5. Scroll down to Alt text.
  6. Specify the alt text.

Here’s an image that illustrates the process:

WordPress alt text lives in the Block settings

Alt Text vs Image Description

It’s easy to confuse alt text with the caption or the description of an image.

But those two are entirely different things!

Alt text: A written description of an image for people who can’t see them. This is a must in every blog post to make it accessible for everyone.

For example, “A dog catching a frisbee in a sunny park”.

Caption: An explanation that directly accompanies an image. It usually adds information about what’s happening in the image. A caption is not necessary for every image.

For example, “Buddy, the golden retriever, enjoys his day in Central Park.”

So the alt text describes the image for accessibility purposes, while a caption provides context.

Geek Alert: Alt Text Behind the Scenes

Let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at the alt text.

If you’re interested in HTML or are coding your website from scratch, it’s especially useful to know how it works.

The alt text is nothing but an extra alt attribute in the HTML code behind the scenes.

This attribute, nestled within the img tag, is the actual way how websites specify the alt text to images.

So if you’re displaying an image of a sunset over the ocean, your HTML could look like this:

<img src="sunset.jpg" alt="Sunset over the Pacific Ocean">

For example, here I’m using the HTML/JS inspector to check the alt text of one of my blog post images.

Checking the alt text of a blog post image with JS console

There you have it – the understated power of the alt attribute in HTML!

Wrap Up

Just keep in mind not to overthink the alt text either!

Even though this was a lengthy guide, it’s not a make-or-break element in your blog post.

If your alt text isn’t perfect or is accidentally missing, that’s not the end of the world.

But try to always make your post as accessible as possible. And don’t forget the SEO aspect of having a good alt text either! 🙂

Thanks for reading. Happy writing!

Read also: How to Use Images in Blog Posts the Right Way