This post is the first of several about supplementing multimedia content on your law firm website for the sake of both accessibility and SEO. You can return to this page in the future to find links to the other blog posts in this series, which will cover how to supplement audio and video content so that it can be indexed by search engines, as well as how to turn textual content into audio and video in order to offer users multiple means of consuming similar content.
What is an “Alt Tag” and Why Should Attorneys Care?
Web crawlers (the software bots that search engines use to discover, interpret, and index content across the internet) cannot see images. Though engineers have made crawlers better at interpreting photos, the bots still do a poor job of indexing and understanding the context of images online.
Though it is not a big needle-mover in terms of the overall SEO performance of your site, there is a way to inform crawlers about the content of an image used on your law firm website. And using the very same tool that allows you to communicate the content of images to crawlers will also help make your site more accessible to visually impaired users.
Commonly referred to as “Alt text” or “alt tags,” the proper name for the truncated pieces of text used to describe images on a web page is “alternative attributes of an image tag.” Originally invented as an accessibility tool for individuals using screen readers or other types of accessible browsers, the primary function of an “alt text” element is to allow accessible browsers to read image descriptions to those who cannot see the images themselves. Proper use of alt text also allows webmasters to add contextual keywords in one more place on-page, which may provide a slight boost to your overall SEO efforts.
When Should Attorneys Use Alt Text?
Adding alt text to images should be done consistently as images are added to your law firm website. If you have neglected to add alt text to your images in the past, don’t stress it. The SEO benefit for alt text is minor, and should only be applied retroactively when all other SEO updates on your site have been completed, or as part of a major accessibility overhaul to your site. Otherwise, just consider adding alt tags to the images added to your site moving forward.
Attorneys should consider applying an alt text attribute to every substantive image placed on their law firm websites. Though application of “alt text” is not warranted on website elements such as visual flourishes, bullet points, or spacing elements, any image that is used to supplement the actual content of your law firm website can probably benefit from the addition of an alt tag.
If you are having trouble deciding whether or not to use an alt tag for a particular image, imagine that the HTML text of your website is being read to you outloud (or install a plugin that allows your browser to check your site for accessibility) and, if the description of a particular image on a page would help you to understand the content or context of that page any better, it is probably appropriate to apply an alt tag to it. If an additional description would only muddle your understanding of the content, don’t add an alt tag.
How Do I Use Alt Text on My Law Firm Website?
LawLytics members can easily add alt text to images when they insert photos into a blog post or web page. The coding for that process is done automatically on the LawLytics platform but, for reference, here’s what the code for the above image would look like on an HTML source page:
<img src= “Thinking_Locally_Image_Poster_18.jpg” alt= “Man in a suit standing in a field reading a map.”>
In this example, everything positioned between the angle brackets (<…>) is considered part of the image tag. The alt text, and therefore the portion that will be read by both crawlers and accessible browsers, is that which appears within the quotation marks after the “alt=” attribute.
Alt text attributes should be short and to-the-point. Limit alt text to 125 characters—that is where most accessible browsers will stop reading them.
Do not use alt tags as a place to stuff additional keywords. Browsers are well aware of this “black hat” SEO trick, and doing so can potentially damage the SEO for the associated pages. Further, a keyword-stuffed alt tag would undermine its purpose as an accessibility tool. Rather, much like when writing quality content for your law firm website, keywords should be applied to alt text naturally, such that they do not impede the flow of the text when read. Write your alt text with its primary function in mind (describing photos to visually impaired users) and you will naturally maximize the effectiveness of the attribute for your law firm website.