We recently shared with you some useful tips for optimizing your images for SEO, and completing the alt-text field for your images may be the single most important step that you can take for making them SEO friendly.

If you’re like many SMB owners that are fairly new to business blogging, you’re probably wondering what in the world alt-text means. In a nutshell, it’s a text description for an image that helps search engines understand the context. While you may be able to look at a picture and immediately determine what is happening, an image is essentially meaningless to a search engine unless you include a written description.

While adding alt-text to your images can help to make your content more accessible on the web, it also serves other functions as well, such as helping those with visual and certain cognitive disabilities understand the context of your image.

Since images provide you with an another opportunity to boost your search rank, so it would be foolish to not assign alt-text to them. One of the benefits of writing alt-text is that it creates another place within your content to include a targeted keyword, and search engines are less likely to penalize you using a keyword here (assuming you are not a keyword spammer).

To help you write great alt-text that is SEO friendly, we wanted to share the following tips with you:

If your image includes text, be sure to repeat it in your alt-text.

While other words can be included in your alt-text as well, the text that is written in the image should absolutely be included.

Sometimes, images such as company logos imply text but do not actually include it. In these cases, you should include the company name in your alt-text.

Keep your alt-text short.

Think of it like a tweet. As a rule of thumb, your alt-text should be between 5 and 15 words. If you include too much alt-text, it can be difficult for search engines to decipher it. Shorter alt-text means faster page load time, which is what you obviously want.

If an image is too technical to describe using 15 words or less, consider talking about your image in the body of your content. In this scenario, it’s advisable to use an alt tag that will refer visually impaired readers to the body of your content where they can find a more thorough description of the image.

Incorporate SEO keywords into your alt-text.

While alt-text provides you with another opportunity to incorporate your SEO keywords into the content, you want to be careful not to go overboard as search engines may classify this as keyword spamming. To best prevent this from happening, try to naturally include an SEO keyword to describe the image, and only use one SEO keyword in your alt-text.

Make your alt-text meaningful to your readers.

At times, you may come across alt-text that appears to have been written with web developers in mind (image sizes, file names, etc), and this provides little value to your readers and no SEO benefit for your content. Your goal should be to make your alt-text meaningful and informative to your readers, which in turn will also help your search rank. To help you write great alt-text, ask yourself questions like, “Why am I using this image?” and, “What message am I trying to convey to my readers with this image?”

If we could pass along any additional words of wisdom to you, we would tell you not to over think alt-text. It should just be a simple sentence that provides a clear description of what the image is, ideally using one of your keywords.