Optimizing your website for search engines is a continual task that can seem never-ending. So let’s focus on the part that brought you into this profession to begin with: images and the alt text that allows search engines to see them.
Since it’s the raison d’être of your site, you’ll probably be excited to dig into it. But I have to warn you, it’s going to take a lot of time. Unfortunately, I don’t mean taking pictures.
No, I mean optimizing your images for the robots from Google, Yahoo, Bing, Duck-duck-go (yes, it’s real), etc. that crawl your website. Search engine robots crawl your site regularly, and those robots sift through all of the site’s code in order to figure out what your site is presenting. But those robots cannot see the images that we can. Their view is much less romantic. Moreover, they lack the cultural and historical knowledge necessary to give those images meaning.
That’s your job. You need to provide Google and other search engines with the information so that they know what’s in each image. For example, if you’ve got a portrait of Sophie Trudeau for Chatelaine magazine, you want search engines to find it.
One way to do that is through alt text. Alt text is an HTML field used to provide textual descriptions of images for visually-impaired people surfing the web. The alt text for any image should be
When you visit a site, you cannot see the alt text for each image, but it’s still there guiding search engines — and therefore users — to your content. For each story published on the Intel and Published blogs at Wonderful Machine, we provide alt text. In the screenshot below, which was taken from a story on Will Crooks’ recent project for Lululemon, you will see the picture on the left, which is what everyone sees when they read the article, and you see the code on the right that provides the alt text for that image.
In this case, the alt text reads “Will Crooks captures cyclist Michael Kramer in action for Lululemon.” If you read the story, you’ll see that this corresponds with what the story is telling you.
Let’s review how this example fits the rule above. Notice that this description is 55 characters long, it’s written as an answer to the question what is this image, and it’s fairly specific (rather than general). If you consult some of the links we’ve included below, you will see that a somewhat brief, specific description, as it might be spoken, is what is regularly recommended.
One last important point: I’m using keywords to describe the image. Since I’m promoting Will Crooks’ work in that article, I want to include his name, the name of his subject (Michael Kramer), and the client (Lululemon).
Since all of the images on your site are promoting you and your work, you will want to include your name in each alt text, the type of photography you’re doing (for example, portrait), the name of the subject of the image (especially if that person or thing is well known), and of course the client.
Now the hard part: you need to do that for every image on your site.