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Google’s John Mueller shares tips on how to use alt text

April 11, 2022 0 comments

Alt text or alternative text is used to describe an image on a web page to search engines as well as human visitors who do not see the image.

Because search engines cannot properly read and understand an image, they use alt text to understand the context of the image and how it connects with the web page.

In a recent Google Office-hours hangout session, one person asked John Mueller about the maximum word count limit of the alt text. That led to further explanation by John Mueller on how to use alt text for providing additional context to search engines.

how long is an alt txt

How long can alt text be?

The initial question was about whether there is a maximum limit of 16 words that can be used in the alt text. John quickly clarified that there is no such limit.

“I think the important part here is we don’t have any guidelines with 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.”

John Mueller’s explanation on how to use image alt text

After responding to the question, John further clarified how to use alt text for SEO purposes.

First, he explained the primary use of image alt text — from Google’s perspective.

“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.”

best words for alt text

How to choose the best words for the image alt text

Next, John Mueller brought up a very good point about how to choose what goes in the alt text image.

This point would be especially helpful for local businesses, uploading images of their businesses, business locations, and surroundings.

John said, “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 alt text and say, Oh, this is a beach. But you could also say, this is the beach in front of our hotel, or this is 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.”




The takeaways here are:

  1. Image alt text should provide context to website visitors and search engines.
  2. There is no limit to how many words you can include in the alt text.
  3. Alt-text is not only used to describe the image.
  4. Image alt text can also be used to explain what the image means for your particular page and business.