SEO Secrets: Get the Scoop on Alt Image Text for E-commerce

Alt image text (alternative text) is the information behind a photo that helps search engines interpret what they are looking at. This type of text also is available to visually impaired customers, for screen reader users, and appears if an image doesn’t load properly. 

Why You Need It:

  • Accessibility
  • SEO
  • Keywords

If people can understand what you’re selling them, they are more likely to feel cared for, know if they want the product, and commit to a purchase. A search engine can’t see photos on its own, so if the technology can understand these images through alt text, the product is more likely to appear in a search. 

Set yourself apart from competitors, support your customers, and boost your SEO with one simple addition to your eCommerce platform: alt image text

On Amazon, alt text is called image keywords. Check out this article for more information about how to write maximize this Amazon SEO opportunity.

How Does Alt Text Help SEO?

The latest wave of post-apocalyptic movies where AI rules the world with an electronic fist has left us believing or fearing that computers can do anything. This is far from true. Computers and programs still need us to tell them exactly what an image contains so they know how to index it and how to describe it correctly to people with screen readers. Because they can’t see images for themselves, search engines analyze the alt text behind your photos and rank image searches based on the data you provide. 

Golden Nugget: Alt image text is the perfect place to include keywords for search engines to gobble up. 

  • When you use alt tags, images are likely to populate on the first SERP (Search Engine Results Page)
  • Boost your SEO by tagging your images with text and being the first product or service to appear in a search

Next we'll discover how alt tags best practices can help increase your ranking performance and visibility.

Putting Alt Text to the Test: Real-Time Search

Research shows that the first SERP contains images 25% of the time. Search engines can’t identify your images on their own and won’t populate them in the absence of alt text that indicates the contents. Here are a few more surprising facts to keep in mind:

  • 40% of people are more likely to respond to visual content 
  • Products or services that feature visual content experience a 12% faster increase in traffic than those that don’t

Give your product or service images the best chance to populate first with alt image text. 

Here is a little search engine results test:

We typed in: “pink women’s sunglasses” to see what populated on the first SERP. 

This is the first SERP we came across:


search results on google of pink sunglasses showing image based results

With one search, a variety of images appear at the top of the page, ahead of most blue links! If your Shopify or eCommerce visual can populate on page one, the power of visual marketing tells us what you add as an alt attribute is an incredibly powerful tool. 

Benefits for Prospective Buyers

  • Your product may be the best fit—if it is the first to populate, that’s better for them.
  • Accessibility: When visually impaired buyers use a text-to-speech reader, they will be able to understand what the images are depicting, enabling them to have the full experience. 
  • Given the continuous growth of the e-commerce market, it is important to make sure your product is accessible in every way.

How to Write Image Alt Text That Works

From Shopify to Amazon, harness your SEO power, build a better experience, and support customers with one swift stroke of the keys. Follow these alt tag best practices 

  • There are a few simple guidelines to follow for the best results: 
    • Conduct thorough research to identify YOUR best alt tags for SEO
    • Keep it simple and describe the actual picture
    • Use 1-2 search terms, but don’t resort to keyword stuffing
    • 8-10 words is a good rule of thumb
    • Keep it objective and descriptive
    • Include colors and paint a word picture of the image
    • Provide context for the photo and product
    • Don’t repeat words
    • Add to ALL images on your site, even decorative images

Good (and Bad) Examples

Let’s put these principles to practice with some concrete examples. Imagine you are selling this hat. The keywords you would like to target are ball cap and athletic.

smokey blue athletic ball cap with white mountain logo stitched front white background

Bad Alt Text: photo of fun hat with logo

  • Not very descriptive—the buyer wouldn’t know what the logo means or represents
  • No colors
  • Very short
  • No explanation of the hat’s style
  • No keywords
  • Uses “photo of,” which is unnecessary

Good Alt Text: smokey blue athletic ball cap with white mountain logo stitched front white background

  • Paints a picture of the entire image
  • Good length
  • Uses keywords logically in a way that retains the meaning

Now, let’s say you’re selling this water bottle. Your keywords are hydrate, water bottle with lid, water bottle, and hiking bottle

person resting on a log holding blue hiking water bottle with lid and carrying strap

Bad Alt Text: pretty water bottle with lid hiking bottle outside hydrate gear 

  • Makes little sense and doesn’t paint a picture of the actual image
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Repeats words
  • No context

Good Alt Text: person resting on a log holding blue hiking water bottle with lid and carrying strap

  • Combines 2 keywords while retaining meaning
  • Provides context
  • Tells how the bottle is being used

Alt Text Best Practices

  • Be descriptive
  • Be objective
  • Avoid keyword stuffing, but take advantage of the extra space. This is an opportunity to include an additional keyword or two
  • Make the image clear and specific
  • Keep the information concise 
  • Use keywords EXACTLY as they appear in your keyword research, for example "altimage text" versus "alt image text"
  • If you are unsure, download a text-to-speech app like ReadAloud to hear for yourself
  • Avoid superlatives or subjective language
    • Example: Rather than saying “pretty hat,” describe the image as “blue hat with white logo” 
  • Avoid the words “image” or “photo”
    • Example: It would be redundant to write “photo of a black cat in a witches hat” 

How do your photos and alt image text stack up? Could you use some SEO assistance? We provide website copywriting services and alt image text suggestions that will thrill those search engine crawlers. Need a little boost? Visit the Marketing by Emma Services page to see how we can help you reach your eCommerce marketing potential. 


Sarah Medley

Sarah is a copywriter, yoga instructor, and fitness nerd. An avid matcha drinker, you can find her settling in with a warm cup of tea to write every morning. She loves her friends, food, and ultimate frisbee more than most things, and in no particular order.

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