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Alt Text is Sexy Marketing

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In this episode of marketingXP—Alt Text is Sexy Marketing—Rachel talks about why an image without alt text is really just empty foreplay in your marketing. Listen to the episode for the three ways to make time for alt text in your marketing and, if you’re looking to impress a client or executive in your life, access the PowerUp for this episode >>>

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:08] Welcome back to a new marketingXP episode. I am your host Rachel Moore. Fifteen years in marketing and this topic still gets me fired up. We’re talking about alt text. That’s right. Alt text is sexy. It’s sexy marketing. I stand by it and I know others do too, but not enough of us. And that is why I’ve made this a topic.

[00:00:30] So let me dig into what exactly alt text is. And I wanna preface this too. I’m not the only resource on this. In fact, I’m gonna point you in a really great, solid direction to get better at this.

[00:00:41] So, I want you to think about when you’ve gotten an email or have tried to load a webpage and you can tell there’s an image that’s supposed to appear, but for some reason it did not download, it didn’t load onto your screen, and you see that little broken image icon.

[00:00:57] Now, if the stars have aligned, you should also see a description in text of what that image showed. Too often we don’t see that, and the reason we don’t see that is because the sender or publisher of that image did not add this thing called alt text. So essentially what alt text is: a description, hopefully a very thorough one of the image that is trying to be displayed.

[00:01:26] And here’s why it’s important, not only for the experience that I just described, most people or a lot of people have where it didn’t load correctly and they can’t see the image through whatever their email platform wouldn’t show it, or the website browser wouldn’t show it or anything like that. You didn’t see the image.

[00:01:45] What this is primarily used for is for people who use screen readers. Now, there are individuals out there who digest the internet and they may have visual challenges for whatever reason, they are not able to clearly or at all see visuals on a screen, images particularly. And so what they do is they use a screen reader.

[00:02:07] The screen reader will actually assist that person by reading out to them what their screen is displaying. When it gets to an image, the screen reader knows, it’s like, well, the person can’t see this image. What is here that will let me describe the image to them. It’s going to look for alt text, and if it doesn’t see it, it’s just gonna keep going.

[00:02:30] Hence, that image just totally got missed by the person because their screen reader was like, moving on. There’s nothing here. When alt text is present, the screen reader will describe the image and the visual to the person. Now, this is important because I’m betting those of us who in marketing, we are publishing images, preparing visuals, we do that with intent.

[00:02:53] We are trying to create a package of content. We are trying to elicit a response. It’s helping our message. Why would you not then want that person to get as much of your message as possible through the use of alt text. And this is something where I think marketers, we say one thing, but we don’t walk the talk.

[00:03:18] I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase we’re trying to reach everyone, or everyone is our potential audience. Great. Well, are you, are you really trying to reach everyone? Because I’ll tell you right now, if you are not adding alt text to your images, wherever you’re publishing them, you’re not really trying to reach everyone. You can dial that back.

[00:03:40] That is not your actual intent. What you can do is actually try to reach everyone by removing all the obstacles that are in play that could keep that person from understanding your content and your message, whatever you’re saying or trying to show to them. So, Alt text is vital. I want all of you listening to this.

[00:04:02] Please just make this internal commitment to yourselves and to me and to your audience. Wherever you might be trying to send messaging through your marketing. Add alt text to the images. You can do this in social media apps. Most of them. You can do this in just about any, you know, one of our prior episodes talked about website content.

[00:04:23] Your content marketing system or CMS. They will foster the ability to add alt text to your images. SharePoint intranet programs will let you do this. Even PowerPoint, y’all PowerPoint will let you add alt text to images you use. In fact, if you try to import an image through online images on PowerPoint, it’s gonna come with alt text.

[00:04:44] So here are three tips for when you are adding alt text to your images. And I shouldn’t say when you are. I should say you are going to add alt text, right? Pinky swear between me and everyone watching, we’re gonna do this from here on out. If you haven’t been doing it.

The Blindfold Test

[00:04:59] First, the blindfold test.

[00:05:01] So as you add alt text to an image, and again, this is you I want you to put your best fictional writer hat on because you have to pretend like you have somebody next to you who is blindfolded. You can see the image, they can’t see the image, and your task is to describe the image to them.

[00:05:17] Now, let’s imagine you’re seeing a meme. This is a well-known meme of Sean Bean. Playing Boromir from Lord of the Rings, where he is doing that little kind of pinching his fingers together and saying one does not simply fill in the blank. Something, something dark side here.

[00:05:35] So we all know that meme, and if you don’t, it’s out there and you should certainly use it. Lord of the Rings is eternal as far as I’m concerned. Let’s say it’s that meme. You should not be describing that meme to the blindfolded person next to you as Sean Bean meme. That tells me nothing. What if the person’s never seen the meme?

[00:05:52] Who’s Sean Bean? You know, I don’t know what you’re referring to here. That hopefully is the most simplistic translation of what somebody might add as alt text. Instead, what you need to do is to describe the image fully. So let’s imagine again, you do see a Sean Bean meme that says one does not simply ignore alt text in images.

there is a man with long hair and a beard. Actor is Sean Bean and he's playing Boromir from Lord of the Rings. So he looks like a warrior and he's holding his fingers together and has a disbelief expression on his face.
And the caption reads one does not simply ignore alt text in images.

[00:06:14] Okay? So I’m gonna describe that to a blindfolded person. Like, okay, so there is a man with long hair and a beard. Actor is Sean Bean and he’s playing Boromir from Lord of the Rings. So he looks like a warrior and he’s holding his fingers together and has a disbelief expression on his face.

[00:06:31] And the caption reads one does not simply ignore alt text in images. So that got super descriptive, but at least it’s better than “Sean Bean meme.” But please think about that. This image is part of your message. You should really make sure the person you want the message to be received by can understand the whole thing.

[00:06:52] Okay? So it takes practice. Give it a try. I do. I mean, I kind of like imagine like, ooh, if I was ever gonna be a fiction writer, this is my chance. I try to put that hat on when I’m writing alt text for images. So just some advice there.

Use alt-text templates.

[00:07:04] Second point, if you’re posting images for a brand one way to save your time on this, ’cause it’s gonna take some effort and time.

[00:07:11] You could craft a kind of template alt text that you could use, you know, Chances are you’re probably using some templates in your brand to kind of, maybe you cycle in the different imagery in there, but there’s overlays and things like that. You can create a template for yourself and then just fill in.

[00:07:26] Okay, well now this is a different image, particularly if you’re using stock images, right? But you can at least have something in there. So it’s a quick customization and then pop that alt text into the field provided to you. So that can be a time saver for you. You should feel okay about including your brand name.

[00:07:43] Particularly if you’re putting your logo anywhere on that image. Of course, you should mention your name. These alt text can be indexed by search engine bots. But remember your primary goal here is understandability. It’s not search engine optimization necessarily.

Manually add alt-text if necessary.

[00:07:58] Lastly, you are going to encounter, whether it’s a social app or some kind of a feature or platform out there that may not obviously offer the option of putting alt text on your image. If you can’t find that feature, you can and should still provide the alt text. You can put it either right above or right below the picture, add it as kind of a caption in italics if you want, something that a screen reader can still refer to when it is reading out that page to your audience.

[00:08:29] So make it happen. Even if you’re not given the means to, alt text is super important and it’s something every marketer should be doing for your images.

[00:08:42] Finally for today’s tool recommendation on this episode of marketingXP I’m going to direct you all to a very helpful website and it’s completely free.

[00:08:51] Alexa Heinrich is well known in the social media circles. She runs an account called Sipping Social Tea, but she’s also a huge advocate and educator about accessibility in content marketing. So go visit her website. It’s accessible-social.com and if you visit it, you will find all kinds of tools in there.

[00:09:13] There’s advice, not just on alt text, but on other ways to make sure that you truly are marketing your message to everyone possible because you’re making it as accessible and easy to absorb. So excellent tool out there. Bookmark it when you get to it, refer back to it repeatedly. And please, as you learn how to create accessible content in your marketing, spread the word.

[00:09:39] Not enough people do it. All of us encounter these images too often that have no alt text on them, and then there’s all these other aspects to accessible marketing as well. Spread the word so that this message can spread.

[00:09:50] That is today’s episode of marketingXP. Please find, follow us and subscribe anywhere you like to listen to your podcasts.

[00:09:58] You can visit us at, ButWaitTheresMoore.com/marketingXP. You can find our power ups there. Basically executive ready slides that you can use to look smarter to everybody that you work for or with. And plus it’s a great way to save some good call outs from these episodes to say, Hey, I need a quick reference. How am I gonna do this better?

[00:10:21] Thank you all for listening and we’ll see you next time on the next episode of marketingXP.

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