While ALT text for images is not new, being able to utilize them in search is new.
In the past, if you searched on Instagram, you could only see results for Accounts, Tags, or Places in your search.
Now, if you search a topic, you will see results for topics as well. That means you can now search Instagram posts by keyword. This is huge for brands.
Let’s dig a little deeper into ALT text and how to use it strategically.
What is ALT Text?
ALT text is short for alternative text. It is text that is used to describe an image if it fails to load and to increase accessibility for the visually impaired who use screen readers for image recognition. The software reads the alt text to the user so they have more context around the content on the website.
If you are familiar with website SEO, adding keyword-rich ALT text is also important for organic search rankings. Not only does it boost your website’s SEO, it helps your images appear in image searches on Google as well.
And now it can help your posts get discovered in Instagram searches as well.
How Has Search On Instagram Changed
Here is an example of how search now works on Instagram. If you search “travel tips,” Instagram will populate 3 recommendations in the search results that contain that keyword.
If you click-through to one, you’ll land on a page featuring posts that are related to the keyword — along with other relevant keywords at the top of the page. If you use Pinterest, this reminds me a lot of the search function on Pinterest.
Instagram says it considers “a number of factors,” including the “type of content, captions, when it was posted,” and more to surface relevant results. It also uses machine learning to “find the highest quality content that’s relevant to you.”
Note that right now there are a limited number of keywords available for search. For example, if I search “social media tips”, I still only see accounts and hashtags in the results, not the keyword. I am sure they will continue to expand this, but keep that in mind when planning your alt text.
What does this mean for businesses?
This new search functionality on Instagram means there are more opportunities to have your content discovered in Instagram Search. This does not mean Instagram posts are now able to show up in Google searches, though. This is strictly within the Instagram app.
It also means you have some extra work to do.
What Businesses Should Do To Use ALT Text Strategically on Instagram
- Create a list of relevant keywords for your business and industry
- Research to see if any of those keywords are currently available in search (even if they aren’t you should still do this process to plan for the day when they are)
- As you search, look at the other suggested keywords Instagram generates. Are any of those relevant to your business? Add them to your master list.
- Go through old posts and add relevant alt text to your posts. You do not need to do this for all posts. I suggest starting with your most popular posts that are already generating interest to give them an added boost.
- Going forward, plan on taking the extra step of adding alt text to your posts when relevant
- Remember that your caption plays into this as well. Your caption has to relate to the keyword, as well. No sketchy keyword stuffing in the alt text!
How to add ALT text to Instagram posts
There are two ways to add ALT text on Instagram—while you are posting as well as after a post has been published.
Adding ALT text when posting an image
When you create a post and add your caption, before publishing, scroll down to Advanced Settings and find “write Alt text”. This is where you can add your text.
For posts that have already been published:
- Find the post you want to add alt text to
- Click the three dots in the top right corner
- Click “edit”
- In the bottom right corner of the image, click “edit alt text”
- Add your alt text and save
Alt text best practices
Your alt text should include relevant keywords but steer clear of keyword stuffing. Stick to one or two keywords that reference your post content or product, but don’t just string together a bunch of keywords.
Think about the way you search for things on Instagram and Google. These are real people searching, so make sure your alt text matches that.
Having your alt text formatted in sentence structure will make it more relevant to your audience, and make it more likely for Instagram to serve up your content to people searching.
Want help creating relevant alt text or working through your overall social media strategy? Let’s talk!