Cartoon of Etsy Coach Pam Duthie, explaining what alt text is for Etsy seller images

Selling on Etsy: What is Alt Text?

Selling on Etsy: What is Alt Text?

Cartoon of Etsy Coach Pam Duthie, explaining what alt text is for Etsy seller images

Reading time: 3.5 minutes

What the heck is alt text? If you’re selling on Etsy, it’s a topic that’s come up recently. Etsy has begun rolling out the ability to add alt text to our listing images. So, what exactly is it? How do we add it? Why should we add it? Let’s talk!

First, what is it?

Alt text is a brief written description of your product image. These serve to help people who are visually impaired to understand what your item is. Short for “alternative text,” these snippets are also known as “alt attributes” or “alt descriptions.” These won’t be visible as text on the page. They are used within an HTML code to describe the appearance and function of an image on a page. And by Assistive Technology (AT) like screen readers for people with disabilities and the elderly.

How do I add alt text to an image?

Note that as of this writing, not every Etsy seller has this feature yet. To check whether you do, follow these steps. From your Shop Manager, go to Listings, then pick a listing to edit. In the images section, hover over an image. Etsy sellers who have alt text will now see three icons. Look to the left of the familiar icons for “crop photo” and “delete photo.” If you see a little pencil, that is for “edit alt text.” Click on that to add alt text for this image.

Click on it again, and you’ll see this pop-up from Etsy:

“Use alternative (alt) text to describe images or media for people with visual impairments. Alt text is accessible by screen readers and also helps improve how your listing ranks in search results.”

You’ll see a text box just below. What you want to do here is describe what’s in your photograph, and then hit publish.

Tips on how to write good alt text

When writing this description, keep in mind its purpose. It will be read aloud to users by screen reader software, and it is indexed by search engines. 

  • Keep it short and pithy.
  • Don’t include “image of” or “photo of”.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing!

Instead, just focus on conveying what’s in the photo as you would to someone who can’t see it. Begin with what your item is. Then describe the colors; are they bright? Pastel? In a pattern? What are the materials, the texture? Is the size or scale shown by what else is in the picture?

In their Help article on this, Etsy has some good examples. It’s definitely worth a read. We’ve linked it here at the end under Resources.

Etsy advises that we keep it brief. Length can be up to 250 characters. Tip: open a second browser window on a character counter. You can compose your description there, and then copy/paste it into the alt text field. We’ll link a free online character counter here under Resources.

How important is it for SEO?

Etsy tells us that alt text will factor into where your item ranks (that is, search placement). But bear in mind that there are many factors they consider. Alt text is only going to be one of them. It’s unlikely to make a substantial difference to any listing. So, if you don’t have this yet in your shop, don’t worry about falling behind others in your niche who do.

And don’t rush to add it to every single image in every single listing you have in your shop! Instead, we recommend that you pick one or two of your best performing listings and add alt text to your primary photograph. When you’ve got a little time, you can add more. And then going forward, add it whenever you create a new listing. Or when you’re renewing or refreshing the SEO of an older listing. Just make adding alt text to your listing photos a part of your workflow.

If you don’t add alt text, your listing’s title will be used for that image’s description. People with visual impairments won’t have all the information that your product images convey. And Etsy reiterates that you won’t get that extra bit of SEO boost either.

RESOURCES

This blog post is based on a video, “Do We Need to Add Alt Text to Our Etsy Listings?” on eRank’sYouTube channel

Etsy Help Center article, “How to Add a Text Alternative to Your Listing Images

Free online character counter

Some other eRank articles on Etsy SEO: