How To Optimize Alt Text

How Do Alt Images Help Search Results?

Precise, descriptive alt tags help Google catalog your image properly which helps search rankings for both the image and the page. Optimized alt tags are specific and tell Google and potential users, what the image is and its purpose on the page it inhabits. A good rule of thumb is to describe the image as if you are doing so for someone who can’t see it. 

Alt tags are still used to assist the visually impaired. You should try to keep descriptions betweek 8-10 words or around 125 characters in length. In most cases, 5-6 words is enough.

You can use keywords in the image alt text but only if it helps convey meaning. 

What are Examples of Alt Tags: 

Here is an example:

Image Source: img src=”baked-goods.jpg”

Alt Tag: alt=”Baked Goods”

As we can see, we might think of image sources as “HTML titles” for images, while alt tags serve as “written titles,” or titles meant to be read by a user or user-facing program, such as a screen-reader.

For optimization purposes, this is a fine but not spectacular alt tag. It lines up with the image tag, which is good, but it gives us an extremely vague idea of what’s actually shown in your image. Let’s see a better example:

Image Source: img src=””baked-goods.jpg”<br”

Alt Tag: alt=”A Variety of Fresh Baked Goods on Display”

This is much more specific and gives the reader an idea of what we’re talking about: a pile of baked goods on display, like you would see in a bakery. The ideal alt tag is descriptive without attempting to spam keywords. Google puts much more emphasis on images with proper tagging than on images that have the most keywords attached to them. That said, you should certainly not avoid situations where using a keyword makes sense.

Images can also have a <title> element, a tooltip that comes up when users scroll their mouse over the image. If added to our previous example, this might look like:

Image Source: <img src=”baked-goods.jpg”

Alt Tag: alt=”A Variety of Fresh Baked Goods on Display at Nancy’s Cafe in York, ME”

Title: “Fresh Baked Goods Served Daily at Nancy’s Cafe”

The only place Google requires title elements is for accessibility, such as on <iframe> tags. There are even some instances where image titles might not be necessary, such as on mobile versions of your site where cursors aren’t in play.

Alt Tags, Images, and SEO

Alt tags should primarily convey the purpose of each image on each page. At least one image on every page should have one of your primary keywords in the alt tag, while spamming keywords will quickly lead to negative effects on your image and page search rankings. Alt text is meant to be descriptive and helpful, rather than a space to pile on more keywords.

If an image doesn’t have a purpose, it is possible to leave alt tags blank. This is not recommended, nor is having pictures on your pages without a purpose, but it is possible. This is still most often a waste of SEO opportunity, if not an active hampering of your SEO.

Also, be careful not to go overboard with your descriptions. The above alt tag should definitely not read like, “Authentic hand-made baked goods fresh out of the oven stacked into a decorative pyramid on a silver platter sitting in a halogen-lit glass display case in your favorite local bakery.” This gives Google (and users) unnecessary data to sift through as they try to understand the image’s purpose.

Instead, make sure each image has a purpose, and that each alt tag conveys that purpose in concise but detailed language. This is the core effort of alt text optimization and makes your website more organized for you and your team and more legible to Google’s crawling process.

Your alt text tells Google not only what your image portrays but also what the image is doing there in context of the page itself. As such, tags should have some keyword alignment but most of all need to be good descriptors of their images. Google describes the optimal alt tag as “information-rich.”

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