Dec 12, 2011
The Importance of Optimizing Image Alt Tags
The alt attribute of an image is intended to inform a website visitor of the subject matter of that image if (for whatever reason) the image doesn’t load or isn’t usable by the searcher. This means that the text is meant to be used when the image is not visible on the page. Instead, what is displayed (or read) is the alternative text. Many browsers also display the alt text when the customer rests their mouse on the image. The text should be clear and easy to read and not create a huge popup nightmare for any reader.
Optimizing image alt tags becoming more and more important in SEO (search engine optimization) for websites. The alt attribute is a critical step that is often overlooked. This can be a lost opportunity for better rankings in Google. In Google’s webmaster guidelines, they advise the use of alternative text for the images on your website. Use the alt attribute to provide descriptive text, maybe even focusing on a particular keyword. In addition, it is also recommended to use a human-readable caption and descriptive text around the image.
Why would Google want us to include this? The answer is simple. Search engines have the same problem as blind users. They cannot see the images. Many webmasters and inexperienced or unethical SEOs abuse the use of this attribute, trying to stuff it with keywords. They are hoping to achieve a certain keyword density which is not as relevant for rankings now as it once was. High keyword density can, on some search engines, trigger spam filters which may result in a penalty for your site’s rankings. Even without such a penalty, your website ranings will not benefit from this tactic.
This method also puts people who use screen readers at a greater disadvantage. Screen readers are software-based tools that actually read aloud the contents of what is displayed on the screen. In browsing the web, the alt attributes of images are read aloud as well. Imagine listening to a paragraph of text which is followed by repetitions of a million keywords. The page would be far from accessible, and, to put it bluntly, would be absolutely annoying.
Alt tag optimization is just one component of an SEO strategy that won’t make a huge differance along in your rankings, but it can effectively reinforce other optimization efforts leading your SEO campaign to success.Google+