Just a few weeks ago, I attended SMX East. In one of the sessions, the panelists all agreed that alt tags are more important than they used to be. It’s interesting how there are ebbs and flows with certain strengths of on-page factors over time, but really, the use of alt text takes us back to the fundamentals of optimizing your webpages. Too often, there is missed opportunity with alt text. Sometimes it’s missing, sometimes it is filled in but does not contain useful information or it lacks related keywords.
Today, I am reminding us all that going back to the basics is important.
An Alt tag, also known as alt text, alt attribute or alternative text, is used to describe the contents of an image file.
How does this help with SEO or Usability?
- Search engine spiders cannot see images or the text embedded in images. Alt text describes the image or contains the embedded text.
- For people who use screen readers or have pages that load slowly, alt text provides the user with important information that is contained in images.
- If you’re using an image as a link, the alt text will be treated similarly to the anchor text of a text link
- Your images will be better identified in Google’s Image Search if optimized properly
I’m using Amazon as an example site for what they’ve done right and where they’ve missed the boat with their Alt text.
In the photo shown here, you can see the image with embedded text for the Amazon Kindle. Below the image you’ll notice the source code which is highlighted in blue. In the alt tag for the image, they’ve written out the blurb of text which is embedded in the image. Thumbs up.
On this same page (their home page) they have “The Best Prices on the Most Laptops” listed. The photos of Acer, Dell and ASUS are void of any Alt text. Amazon, is truly missing out. If I click on any of the 3 manufacturers to the category pages, the products listed within only have the words “Product Details” in the alt tag. Only when I click to the actual product page does the product have a helpful alt tag. In the case of these laptops, the alt tag contains the laptop product name, model, and size.
In most cases, you can program text to be pulled in the alt tag, especially on product pages, which makes the most sense. But the home page, category and subcategory images are just as important and have a great deal of opportunity to be filled in with your strategic keyword phrases.