Optimising Your Web Images for Search Engines #3 – Alt Tags

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Young man with his face in picture frame

Image Source / Royalty Free

Remember Alt-Rock? Welcome to the world of Alt Tags, the digital stuff that will rock every photographer’s bank account. In this week’s image optimisation tutorial, Alex Jordan explores Alternate Text Attributes

I’ve been working with photographers for a little over 6 months and it is very apparent that they want to do more to optimise their images in search engines. After all, optimising your images leads to higher rankings, more exposure and potentially more income. When put like that I’m surprised that so many photographers fail to optimise their images appropriately.

Last week we looked at the image filename, type and size. Now, in the third week of my image optimisation series… it’s time for… Alt Tags – Alternate Text attributes.

What are Alt Tags?

Alt tags are a required attribute for the “img” tag in HTML 4.1 and HTML 5 and look like the following:

alt=”alternative text goes here”

Its purpose is to provide a brief text description that will be displayed as an alternative to the image if a user has prevented image downloads or the image is not available for whatever reason. However, for search engines, alt tags are also an opportunity to briefly describe the images they relate to.

The below example outlines an HTML image tag with alt attribute:

<img src=”images/animals/ small-dog-eating-bone.jpg” alt=”Jack Russell chewing on a bone”>

Using Alt Tags for SEO

Google’s Matt Cutts Explains the importance of alt tags in the following video:

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NbuDpB_BTc’]

In simple terms, alt tags help search engines understand what is going on in images. Once they have an idea of what an image is about, search engines can rank them appropriately to relevant searches.

In the above example the alternate text is descriptive and concise at 6 words. Matt Cutts uses an example with 7 words, but the advice is really to concisely describe what a photo is about. That means not stuffing the tag with loads of keywords, being vague or overly descriptive. I usually aim for 5-10 words and, without going into too much detail about an image, I always manage to come up with a fitting description.

Feel free to ask questions either by commenting or via twitter @AlexJordanUK. Next week I’ll be looking at captions and context so that you can ensure that your web pages are designed for image optimisation.

Check back next week to find out about ‘captions’ and ‘context’

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About Author

Alex has worked in website development and SEO since 2006. With a keen interest in photography, he has been part of the Image Source team since early 2012 offering support and advice to photographers.

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