If your friend couldn’t see a beautiful image, what would you do? You would describe it to her, of course. Using words, precise and potent words, you would describe the subjects, the setting, the colors, the mood . . . This is why the alt attribute (more commonly known as the “alt tag”) exists. For without alt tags, without words and descriptions, how would we tell someone who is blind about an image on a website? Similarly, how would we communicate the contents of our online images to search engines? It would be impossible without words. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start by answering a very basic question: what are alt tags?
What are alt tags?
So what are alt tags? An alt tag is an alternative description of an image. Ideally, it should accurately describe the image and provide useful information while remaining short and sweet (4-8 words is usually adequate for a strong keyword). The HTML code for an image alt tag looks like this (the alt tag is in bold type):
<img src=”paris.jpg” alt=”Notre Dame in Paris”>
Alt tags are essential because they provide useful descriptions of images to (1) people who can’t see the images in their browser, (2) people who are blind and using a screen reader, and (3) search engine web crawlers. Visitors who can see the images will be able to see the alt tags if they hover their cursor over the images. Finally, using alt tags allows your images to show up in Google Image searches.
When should I use alt tags?
Always, but especially if your website contains a lot of images. This extra text will help web crawlers better understand your website and if done correctly, it should lead to a higher search engine ranking and more organic search traffic. But don’t worry—you aren’t writing a book! The text in an alt tag should be descriptive but succinct.
How does the proper use of alt tags boost my SEO?
If you add appropriate keywords to your images’ alt tags, you can increase the quantity of organic search referrals to your website from image searches (such as a Google Image search query). This should boost the quality of your traffic as well, as long as you’ve used relevant keywords.
Many websites are missing alt tags. If you want to improve on-site SEO, optimized alt tags can help. They’re easy to add to images and (because they translate your images to web crawlers) they can improve the quantity and quality of search engine referral traffic. Plus, they will help people who are blind understand the contents of your website, as well as those visitors for whom your images simply aren’t loading. So start typing! What have you got to lose?