Inserting pictures in articles is a common way of making your website pages more readable and interesting. People who don’t understand the purpose of including an alt tag may omit it, leave it blank, or write irrelevant text in it. However, if properly used, alt tags with a relevant description of the image can improve the SEO of your website. Similarly, there is more to consider when adding images and files to your page than just how it will look on the page. By naming your file something relevant to the file, you can increase the article’s rankings in search engine results pages and drive more traffic to your website.
Unabbreviated, the alt tag is the “alternative tag” and is the descriptive text for an image and is included after the image source code. The alt tag is very important for SEO when adding an image to a webpage because it is what search engines use to identify what the file is. Search engines can not identify what an image looks like, what a video shows, or what an audio file sounds like on their own, so they use the alt tag to read and index what it is.
Therefore, it’s essential for the alt tag to contain a detailed, relevant description of what the image is. It should be a phrase or short sentence, not a bunch of keywords crammed together because search engines can recognize the over usage of keywords and penalize you.
For example, if you are a car dealership putting up a picture of a Ford Mustang your image code would look like ‹img source=”ford-mustang.jpg” alt=”2009 Ford Mustang at Happy Cars in Cheesequake, NJ”›. It is a detailed description that also includes keywords like Ford Mustang, the dealership name, and even the city location to help for local SEO.
However, there are special rules when it comes to certain images such as:
- Decorative Images: This includes spacer images, bullets, icons, and other images used solely for visual decoration and layout. For these images, use a null alt tag with alt=” ”. They aren’t adding content to the page that needs to be indexed, so search engines don’t need to read it.
- Navigation Images: Navigation images should repeat the text on the image word for word. If the image says “About Us”, the alt tag should also say “About Us.”
- Company Logos: The image should always describe the content of the image so alt=”Company Name” or alt=”Company Name Logo” would be the most relevant descriptions.
Additionally, when inserting any image, the name of the file is important for SEO as well. This goes for other types of files you add to your web page as well, such as audio files, video files, downloadable files, etc. The file name should be short and descriptive with no more than two or three words. If you do use multiple words, you can separate the name with hyphens to break up the words.
Also, using a keyword related to the file and the article in general can help increase search engine rankings for that term because the search engines index the filename. For example, if you have an image of shiny blue widgets, you should use “blue-widgets.gif” as the file name.
By optimizing your image alt tags and file names for search engines, you can do more than just use the files for visual benefits, you can use them to improve your website rankings and drive traffic to your site as well, putting you one more step above your competitors who don’t use SEO for their sites.
By Lisa Regall
Organic Search Analyst