They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Not only do photos on your website pages help to bring clarity to your content, images make content more desirable because they are visually appealing. Looking at big blocks of text isn’t exactly motivating. But if you break up those blocks of text with images, most people won’t feel so overwhelmed.
Imagine landing on a website page that tells you how to change the oil in your vehicle. The website page has a long introduction and every paragraph after it is long as well. As much as you want to change your own oil to save money, you can’t bear to sit and go through all of the information.
Before giving up and going to Jiffy Lube, you decide to try another site. On that other site, you find that every paragraph is a step you must take and it’s accompanied by an image showing you exactly what to do. Now, you feel as though you can take on the job yourself.
User experience isn’t the only use for images, though. They are highly important in SEO too.
The Importance of Images for SEO
Images are crawled by Google’s search engine bots. The only problem is that the bots aren’t intelligent enough yet to know what the images are when they crawl them. The bots only know text, so this is where ALT tags come in handy.
ALT tags are image descriptions. Google bots pick up these descriptions and because of the coding that surrounds them, they are able to know what the image is about and rank it accordingly.
Yes, you read that correctly – “rank it accordingly.”
If you’ve ever done an image search in Google images, you’ve likely found many images about a topic. These images are ranked using the ALT text assigned to them on the website they’re on. When you click on an image, you’ll see where the image is published, and then you can click through to the website. Like in regular searches, people are far more likely to click on the first few images in the image search results, which means they receive more exposure. And in turn, the websites receive more exposure.
ALT tags are also shown to the website visitor if for some reason their browser doesn’t render the image. Screen readers for the visually impaired will read this text, making your image accessible. So, the ALT text does play a role in user experience since it tells the reader what the image is when they can’t see it.
So, now that you know you really need ALT text, you’re probably wondering how you can make yours the best they can be for users and search engines.
How to Optimize ALT Text
Coders out there will want to use this as the HTML image tag:
<img src=”image,jpg” alt=”image description” title=”image tooltip”>
For those who don’t want to deal with HTML code, I recommend using WordPress for your site because it offers the ability to simply write in the ALT text.
All you have to do is click on an image in the Media Library. It will appear on the right-hand side, and then you can complete the attributes, such as title, description, and ALT.
Since you want your ALT text to tell search engine bots what the image is, you need to be sure your description is detailed. If you have an image of pancakes, and just use “pancakes” as the alt text, it won’t do you much good. If you use “stack of pancakes with blueberries and syrup,” that will help you come up in an image search for anything related to it.
Well, that is if you used a keyword phrase. Yes, keywords are important in ALT tags as well.
If you use the Yoast plugin in WordPress, you are familiar with the tool that helps you optimize your content around specific keywords. You simply insert the keyword phrase you want the content to rank for, and then it will tell you if you’ve used the phrase in the right places and the correct number of times.
Yoast also reminds you that images are important to the overall optimization of your content. It will tell you to add an image with optimized ALT text if you don’t put one in yourself.
Yoast identifies an image as not optimized when the ALT text doesn’t have the identified keyword phrase in it. For example, if you have a recipe for blueberry pancakes and your keyword phrase you’re trying to rank for is “blueberry pancake recipe” you need to put that in your ALT text. You want to write it this way, “pancakes with blueberries and syrup for a blueberry pancake recipe.”
As you can see, you’ve identified the image in detail and you’ve used your keyword phrase. Perfect!
Image Title vs ALT Tag
Many people confuse the image title with the ALT text but they are quite different. An image title is another attribute that can be added. The user is not shown the text within the image title if it cannot be displayed like the ALT text is. Instead, it is displayed in a pop-up when a user’s mouse scrolls over the image in WordPress.
The exact same description shouldn’t be used in both the image title and ALT text. This can be seen as over-optimization. A good idea for image titles are calls-to-action if the image is clickable. “Buy this product now”, for example, is a good image title if the image is of something you sell.
Optimize Your ALT Tags Now
It’s likely if you didn’t know you had to optimize ALT tags, you haven’t been doing them. Take time today to go through your images and add them and be sure to make them detailed and use keywords. Over time, you may see a difference in your rankings, and then you can move forward with this new found knowledge of ALT text optimization.