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When your webpage fails to load, adding an alt tag can still give users an idea of what your images look like. That’s because this HTML attribution allows you to add text to your images, making it possible for users to read the description of an image. This tag also helps search engines crawl your website and screen readers provide users with useful information. Here we discuss how an alt tag impacts your search engine optimization (SEO).

What Is an SEO Alt Tag and What Function Does it Serve?

An SEO alt tag is an HTML attribute that you can add to your images so that search engines can pull up a text description of them. It’s short for alternative attributes of an image tag. Since search engines and other websites cannot read images, this text attribution tells them what your image looks like. An SEO alt tag can tell search engines how to index and rank your page. It is also useful from an accessibility standpoint. Visually impaired users can use screen readers that read the alt tag of your image out loud. This way, they know what is in the image.

Image via Pexels by PhotoMIX Company

How Does an Alt Tag Impact SEO?

Your alt tag tells Google a lot of valuable information about the images on your website. First, Google favors websites that are accessible to all users. When you add alt text to your images, visually impaired users can use their screen readers on your website.

Another benefit of alt tags is that they can help your images rank in Google Images. By using relevant keywords in your alt tag, you can show up under search queries when users search these particular words or phrases.

How Do You Optimize an Alt Tag?

You can optimize an alt tag by being descriptive and specific. When writing your description, you should be able to envision your image without having to see it. You should use both the subject and context of the image to help you write a description.

When writing your alt tag, connect it to the rest of your webpage. This is one way you can get your longtail keywords within the image to rank higher on Google. Let’s say that your webpage is all about celebrities. If you have an image of Beyoncé singing on stage, you wouldn’t simply say, “A woman performing on stage.” Instead, you could say, “Famous singer Beyonce performing at Madison Square Garden.”

Another important tip is to use keywords but use them sparingly. For instance, if your page has multiple images, include your keyword on the image that best describes what your webpage is all about. If you can’t naturally include your target keyword into an image, try to include similar keywords. For example, if “How to ride a bike” doesn’t make sense for your image, you could change it to “Riding a bike.”

Common Alt Tag Myths and Mistakes

Try to avoid these myths and mistakes when writing your alt tag:

  • Replacing your page text with an alt tag — Think of your alt tag as a way to enhance your webpage. Don’t take away valuable text from your actual content just because you want to include similar information in your alt tag. Search engines crawl your entire page to rank it, so continue to add other valuable information to help them boost your visibility.
  • Starting with “image of” — There is no reason you need to tell users that your image is an image. They will be able to tell just by looking at your page. Likewise, screen readers have the capability of detecting images on their own, so adding the word “image” is redundant. You can use your alt tag to describe what kind of image it is in special cases. For instance, when describing an illustration of a dog, you could say, “A hand-drawn picture of a dog.”
  • Using complex language — Try to keep the words you choose simple. This way, people of all reading levels can understand what your image is about. Simple words may also help you rank better on search.
  • Including an alt attribute on every image — Images that are solely for the design of your page don’t need an alt tag. For instance, things like bullets, spacers, arrows, and lines aren’t going to add value when search engines crawl your page or when someone is using a screen reader. Including an alt tag on these images is going to waste the time of a visually impaired user and make their web experience more confusing.
  • Alt tags are your top priority — Before even worrying about adding descriptions to your images, get the rest of your SEO in order. Work on optimizing your title tags and meta descriptions first. Then, work on other SEO elements like formatting your pages with headers and deleting duplicate content.
  • Grammar and punctuation don’t matter — If you want your page to read naturally and look professional, grammar and punctuation certainly do matter. Include periods and commas to help users understand the flow of your description. Also, make sure you don’t have any typos or misspelled words.
  • Writing a paragraph helps you include more keywords — Google can see right through keyword stuffing, so use them sparingly. There is no need to write a novel in your alt tag. Keep your descriptions under 125 characters.
  • Only write for SEO — Alt tags were originally intended for better accessibility. Although you can use them to improve your SEO, you really should be writing them with the user in mind.

Including an SEO alt tag on your images can help users and search engines access your webpages more efficiently. Remember to consider the context of your page and be descriptive when adding your attributions.

Knowledge Base: SEO

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