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How to Use the Alt Tag in SEO: Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks

by Ahsan Haq
October 19, 2022
Alt tag in SEO

The alt tag describes what an image is about, and it's an essential tool for better website rankings. It’s a text description for an image that allows search bots to index your website. And it’s also a helpful aid for screen readers. So it's a beneficial SEO tactic that can result in more traffic, brand awareness, usability and accessibility, and authority.

How does the alt tag do all these for your SEO? And how do you write effective alt tags for your website images? This blog post will cover the best practices, tips, and tricks you should know to harness the power of alt tags fully.

Why Alt Tags are Important for SEO

Alt tag in SEO

Today, almost 40% of Google's search results are images. Also known as alt text or alt description, an alt tag is a handy resource that can help land your images on search engine results pages (SERPs). It does this by:

  • Telling Google what an image is about if it can't load properly
  • Giving more context or information about an image, which allows crawlers to index and understand an image; and
  • Helping screen readers describe images to visually-impaired website visitors
Alt tag in SEO
Image from seobility

That means that alt tags have implicit and explicit benefits for your website's SEO. They are especially important in achieving the following:

They Turn Your Images into Search Results

Why should you care about seeing your images in SERPs?

While most results on Google are still in textual form, studies say that people might benefit more from visual information. In fact, 85% of those who shop for clothing or furniture prefer visual information to text, when searching. Similarly, 59% of users believe visual information is more important than text.

The human brain can process images in as short as 13 milliseconds. During this time, we can also already identify these images. So seeing your pictures in Google will boost your brand recall for website visitors, while helping you gain more visibility on SERPs.

They Help Make Your Content More Accessible

In Australia, about 1.3 million live with a print disability. This makes them unable to read print, due to a number of reasons.

Screen readers present digital information to people who can't easily access it. There are two main ways they are used: by turning text into speech, or as Braille configurations.

However, it's not just visually impaired people who use screen readers. They are also helpful for people with learning and reading disabilities, or non-native speakers. And they are preferred by those who like to listen to content instead of reading it.

Using alt tags, people who use screen readers will better understand your content. Doing this will bring your website to whole new demographic markets. And also help ensure that your business stays accessible to everyone.

They Improve User Experience

Finally, alt tags give your website visitors a more satisfying experience. If an image doesn't load and it doesn't have an alt tag, the image will have no function to serve.

How to Write the Perfect Alt Tags

Make them descriptive

Your alt tags should give detailed information about an image. This information should be enough to provide a visitor or a screen reader with the photo's physical attributes and context.

Take a look at this example.

two kittens, one ginger and one black, in a basket looking at a blue ball of yarn
Image from PublicDomainPictures.net

A bad alt tag would stop at: “two kittens and yarn and a basket.”

On the other hand, a good alt tag would go beyond the obvious and right to details: “two kittens, one ginger and one black, in a basket looking at a blue ball of yarn.”

Keep them Concise

While alt tags need to be descriptive, that doesn’t mean they should be super long. Experts recommend keeping your alt tags less than 125 characters. Shorter alt tags make it easier for Google to index and display your description. Also, screen readers usually stop reading at 125 characters.

Be Accurate and Specific

A good alt tag isn’t only descriptive and concise, it’s also accurate and specific. This means that your description should provide the proper context for the photo.

Consider this photo, for instance.

Stephen Curry of the Warriors holding Finals MVP trophy in Chase Center, San Francisco
Image from NBA.com

A bad alt tag would describe this photo as “a basketball player holding a trophy in a stadium with fans.” Now, why is this bad when it’s descriptive and doesn’t go beyond 125 characters?

The answer is simple: it doesn’t provide the relevant context to this photo. A good alt tag for this photo would be: “Stephen Curry of the Warriors holding Finals MVP trophy in Chase Center, San Francisco.” It’s good because:

  • It tells visitors what and who is in the photo, and when and why it was taken
  • It contextualises the image and helps people better appreciate this moment; and
  • It can help your website rank for those keywords

Don't Do Keyword Stuffing

Finally, speaking of keywords, make sure you use them sparingly in your alt tags. Keyword stuffing might take you beyond the character limit and also sacrifices readability. Additionally, Google might penalise your website for going overboard on keywords.

Optimise Your Website with Perfect Alt Tags

iVersion can help you revamp your current SEO strategies to ensure they follow industry best practices, starting with your alt tags. See what white hat techniques can do for your website ranking today. Contact us here.

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