How to use Image Tags to Improve your SEO

There’s no denying that images on a website are important. We process images 60,000 times faster than words. They enhance user experience, reinforce your message and make web pages more appealing.

The benefits don’t stop there – with images there’s more to good SEO than meets the eye. We’re talking about image alt tags.

If you’ve read our blog post on the importance of meta tags you’ll know how integral they are for any SEO strategy.

In this post we’re going to talk about another type of tag used in SEO – the image tag, or sometimes referred to as alt tag. Although not strictly a meta tag, image tags are used by search engines to help identify your website content, improve your ranking for relevant terms and make your site accessible.

So, why are alt tags so important and how can you make sure you are utilising them fully?

Alt and Title Tags explained

If your website has images they will have a HTML image tag which looks like this:

<img src=”image.jpg” alt=”image description” title=”image tootltip”>

There are two descriptions you should focus on with images – the alt tag and title tag:

  • Title tag: this is the text that appears when you hover your mouse over the image.
  • Alt tag: this is what appears when the image has trouble loading or can’t be rendered.

image title tag for SEO

The alt tag also has another very useful purpose. It’s what’s used by the visually impaired or blind to tell them what the image is about, thus, making your site accessible to every searcher.

Alt tags as meta tags for images

 

Of the two, alt tags are the most significant. These are what tell Google what your image is about.

Image recognition technology in search has improved leaps and bounds over the past few years. But, search crawlers are still unable to actually see images. That’s why we need alt tags.

alt tags for SEO

Alt tags are important because:

  • Without alt tags, search engines can’t read images without text
  • The alt tag is your chance to describe your image to Google. This provides context, making your site more searchable
  • Alt tags are another opportunity to include a target keyword/s
  • Not labelling your images is poor user experience and makes your site inaccessible to those with visual impairment
  • If you decide to use an image as a link, the alt text is also useful as anchor text.
  • You might rank differently for your images than your text. This means in a highly competitive keyword you can get to the top for your image much faster than for text.

Failing to fill in the alt tag could mean you miss out on ranking, or rank for irrelevant terms too.

Top tips for writing awesome Alt Text

We’ve established that alt tags are important, so how do you create great alt text?

  • Make it useful: create text that is useful, informative and relevant. Let’s say we have an image of a chocolate bar. You could have alt text that reads ‘chocolate.’ But this is rather vague. ‘Dark, mint flavoured chocolate bar’ is far more descriptive. This Google a full understanding of your image and content, meaning it’s more likely to rank you for a relevant search.
  • Keep it succinct: although it needs to be descriptive, it should also be concise. Aim to hit around 100 – 125 characters. After 125 the alt text is cut off.
  • Use keywords: alt text is a great space in which to use a chosen keyword/s, helping to tell search engines that your page is relevant to a certain search term, improving your SEO. But, make sure it sounds natural. Only include a keyword if you can incorporate it seamlessly. That takes us on to our next point.
  • Avoid Keyword Stuffing: don’t overdo it with the keywords. In other words, don’t fall into the trap of keyword stuffing. Your text needs to make sense. It shouldn’t be a string of keywords that don’t formulate a sentence.
  • Ensure it’s accessible: your alt tag needs to be helpful. Its purpose it to make your image accessible to someone with impaired vision. Considering that there are over 2 million people in the UK living with sight loss your alt text needs to be descriptive and easily understood. You can test your content for accessibility to make sure it’s suitable.
  • Avoid the obvious: avoid including ‘picture of’ or ‘image of’ as this is implied, so there’s no need to waste your word count confirming it.

So, what does that look like?

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say our image is of a Bulldog with ball. Here’s what you should do and avoid:

BulldDog_with_ball

Bad: alt=””

Better: alt=”dog”

Best: alt=”Bulldog with a ball” 

To be avoided: alt=”dog doggy doggies bulldog cute dog”

The last is an example of keyword stuffing. It doesn’t concisely and accurately describe our image. This is likely to be considered spam by Google which is detrimental to your search engine ranking.

Always read your alt tag out loud to ensure that it makes sense and accurately describes the image.

Alt tag and title tag

 

The title tag doesn’t have a direct effect on your SEO. But, as it appears when the mouse hovers over the image, it could be a good idea to include a CTA where appropriate.

For example, if your image consists of a product, your title text may read ‘buy it now’ or ‘find out more.’ This could increase your click through rates and drive conversions.

Next Steps – ready to perfect your image tags?

 

Image tags help improve your site’s accessibility and can elevate your SEO. That’s why it’s important to spend time on getting them right. It’s the little things that can make a big difference.

If you’ve got a question on website optimisation or SEO get in touch! Here at Report Central we’re sticklers for detail. We look at every element of your website and content to find the little things that make a huge difference.

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