8 Image alt tags SEO best practices to increase your organic traffic
In a previous article, we discussed how to write alt tags for images. We recently received an email asking if alt tags are really necessary to an SEO strategy, and if we could explain image alt tags SEO best practices. Here’s what consultants need to know.
Is alt tags SEO essential to your business?
The short answer is ‘yes’. The explanation as to why is a little longer. In February 2018, Google removed the view image button and kept the visit button, meaning that users can see images in the context of the webpage they are on.
Alt tags (or, more correctly, alt text) are short descriptions (around 100 characters) that describe the image. They can be added when the image is added to a webpage (and you want images on your pages and blogs – for example, according to Jeff Bullas, blogs with images receive 94% more views).
Screen readers, accessibility software, and even Google’s search engine all use alt tags to improve the user experience. Such devices cannot understand images, but they can understand text. Alt tags provide the text that enables users to find your webpage or blog via an image search.
Adding alt tags to your images increases the likelihood that your image will rank in Google’s image search pages – if you include relevant keywords in your alt tag, your web page should be given a boost in the rankings.
Avoid keyword stuffing
Keywords appear to be decreasing in their power. Last year, HubSpot even removed its keyword tool, saying that “Today, search is about much more than just keywords. As marketing continues to evolve the rise of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and conversational search mean that the same keyword-centric formula we used years ago no longer works.”
While it is true that traditional keywords are losing their pulling power, keywording is still important in SEO. The difference is that Google and other search engines are more intelligent today. They ‘read’ webpages and blog posts, and assess their relevancy to search terms. Today, keyword strategies are centred around LSI keywords and longtail keywords.
This shift has coincided with the penalization of webpages that suffer from keyword stuffing – the practice of using the same keyword multiple times within the main body, headings, sub-headings and meta descriptions to improve search rankings. Included in this list of places where you might keyword stuff is the alt tags on images.
Here’s a warning: keyword stuffing might produce results in the short term, but you will be penalized in the longer term. A more effective strategy is to use targeted keywords within you copy naturally.
How to write great alt tags
When you are writing alt tags, follow these eight best practice tips to maximise their effectiveness:
- When you upload an image, add alt tags
- Keep alt tags to below 100 characters
- Describe the image with your alt tag, and use relevant keywords
- Optimise your blog post or web page to target keywords, and include them in your alt tag
- Don’t waste characters by describing as ‘image of’ or ‘picture of’
- Use alt tags on button images (e.g. ‘Download eBook’ button)
- Don’t use your title tag text as your alt tag
- Use natural language to describe images in your alt tags
Are image alt tags really essential in an SEO strategy?
You should always include an alt tag on an image that you upload to your website, as they help search engines discover your content and this drives traffic to your site. Therefore, make it standard practice when you upload an image – it’s simple to do, and only takes a minute or two.
However, if you are optimizing an existing site there are more important elements than alt tags to consider first. So, get into the practice of adding alt tags to new images and simultaneously focus on the other more important elements of SEO before adding new alt tags or rewriting existing alt tags on your website.
Are your website images working their hardest for you? Let us know your biggest challenge when it comes to SEO in the comments below.
Do you need help to increase the pulling power of your website? Get in touch: