What is an Alternative Image Text Attribute?
One way to boost the ranking of your website is to use alternative text for the images on your web site. This is called an Alternative Image Text Attribute or Alt Image Tags. This process entails the use of some kind of descriptive text with the images on your website. This is not just a caption, but an alternative description that is added to the image and is readable by search engines. If you don’t have this facility within your website’s editing capabilities or content management system (CMS) you need to talk to us right away.
Why Use an Alt Image Tag
Why do that that? Why is it so important? The answer is simple. Search engines are basically blind and cannot see the images on your website.
Before adding an alt image tag to an image it is important to classify how the image is used. Images usually fall into one of three categories.
Design Elements – these are things that make a site visually interesting and appealing and serve no informational purpose at all.
Atmospheric or mood creating – These images set the stage, create a mood or accent something more abstract, for example, a group of happy business people to represent the concept of great customer service. They are not really essential to the content of the site, but serve a purpose to help frame whatever message your website is trying to give about your company or organization
Content Creating or Functional – These would be images that are essential to the content of the site, like photographs of actual people, events or products. These images directly support or define the written content. In other words, a photo of the XA-4000 Widgetmaster would be as essential as the specifications and marketing copy in the written description on the web page.
What to put into an Alt Image Tag
The text used in an alt image tag should not be a description. Although it might seem like the natural thing to do, the image’s alt tag should be its text equivalent. In other words, the text in the alt tag should convey the same information a user would get if they were looking at the image.
The purpose of an alt image tag is to provide the same information as the image. If the image was not available because someone is searching with the graphics in their search engine turned off, or they are visually impaired, the alt image tag would provide the user with the same information that the image does. The goal is for the alt image tag to be able to provide the exact same description as the image. When deciding on the wording always think, if you were to replace an image with text, would most users receive the same information and respond in the same way?
An alt image tag is not a place to stuff with keywords. The amount of keywords on your web site can work against you now. It’s called keyword density and too many keywords can work against the ranking of your website. It also makes it difficult for those who use screen readers. These devices read the text out loud for visually impaired and other users.
Descriptive Image – This would be a photograph of a product, person or event. In this case, the image is important content so the alt image tag should be a description.
Symbolic Image – This kind of image either represents a function (like a magnifying glass to indicate search) or an idea (like the photo of a group of business people which sends the message that your staff is professional.) With these types of images, the alt image tag should be a description of what is being represented. For example, the magnifying glass would use the word search or find.
Graphs or other data displayed in an image – State what the data is.
An image used to describe a process – Describe what the process is.
Images that are design elements or background images – Don’t add a description unless it helps. Don’t leave it blank either or a reader will say the file name of the image. Using an “empty alt image tag” will keep that from happening.
Search Engine Optimization or SEO Tips with Images
There are a lot of big things you need to do in order to boost your ranking with search engines. This may be a small one but when it comes to competing for the highest ranking, the little things count too. When naming an image file, always consider a keyword or words that apply to it and use them. Keywords can be isolated using hyphens, but try not to use more than two and don’t use underscores. Also, make sure that the text content near the image is also relevant to the text in the image file.
Alt Image Tag Guidelines
* Always add an alt image tag to images. It is not only required for visually impaired accessibility, it can be useful for improving your search engine ranking and for those searching the web with graphics shut off.
* Alt text should be determined by content. The same image in a different context may need drastically different alt text.
* Try to flow alt text with the rest of the text because that is how it will be read with adaptive technologies. Someone “listening” to your page should hardly be aware that a graphic image is there.
- Make sure your alt image tags are not annoying to those individuals who rely on them for content. In other words, never repeat the text content around the image or stuff them with random keywords. Make sure it is relevant to the content around the image.
- If the same image is used in more than one place and the purpose is totally different, use totally different alt image tags.
- Using an alt image tag for each image is required to meet federal guidelines for website accessibility.
Every image and every graphic serves a purpose on a web page. Keeping those reasons in mind will make the process of creating the alt image tags easier. In order to write the appropriate text in each tag, you need to know the function that each image serves. Figure out why it is important to a person who is looking at that page.
A way to check the usefulness of alternative text is to imagine reading the page over the telephone to someone. What would you say when encountering a particular image to make the page understandable to the listener?
Alternative image text or alt image tags play a small part in developing a website. But when you think of the two main reasons to have them, accessibility and search engine ranking, this minor role becomes vital to a site’s success. The important thing is that whatever text is placed in an alt image tag serves both of the reasons to have them. Your website should be visible to all people, including those who are visually impaired and easily found by anyone who is interested in what you have to offer.