When it comes to the world of search engine optimization, one of the tools that’s often misunderstood is the alt tag. While some groups completely ignore this powerful HTML tag, others put far too much weight on it. This entry will go into the alt tag, what it is, and how to use it right.
What Is the Alt Tag?
An alt tag is simply an HTML tag that you can put into an image. (Technically, you can also put it into other elements as well, but we’ll save that for later.) The alt tag has three practical uses.
1) If the image fails to load (the net connection is too slow, the image is missing from its designated location, etc.), the alt text will appear instead — appropriately linked and coded in the same manner the image was.
2) If the site browser is blind, a special program will read the page to them. Rather than reading images (which isn’t possible), it reads the alt tag.
3) It helps the search engine identify what the image is about.
How Can You Use an Alt Tag?
The third item on the list above leaves a lot of optimizers with watering mouths and very little sense. The idea of being able to simply tell the search engines what an image is about (and have them TRUST you!) is exciting. However, it often gets the better of them, leading to keyword spamming.
Keeping in mind the first two uses of the alt tag, it’s simply cruel to provide a keyword stuffed paragraph for a description. Beyond hurting the eyes of those who see it, or ears of those who hear it, it will also put off the mighty search engine giants — who will disregard your alt tag completely.
In brief, use alt tags. Use a relevant keyword in them. Just make them concise and accurate, too.