What Is An “Alt” Tag?

By Mike Munter on May 07, 2012  

The “alt” tag attribute is used to tell search engines what an image is.  Search engines read text; they do not understand what images are.  Therefore, in order for a search engine to understand the photos, graphs and other pictorial representations on your website, you need to describe the photo using the image alt tag.

Here’s the HTML syntax for an image that I posted on this webpage.  Note the RED alt tag syntax.

<div id=”attachment_3017″ class=”wp-caption aligncenter” style=”width: 1056px”> <a href=”http://mikemunterseo.com/blog/what-do-i-do-with-all-these-blog-comments -on-my-site/attachment/blog-comment-spam-sample-4/” rel=”attachment wp-att-3017″> <img class=”size-full wp-image-3017 ” style=”border: 0pt none;” title=”blog comment spam sample” src=”http://mikemunterseo.com/wp-content/uploads/ blog-comment-spam-sample.png alt=”blog comment spam sample” width=”1046″ height=”626″ /></a><p class=”wp-caption-text”> Example of Blog Comment Spam</p></div>

In the example above, note the “alt” tag where I have denoted “blog comment spam sample”. This alt tag is a brief description of the photo that tells search engines like Google what the image is. Without the alt tag inserted, search engines do not know what the picture is.

Why Is The Alt Tag Important?

The image “alt” tag is very important for your site in terms of SEO.  It is one of the checkpoints of thorough on-page optimization work that helps you get found by search engines.

When you define what your images are about, you help tie together the theme of your page for search engine optimization.  For example, since this page is about “what is an alt tag”, it only makes sense that the photos I use on this page would be the same thing, or something that is related.  If I were trying to rank this page for the keyword phrase, “what is an alt tag”, then having my photo’s alt tag say the same thing helps me outrank other sites trying to rank for the same thing.  The reason for this is that the default “alt” tag for photos is left blank.  So, if you post a photo to your blog and do not denote its alt tag, your syntax will look like this:

alt=””

This is why you should take the time to go through each image on your site and tell search engines what it is by defining their alt tags.  It gives you a leg up on your competition.

what is an alt tagHow Do I Check My Alt Tag Syntax?

To check to see if your alt tags are clearly defined, you can look at the Page Source.  If you right-click your mouse on any web page, you will see an option called, “View Page Source”.  When you view the page source code, you can look through it to see the images on your page and see whether or not the “alt” tag has been been defined.

Not having an alt tag defined will not hurt you, but it definitely won’t help you.  Defining the alt tag for images on pages I am trying to rank for clients is one of the best ways to tighten up on-page optimization and help improve search rankings and traffic.

Setting up image alt tags are an important factor in optimizing your site’s pages.  Doing it right will help you rank better and get more traffic.


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