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What Are Alt Tags?

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Rule number one for alt tags: they are not alt tags, they are alt attributes, also called alt text. A tag is an HTML element, for example, `<img src=“logo.jpg”>` and along with the alt attribute it looks like this: `<img src=“logo.jpg” alt=“adWhite’s logo”>`. 

The alt attribute helps to explain what the image is about to people who can’t see it. For example, when a visually impaired person is using a website, a screen reader can read out loud the alt attribute, giving the user context about the image.

Search engines use the alt attribute for the same purpose. That’s why some people recommend including keywords in the alt attribute. But be aware: the use of keywords that convey no context in the image in alt attributes can hurt the SEO instead of improving it. This is called keyword stuffing.

For example, when someone searches for a dog leash, they might enter: “best dog leash”, “affordable dog leash” or “dog leash for golden retriever”, so images with alt attributes like “a person walking with dog using leash brand-name” will benefit more than “Dog Leash Product - DogBrand.”

Tips for good alt attributes:

  • Explain the image with context. What’s happening in the picture? Who’s in it? Where are they and what are they doing? For example: “Dalmatian puppy playing fetch in the park with its owner”
  • If your image represents a function (a button), describe the action that will happen: “Buy product X now for $19!” or “Subscribe to our newsletter.”
  • If the image has text included in it, the same text needs to be included in the alt attribute.
  • Images that are purely decorative and have no meaning or context should use an empty alt attribute `<img src=“deco.jpg” alt=“”>`.

Remember the alt attribute is there to help users and search engines to understand what’s happening in the picture, not to advertise your brand or the keywords you want to rank for. The latter can actually hurt your SEO ranking and give you the opposite effect of what you’re looking for.

adWhite designs websites for our clients with lead generation and SEO in mind, and we use all the current best practices to ensure that Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines will be able to easily index your site. Get in touch to learn more. 

Juan Olvera

About the author - Juan Olvera

Front-end Web Developer at adWhite, CSS junkie, JavaScript hipster and Python wannabe