Friday, 27 July 2012
What are ALT attributes?
The ALT attribute or 'Alternative text' (frequently referred to as ALT tag) is quite simply text that we add to the image properties to provide a description of the image when it is not available i.e. when the website is being viewed with a screenreader, crawled by the Googlebot or because images are turned off. It is always a smart approach to add an alternative (alt) text for your images as this has a massive benefit from an accessibility point of view (which is great) but it can also have a positive impact for your websites SEO which is also pretty fantabulous!
Below is a sample of how to get your ALT attribute swag on:
<img alt="YOUR IMAGE ALT TEXT" src="/image source link"/>
What those crazy guys at Google say about the ALT attribute
Taken from Google Webmaster tools: 'Use the alt attribute to provide descriptive text. In addition, we recommend using a human-readable caption and descriptive text around the image.'
A statement about how they handle ALT tags: 'Some of you have asked about the difference between the "alt" and "title" attributes. According to the W3C recommendations, the "alt" attribute specifies an alternate text for user agents that cannot display images, forms or applets. The "title" attribute is a bit different: it "offers advisory information about the element for which it is set." As the Googlebot does not see the images directly, we generally concentrate on the information provided in the "alt" attribute. Feel free to supplement the "alt" attribute with "title" and other attributes if they provide value to your users!'
(Make sure you check out the video from Google engineer Matt Cutts above to see what he has to say about the ALT attribute and also to check out his cat sketch, good job Matt knows his Search Engine shizzle because hes no artist!)
So what we can gather from this is that the ALT tag is the attribute that Google ranks highest with image optimisation, but that shouldn't stop you flexing some other attributes such as the 'title' attribute and in a best case scenario you would definitely make sure that both were in place.
Our advice to you
Take some time to think of keyword rich and targeted alt and title attributes ensuring these remain relevant to the image used and the surrounding copy.
* Also keep in mind that using an alt attribute for each image is required to meet the minimum WAI requirements, which are used as the benchmark for accessibility laws in UK and the rest of Europe. They are vital for making your site accessible but this does not mean that you can not benefit SEO wise at the same time WIN WIN!
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