Alt Tags – The Low Hanging Fruit of SEO

Everybody wants their site to rank first in organic search. They’re also looking to make the process easy and free. It’s certainly not either, but I facepalm every time I go to a client’s site and see missing alt tags–the low hanging fruit of SEO. To be fair, most people do not even know what an alt tag is, let alone know why they are easy pickings for search engine optimization. Don’t want to spend another minute being out of the loop? Read on if you’d like to be more informed and learn a simple and free way to increase your SEO.

What are alt tags?

An alt tag, also sometimes known as alt text, is simply a text alternative that is presented in place of an image, when the image can’t be displayed. You’ve likely seen alt tags before in your emails when your browser blocks images from an unknown sender. It works the same way for web pages. It looks something like this:

example of alt text in an email

Example: Alt tags (the “bmw” in boxes) in an email. Dealership name redacted.

Alt tags serve two main purposes. The first is for accessibility. Providing the description of the image allows users with disabilities to understand what is being displayed. This is often accomplished through screen readers and other assistive technologies.

Second, alt tags let search engines know what image is being displayed. There are a couple of benefits here, including providing images that are more searchable as well as providing search engines a clue about the content surrounding the image.

We can see in the example above that the alt tags are telling us that the email shows a picture of a BMW.

Now, let’s look at the actual picture.

example of bmw email with red sedan sports bmw

Notice any discrepancies? Using the simple alt tag of “BMW” doesn’t really do that magnificent car justice, does it?

Why is this so important?

Let’s take the example above. If an image on your website has no alt tag and someone searches for “BMW,” what are the chances that your photo (and ultimately your site) will come up in an image search? Slim to none, right? You can see that’s a problem if you’re trying to sell BMWs.

But, filling in alt tags is only part of the solution. An even better idea is to accurately describe the photo. I like to tell my clients, “explain it to me like I’m blind.” For instance, we could improve this alt tag by replacing it with: “bmw 6 series two door red sedan.” Now, chances of your photo appearing in a search is much, much better.

I bet you’re thinking, “okay, so that’s great if you’re a retailer, but what about other businesses?”

Remember that part about alt text providing clues for search engines regarding the surrounding page content? Let’s say you’re in the home insurance business. I’m sure image searches for insurance are pretty low–I’ll be honest I haven’t checked. But would posting a picture with the alt tag “insurance agent inspecting a home after hail damage” help search engine crawlers decipher what your site is all about, thus helping increase your page rank? You betcha!

So how do I put in alt tags?

There are many different ways to put in alt tags depending on your content management system (CMS) or if you’re hand coding html. I’ll show you how it’s done on WordPress, a very popular open source software. The process is similar on other content management systems as well.

Dashboard > Media > Library > Select a Picture

example of where to add an alt tag in WordPress

You can enter alt text in WordPress by selecting an image in the Library and filling in the Attachment Details

A Final Word

It’s important to remember that alt tags are just one small part of the algorithms that search engines use in image and page rank. Using them properly won’t radicalize your page rank overnight. That said, alt tags are an easy way for beginners to start their journey into search engine optimization. So, how ’bout them apples?



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