Optimizing images for the web

Optimizing images for the web is something that people rarely do well and constantly overlook.  Get one step ahead of your competition by improving your images for web search optimization.

Optimizing images and Google SEO

Optimizing images for the web is a critical element of good Google SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and failing to correctly use the ALT attribute in your photographs and pictures will mean that you lose a valuable opportunity to improve search ranking.  ALT is short for alternative and the alternative text, or ALT attribute, is what a site would show if the image couldn’t be displayed.

Why you should optimize images for the web.

Alt \for Image#1. It is a basic requirement of HTML that all images are accompanied by ALT text. Even if you do not want to include any words about the image you need to insert a null ALT tag: <” “>

#2. If you do not optimize images for the web by adding ALT tags and text, they will be completely inaccessible for search engines and will potentially have a negative impact on Google SEO.

#3. Search engines cannot “see”.  Therefore when you place a picture on your site the search engine does not know what it shows and why it is there. By adding ALT text you tell the search engine what is in the image and this is considered to be good web search optimization.

#4. By using keywords in your ALT tags you can increase your keyword density score. BEWARE though:  do not keyword stuff, use a maximum of two keywords in your ALT Tag.

#5. Using ALT tags and title text well enhances the browsing experience for people who are unable to see or read.  Many disabled surfers use a screen reader, which is software that literally reads the content of a site out aloud to the user.  If you optimize images and place useful text attributes on your images the user will be told what the page contains.

How to optimize images for the web

ALT attribute General rules:Alt text

#1 – Don’t be tempted to use the ALT attribute as a means of keyword stuffing. This is not good web search optimization.  It is okay to use one or two keywords or keyword phrases in your title but don’t overdo it and make sure that they do represent what the image shows.  High keyword density can trigger spam filters and damage your rankings.

#2 – Keep descriptions within context.  Think about what the ALT tag will sound like when read aloud, to someone who can’t actually see the image.  For your company logo, for example, the ALT attribute should read not .

#3 – Don’t just revert to using the image’s filename as the ALT attribute, this is not an effective means of optimizing an image for the web and it won’t mean anything to the search engine.

ALT attributes for photographs and general images:

Creating effective ALT attributes means using your imagination a little.  What were you trying to convey when you chose the photograph or image for use on your site?  For example, if you chose a picture of some hands holding the letters SEO you may write, or “SEO in your hands”.  Alternatively you may wish to be descriptive, this is more suitable if the picture’s meaning is imperative to the meaning of the rest of the text on the site.  For example, if you were describing Victorian dress and inserted a picture of typical dress of the period you should describe what is on the picture: “Shawls and bonnets were typically worn by Victorian women”.

ALT attribute for charts and graphs:

Try and summarize the trend that the graph or chart depicts.  Keep it brief where possible or use the longdesc attribute.  A good ALT for a graph that shows rising cost of living in London may read: “costs in London rose steadily over a three year period”.

ALT attribute for pictures of products on eCommerce stores:

Simply use the product name as the ALT attribute.  This will help ranking and will help any visitors who have pictures turned off.

ALT attributes for decorative images/ spacer images/ bullets and icons:

Any decorative images that are inserted into your site to improve the general look and feel have no content value to the search engines.  For this reason you should use a null ALT attribute, i.e. ” “.

ALT attributes for functional images (buttons, navigational bars, arrows):

Don’t be tempted to use the images to sell your products or services, e.g. .  In the case of functional images, the ALT text should represent exactly what the image shows.  E.g.

Image of a button that says “next” on it.

Navigational button with the word “Home” on it.

You get the picture?  Any images that have words on them should be accompanied with ALT text that repeats, word for word, the text that is on the image.

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