Get the Most out of Images with Alt Attributes

Today’s internet users love media-rich content. A well-chosen photo or graphic entices readers to engage in the content on your website and can provide additional information that might be a bit boring in text form. Great images enhance site users’ experience and can improve conversion rates, making it worthwhile to include photos or infographics where possible.

Images can help your SEO efforts as well, but only if implemented properly. Search engines can’t “read” or “see” graphic elements or videos, so you need to provide context for the image in a piece of code called the alt attribute or alt tag. Don’t panic – it’s easy to add using WordPress and other content management systems.

A Brief Explanation of the Alt Attribute

First things first: What is the alt attribute? The alt attribute’s original function has nothing to do with SEO – it was actually intended to increase accessibility. The alt attribute is an HTML attribute for images, and it indicates alternative text to display if the image can’t be displayed – such as when a visually impaired person loads the page with a screen reader. A proper alt tag should contain a helpful description of the image’s contents and/or context.

Let’s create an alt tag for this example, with accessibility in mind:

A pair of sunglasses on a white background

Alt: A pair of sunglasses on a white background.

This gives enough information about the image to be helpful in cases where the image doesn’t load in – such as with a screen reader, or a slow connection.

How it Helps Search Engines

We mentioned earlier that search engines can’t “see” text contained in images. They can, however, see the code, including image alt attributes.

If you’ve included alt attributes, search engines can take information about your images into account when indexing and ranking your web pages. To get the most SEO benefit out of alt tags, include a relevant keyword or two in the attribute.

Let’s optimize our earlier example. Let’s say this image is used on the website for SunnyDudes, a new men’s sunglasses retailer.

A pair of men’s sunglasses by SunnyDudes

Alt: A pair of men’s sunglasses by SunnyDudes.

When optimizing alt tags for SEO, don’t lose sight of the original purpose of the alt attribute. Make sure it still gives a helpful description of the image and/or its context, and avoid stuffing the alt tag with keywords – try to keep it natural. An alt attribute that’s stuffed with keywords is not helpful for visually impaired users, and unnatural keyword usage can hurt your search rankings.

How to Add Them Using WordPress

It’s very simple to add these attributes using the WordPress CMS. Depending on your version of WordPress and the plugins that are installed on your site, this process may be slightly different.

Adding alt tag to an image within a page:

  • Log into your CMS
  • Choose “Pages” on the left hand side
  • Find the correct page in the list and hit “Edit”
  • Click on the image and hit the pencil icon to edit it
  • Enter desired content in the “Alternative Text” field
  • Hit “Update” in this window and “Update” the page as well

 

Adding alt tag to an image from the media tab:

  • Log into your CMS
  • Choose “Media” on the left hand side
  • Find the right image in the list and hit “Edit”
  • Enter desired content in the “Alternative Text” field
  • Hit “Update”

An Easy Trick for Site Owners

If you’re managing your own site content or your own search presence, it’s worth reviewing the images on your site to check that they have alt attributes, and make sure the alt attributes are fully optimized. If your site is image-sparse, it might be time to add some new photos to improve the user experience and search presence of your website.

Confused about the process of adding alt tags? Too busy to optimize your site’s images? Get in contact with us. We can train you to use your WordPress installation or handle your site updates.