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About the ALT Attribute

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Web users love a variety of media; while textual content is essential, it is also important to offer a mix of images, videos, infographics, and other non-text resources.  But search bots still like text; say you sell furniture, and you have a gorgeous graphic that shows your users how to assemble your most popular piece.  This is going to be a big help to users – and it may help you sell a few more pieces. But Google does not recognize text in images, and that great graphic may be going to waste.  To prevent this, use the ALT attribute to describe the image.

ALT attribute is simply alternative text that you can use to accurately describe your image so Google can index it.  When writing these descriptions, it is important to be clear, concise, and brief. You are not writing new content; you are providing information about that image. Let’s use our furniture example to show you how this would look:

<img src=”bookcase.jpg” height=”200” width=”250” alt=”Assembling a Company X bookcase in three easy steps”>

For those who cannot see the image – Google or blind users – this tells them what the picture is.  In this case, you are providing a clear description of what the image holds.  Now say you were using a magnifying glass for your search box.  You would not want to write:

<img src=”magnifyingglass.jpg.”….alt=”magnifyingglass>

Why? Because that is not describing the image accurately.  The ALT text should be “search,” instead.  If the image is used to convey a function, like search, buttons, etc., describe it with the function, not the specific image.  If you have images that have nothing whatsoever to do with your page, you do not need to use ALT text.  To help assisted readers ignore these images, use a null ALT attribute, like:

<img src=”sunshine.gif” width=”40” height “20” alt-“” />

Many webmasters think that using ALT text is a great chance to stuff some keywords in there because no one is going to see them.  Regular users will not see them, that’s true. But Google is indexing those spammy keywords, or not indexing them.  This type of approach to ALT text can cause penalties and lower rankings.  It is far better to use them to accurately describe your image, and if you use a relevant keyword, wonderful.

Using ALT text does not take much time, and it can help boost your SEO efforts.

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