Shimon Sandler

Revisiting Alt Tags

The Alt Tag provides very marginal if any boost in SEO. It certainly is a bestpractice to use Alt tags, but, I wouldn’t rely on them to provide a noticable SEO value.

The most important Alt tag is on the logo. So, you might be wondering, “How does Google know it’s your logo?”

Should it be called out in the filename? Well, there’s no Google “Logo Search”…at least not yet. Hmm, a vertical search engine that looks at logos. Not a bad idea.

Certainly, a logo should be tagged as a logo in the alt text for accessibility purposes. But, Google can’t differentiate the logo from other images. So therefore, perhaps the bestpractice would be to alt tag it – “logo”. Google can only know from the alt tag or file name. I wonder if tagging it “logo” would provide the extra wording in the Alt text any more SEO value…like, “Logo – SEO Company”. Although, I doubt it; sounds very 1999.

In my opinion, the most important Alt tags are on sitewide images.

Think about it. It’s just logical. Google must place more importance on a sitewide image over a single page image. So, sitewide images get more weight, not just logos. All things being equal between 2 sites, the Alt tags properly written could push 1 site over the top.

So, as far as Google being able to differentiate your logo from the rest of your images, they can’t. Google cannot OCR (optical character recognition) the whole web – thats why even links labeled sponsored links, Google can’t spot. The web is just too big for them to crawl and read all the graphics. Even though the bots can read the text in images. Thats why captchas don’t offer full-proof protection these days against spammers. Because the bots that OCR them are getting better.

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Comments

  1. Great article. It is important to realize that the alt attribute on highly respected pages will have value and may play an important rule. Although sitewide images may be more important – an image on a powerful page (such as ones homepage) should definitely have alt tags – dont you think?

  2. Hi Yaniv,

    In my opinion, I think it’s a best practice to use Alt Tags ( Alt Attribute ) on all images, except for images used for spacers.

  3. I agree. It is also important for the alt tags to be unique, not too long and descriptive.

  4. After being out of favor for years, I think it’s time to use alt tags again, especially on your website photos.

    Image Search is huge and, unless you tell the Search Engines what your photos are about, they won’t know. Alt tags are one of the easiest ways to do this.

  5. Let’s evaluate how the expert’s perceive ALT tags in v2 of SEOMOZ’s search ranking factors at http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors.

    On a 5 point scale, the value of alt tags received a 2.6 – the value is of “Moderate Importance”. A few quotes I found of interest: (to see them all, view the document)

    Andy Hagan’s says: “This is very important for Image search, but not as important for Web search.”

    Aaron Wall says: “Important for helping images rank, but not as important for helping a page link, unless the image is a hyperlink, in which case the alt text acts similar to anchor text.”

    Michael Gray: “Alt tags and title tags confer some internal anchor text value, not as much as pure text but are helpful.”

    Chris Boggs: “Must be combined with other factors to help, such as the image being a link to an on-topic page or other image.”

    Todd Malicoat: “Images that are linked have their alt text used as anchor text. This is VERY often overlooked by even sharp folks that run websites. Alt text on theair own (unlinked) is great for accessibility, but not that important for direct search rankings.”

  6. When I decided to make an entry into the “nicest bloke in SEO” I wanted my page to look good but still get credit for linking out. So I used images. To keep things as KW dense as possible I used the phrase in the alt tags. I took the #1 slot but as a result of the image links and alt tags the lower SERP’s adjusted to reflect my page. Most noticeably Rand move up 3 slots and Dave N moved up 2.

    http://www.wolf-howl.com/case-study/nicest-bloke-in-seo/

    try a similar experiment, then try swapping from image to text and eventually no links. Watch and see what happens.

  7. As others have noted – I think alt tags are pretty critical for image search optimization and they serve as the “anchor text” if your image is linking to a page. They’re also a nice spot to throw in an extra instance of a keyword, so while they may not be completely critical, I wouldn’t altogether ignore them, either.

  8. Two things:

    1: It’s ALT attributes not ALT tags.

    2: Google does have a patent to read and compare graphical images it will just be awhile before that is implemented. I’m too lazy to find it but check SEO by the Sea.

  9. Interesting information. I sometimes ask myself such questions too about different things. For ex I was reading an article about links closer or not to keywords and a test about it. Even this is counted, the physical closeness of words.

  10. Thanks for this article, I think I’ll try if alt attributes make a difference for my site…

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