Monday, August 2, 2010

ALT tags for images - usability and SEO

The hidden text. Remember that Google and search engines are smart, but they don't have eyes looking at the page itself, so use the code to determine what is happening. NEVER ever, forget to put ALT tags for images in pages, and again, be descriptive and keyword focused.

ALT tags are of course a very good design methodology to utilise as they are required for disabled visitors to your site who may be viewing with a speech device that reads the content on the web page out aloud. And of course there are still other web browsers that allow users to “turn off” images when browsing… this is an approach used by users on very poor line connections or bandwidth starved who just want to get to the good stuff!

ALT tags are designed to ensure that the Internet is usable for everyone, irrespective of handicap or impediment. The Australian Government has been vocal about enforcing the use of ALT tags in the past, and it is always a good idea to ensure that they are used throughout a site.

Every image should have an ALT tag, and these should either describe what an image is, or where an image leads to if it is a link. E.g., if an image is a picture of a man standing on a mountain and links to a page about South American tours the image’s alt tag should read as follows: <img src="image_name.gif" width="10" height="10" align="middle" border="0" alt=“Information on Peru & Bolivia tours” />

ALT tags should be kept short, no more than 10 words, and should not repetitively use keywords. This is referred to as “keyword stuffing” and is likely to get a site either flagged for spamming, or outright banned.

Google will only read ALT tags for images that are links, and many other search engines are aware of the past strategy of keyword stuffing in ALT tags. For Organic SEO purposes, ALT tags are often very important due to the extensive use of image-based navigation. For sites that use such a navigation structure, it is important that ALT tags are added to the images in order to maximise the benefit of Link Reputation.