What is an Alt Tag?

Alt tags go by quite a few different names, which can make it confusing to know exactly what they are, let alone how you can make them and why they’re important when it comes to your website. In addition to being known as alt tags, they also go by the names “alt attribute” and “alt description”. All three of these names help to describe what their purpose is, which is primarily improving search engine rankings for websites by adding more information to images.

Because search engines rely on words to help them understand what a website is about, by adding alt tags to your images, you create readable descriptions for the search engine bots. This extra information can give you a leg up when it comes to outranking competing websites, but you have to make sure you’re creating your alt tags correctly in order for them to actually work.

If an alt tag isn’t formatted correctly — or if it’s obviously just stuffed with keywords, search engines won’t recognize them as something “good” for your website, which means a bad alt tag can actually create negative results for your website’s ranking.

Of course, alt tags aren’t just for SEO purposes. They play a critical role for your website’s users who rely on screen readers. For people who are visually impaired, alt tags allow them to understand the entire website so that they can have a fuller, more engaging experience.


Creating Alt Tags

You can create alt tags for your images by going into the text for your image tag. Depending on what the backend of your website looks like (and how your website was built), creating an alt tag can be super easy or a little more complicated. Either way, a quick search on your website’s platform will take you step-by-step through the alt tag creation process.

Before you start diving in, keep these tips in mind for writing the best, most effective alt tags…

  1. Use descriptive words to create your alt tags. In order for your alt tags to do their job, they need to have enough of a description to really make sense. The easiest way to do this is to look at your picture and see if the description you wrote for you alt tag would give you all of the information you need in order to understand that picture. Did you leave anything important out? Does the description make sense with the rest of the written content on your website? Or, in other words, does your image have a real purpose when it comes to placement or content?
  2. Never make your alt tags too long. The trick to writing great alt tags is that they need to be descriptive, but they also need to be as short as possible. Just like you see an image quickly and understand what it is, your alt tag needs to convey all of the pertinent information in as little time as possible. How long is too long? Most alt tags have a limit of 125 characters.
  3. Use keywords, but don’t just think about SEO. A lot of websites go to the effort of creating alt tags in hopes of boosting their search engine rankings. And, while this isn’t a bad strategy, it’s important to keep in mind that your alt tags need to be useful in order for them to do their jobs.

Alt tags work best when they contain relevant keywords and relevant information. Find a good ratio between the two (and keep it all under 125 characters), and you’ve just made yourself a great alt tag.

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