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HTML Help: Image Alt Text and Search Engine Optimization
Do image alt tags help with search engine placement?There are a lot of things that go into search engine placement, and alt tags can certainly be part of the optimization puzzle, depending on which search engine is in question and how you use the alt tag.
One of the main principles in search engine optimization is in legally adding keywords and keyword phrases to your visible page content and to the hidden code. Using keywords and keyword phrases in the alt tag is one area where you can legally add those important keywords.
Keywords and keyword phrases, for those that don't know, are the words and phrases a person would type into a search engine if they wanted to find your site. For example, if you have a site about gardening, some of the keywords and keyword phrases that would be relevant to your site might include:
gardening, gardens, horticulture, bedding plants, flowers, vegetables
...just to name a few. By using these and other keywords and keyword phrases in the appropriate places you can strenghten your site's theme and boost your sites relevance for gardening.
We do need to keep the purpose of the image alt tag in mind when we use it. The original purpose was to supply visually impaired people using screen readers to "read" the web with a way to understand what the images in use were about. Just using them to cram keywords into the source code defeats that purpose.
There's no reason BOTH purposes can't be served though. For example, if you have an image of a hosta plant on your gardening web site, your alt tag might look like this:
<img src="hosta.jpg" alt="hosta plant">Using that alt tag has meaning to the visually impaired and also adds "hosta plant" as a keyword phrase to your code to feed the search engines. Now, if you really want to optimize it, you might use this:
<img src="hosta.jpg" alt="Sea Fire hosta plant from Joe's Gardens.">In the first example, for keywords we have:
...that would be relevant for a general search query for hosta plants. In the second example, for keywords we have:
We still have the same general keywords for a general search query for hosta plants from the first example, but we also have more keywords and keyword phrases for a more specific search for a particular kind of hosta plant. Most search engines can pair up adjacent keywords into keyword phrases, that's how we got all those extra keyword phrases. As you can see, the second alt tag provides a lot more food for the search engines to feed on.
If someone searched for "Sea Fire hosta" you'd have an exact match on your page with the second alt description. Exact matches are always more important to the search engines than general matches.
So, there's a mini-lesson in search engine optimization for you. The image alt attribute is a very small, very minor part of search engine optmizatin though. Still, all else being exactly equal, the site with the better image alt text will ranking higher than the site with poor unoptimized alt text.
If you'd like to learn real search engine optimization you might want to take a look at my SEO for YOU ebook and Industrial Strength Link Building.
If you're not very familiar with me or my site, you may wonder how much I really know about search engine optimization. Here's a small sampling of how this site ranks for three very hotly contested keyword phrases at Google at the time this page was made...
...this is the #1 ranked site on Google for web design tutorials out of almost 50 million competing pages! That, my esteemed reader, is only accomplished by someone that knows real search engine optimization.
Having the #3 ranking for html tutorials and the #4 ranking for CSS tutorials is quite impressive too, don't you think?
You can go check those results yourself. Rankings do fluctuate, but you should find this site in good standings for those and dozens of related search terms—and yeah, I could have listed dozens of other first page Google rankings, and top rankings at other search engines as well—but that would just be bragging. :)
The point is, I really do know how to get good search engine rankings. A lot of people talk a good game, but where do their sites rank? It comes down to this, I've got the proof, and I'm one of the few that is willing to share what I know. You just have to decide if you really want good search engine rankings.
PS: Check the Specials page, I sometimes bundle SEO for YOU and Industrial Strength Link Building together at a significant discount.
This concludes the
HTML Help about Image Alt Text and SEO.
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