Alt tag: definition, functions and relevance for SEO

The alt tag, also known as the alt attribute and alt description, is an HTML tag that is applied to images. Here, the content of the respective image is briefly explained in text form. Such tags primarily enable search engines to recognise the added informational value of image content. Without these descriptions, the services can only perceive images as such, but can hardly categorise their value for the pages in question.

How Does the Alt Tag Work and What Is It Used For?

The alt tag is an attribute in HTML code that provides a text description for images on websites. It serves several purposes: it improves accessibility by enabling screen readers to describe the image content for visually impaired users. It also helps with technical issues by displaying text when images cannot be loaded. Additionally, it assists search engines in indexing and understanding images, enhancing search engine optimization (SEO) and visibility in image searches.

Accessibility

Adding alt tags to images enhances accessibility. These tags allow screen readers to analyze the corresponding alt descriptions and convey their meaning. This way, people who are blind or visually impaired can still perceive the value of images on websites through assistive programs.

Technical Blockages

It doesn't always have to be a visual impairment that prevents people from viewing images on websites. If content is technically blocked for any reason, the alt tags or descriptions appear in place of the images. This significantly reduces the limitation.

Search Engine Optimization

Alt text also provides search engines with the ability to assess images in their respective page contexts. Alt tags play a crucial role in properly indexing image content. Moreover, the texts provide context-related information about the other contents of the respective pages.

Support for Social Media

Alt tags can also help with the display of images on social media platforms. When an image from a website is shared on a social media platform, some platforms use the alt text to display a description of the image. This can enhance interaction and engagement on social networks.

Is the Alt Tag Important for Search Engine Optimization?

Yes, the alt tag plays a significant role in search engine optimization (SEO). It helps search engines understand the content of images on a website and index them correctly. This improves the visibility of images in image searches and can enhance the overall ranking of the website in search results. Additionally, it contributes to user experience by making content accessible to visually impaired individuals and serving as a replacement for images that fail to load due to technical issues.

Understanding and User Experience

The information in alt tags ensures that users and search engines can better understand the content of websites. This support significantly contributes to more intensive use of pages. For Google and others, this is a clear indicator of a good user experience (UX), which can positively impact ranking.

Incorporation of Keywords

Alt text also offers an additional opportunity to include important keywords. Since the use of keywords is still a central factor for search engine ranking, this opportunity should always be utilized.

Image Search

Moreover, alt tags or alt texts are a ranking factor for the image search of major search engines. Anyone who wants their image content to appear prominently in image search results should not forgo appropriate descriptions.

Improving Click-Through Rates (CTR)

Well-written alt tags can also improve click-through rates (CTR) as they can be displayed in search engine results like Google. A concise and informative alt text can encourage users to click on the image or the associated link.

Best Practices for Using Alt Tags

Alt tags should be precise and descriptive to accurately convey the content of the image. This enhances accessibility and helps search engines better understand the context of the image. Avoid keyword stuffing by naturally incorporating relevant keywords. Ensure all images on the website have alt tags to maintain consistent accessibility and search engine optimization. Regular reviews and updates of alt tags contribute to long-term efficiency.

Precise and Descriptive Texts

Alt tags should be precise and descriptive to accurately convey the content of the image. This enhances accessibility and helps search engines better understand the context of the image.

Avoiding Keyword Stuffing

While it is important to use relevant keywords, keyword stuffing should be avoided. Alt tags should sound natural and appeal to the user rather than being optimized solely for search engines.

Consistent Use

Ensure all images on the website have alt tags to maintain consistent accessibility and search engine optimization. Regular reviews and updates of alt tags contribute to long-term efficiency.

Contextual Relevance

Alt tags should consider the context of the surrounding text. A good alt tag aligns with the page's content and complements the information already present.

Using Automated Tools

There are various tools and plugins available that simplify the management and optimization of alt tags. These tools can help identify missing alt tags and provide suggestions for improvements.

Alt Tags and Accessibility

Alt tags play a crucial role in the accessibility of websites. They enable screen readers to describe the content of images, allowing visually impaired users to understand the information. This promotes an inclusive user experience and ensures that all users, regardless of their abilities, can access the same content. Additionally, alt tags are often legally required to comply with accessibility standards and avoid legal consequences.

Legal Requirements

In many countries, there are legal requirements for accessibility that mandate the use of alt tags. Websites that do not meet these requirements may face legal consequences and penalties.

User-Friendliness

Alt tags significantly improve user-friendliness for people with disabilities by providing them access to information that would otherwise be inaccessible. This promotes an inclusive user experience.

Improving User Experience

By providing alt tags, it is ensured that all users, regardless of their abilities, have a positive experience on the website. This leads to higher user satisfaction and engagement.

Preventing Legal Risks

Complying with legal accessibility requirements protects companies from legal consequences and potential fines. Non-compliance can have financial impacts and negatively affect the company's image.

Technical Aspects of Implementing Alt Tags

Alt tags are implemented directly in the HTML code of a website. They are added within the image tag to provide a descriptive text alternative for the image. A correctly implemented alt tag looks like this: <img src="image.jpg" alt="Description of the image">. Numerous tools and plugins facilitate the management and entry of alt texts, especially in content management systems (CMS) like WordPress. Regular reviews and SEO audits are important to ensure all images on the website are equipped with meaningful alt tags.

HTML Syntax

Alt tags are implemented directly in the HTML code of the page. The tag is added to the image tag to provide a descriptive text alternative for the image. A correctly implemented alt tag looks like this: <img src="image.jpg" alt="Description of the image">.

Tools and Plugins

There are various tools and plugins available that facilitate the implementation and management of alt tags. Content management systems (CMS) like WordPress offer plugins that enable the entry of alt texts when uploading images and automated checks to ensure completeness.

Monitoring and Maintenance

Regular monitoring and maintenance of alt tags are crucial for their effectiveness. Website analysis tools and SEO audits can help identify and address missing or inadequate alt tags.

Automation through AI

With the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI), alt tags can increasingly be created automatically. AI-powered tools can analyze images and generate precise descriptions, significantly simplifying the process of creating alt tags.

Common Mistakes in Using Alt Tags

A common mistake in using alt tags is the complete absence of them, which negatively impacts accessibility and SEO effectiveness. Another mistake is using too generic alt tags like “image1” or “photo,” which do not accurately describe the content of the image. Additionally, excessive keyword stuffing in alt tags can impair user experience and lead to search engine penalties. Alt tags should be precise, descriptive, and naturally formulated to be useful for both users and search engines.

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