This is a guest post by AJ Wilcox of OrangeSoda, an internet marketing and search marketing company that specializes in local search and SEO for small business.
As you are coding your site, you most often get the necessary stuff in, and then sweep back for all the leftovers. Quite often, developers forget to add the alt=”” attribute to images because it’s not required to appear completed. Since image alts are not visible to the majority of searchers, they’re easy to forget.
I’d like to cover why you shouldn’t forget about them, or why you should go input them now.
Traffic from Image Searches
How do you think Google classifies images in order to display in images.google.com when a searcher enters a keyword? A few options come to mind. They can pull the filename (ie. Bluecar.jpg will likely be relevant when someone searches for ‘blue car’), text surrounding the image, the alt text, and they can inspect the image digitally (their technology is improving fast). By including your page keywords in your alt text, you raise your chances of showing up in image searches, and getting subsequent visitors from those image searches.
The Visually Impaired
Users who are blind have browsers that read the page text aloud. When the browser comes to an image, if there is no alt text, the browser can’t add to the user’s experience. Visually impaired users should definitely be able to get the gist of images like the rest of us, so take a few minutes and write some descriptive alt text.
Google Usability Love
What is Google’s goal? They are first and foremost a business, so they want to make money. They make a good 98% of their money through paid ads. The more users on Google properties, the more chances that users will click their ads, and add to the bottom line. The better the experience that users have surfing sites through Google, the more they will return. Of course it makes sense for Google to reward complete, fully-usable content to hover near the top of their indexes.
Keyword usage in image alt text is classified as having minimal importance by a consortium of SEO experts, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless. It is yet another opportunity to declare your relevance to your given keyword. The little things add up to big things together, so don’t ignore them. Personally, I feel that image alt text plays a larger role than most on-site factors due to the previous point about usability, but that’s personal opinion.
So there you have it, don’t forget your image alt text.