In this photo widely circulated on social media, a cat is hidden in plain sight. We were increasingly frustrated with every second it took us to locate the camouflaged feline.
We know it’s frustrating when something you really want to see is hidden in plain sight. So we knowingly risk frustrating you by saying it’s likely the images you’ve carefully chosen for your company’s website are hidden in plain sight – because they are invisible to search engines.
Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo are not able to view website images. To make images “visible” in searches, you need to use metadata. That’s descriptive text, invisible to human visitors, telling search engines about the image.
You write metadata for website images using your website’s content management system. Metadata includes the alt tag and the image title. Alt tags add the most SEO value, ensuring that images are found by search engines and helping to optimize your website for relevant keywords.
“Alt tag” is shorthand for “alternative text” – the text search engines use as the alternative to the image. In 16 words or less, an alt tag should briefly describe the image and contain a relevant keyword phrase, preferably the same phrase for which the web page it appears on is optimized. For example, if you sell firewood, you might have a page optimized for “split firewood,” and your alt tag for the cat-in-woodpile image might be “cat hidden on pile of split firewood.”
Alt tags also have important functions for humans. They make the image accessible to blind and visually impaired visitors using a screen reader that reads web pages aloud. They also appear in place of images for visitors who have intentionally disabled images in their browsers.
This is the title of your image. Always change the generic name your camera gave the image, such as DSC00545.jpg, to something meaningful. As with alt tags, best practice is to include a keyword phrase. But don’t use exactly the same text you used in the alt tag; change it up a bit. The image title can be written as you would write the title or headline of an article.
In some browsers (Firefox, for example), the image title will pop up when a visitor hovers over the image. Knowing this, there may be instances when you want the image title to be intriguing, as in “Can you find the cat camouflaged in these stacks of split firewood?”
DOs and DON’Ts:
- DO use the web page keyword phrase in your image alt tag.
- DO use alt tags on all images except for purely decorative images like banners and buttons; tagging those can actually have a negative impact on SEO.
- DON’T use the generic and/or nonsensical title your camera gives an image; change it to something helpful and relevant.
- DO make your image title specific to the image content, short and to the point.