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Image Alt Text vs. Image Title Attributes

Image optimization is often overlooked when it comes to SEO, despite the fact that Google has emphasized the importance of it for users and search engines. However, some people may be confused as to how exactly they can optimize their image attributes for SEO, and what exactly image alt text and titles are. This blog post will break it down for you and provide you with best practices for both.

If you’re just looking for a quick answer though, here you go!

Image alt text describes the image textually so that search engines and screen readers (software used by the visually impaired) can understand what the image is. Using alt text correctly can help your SEO. The image title tag is simply used to provide an image with a title, but it isn’t important for SEO.

The Image Tag

This is what a complete, properly optimized image tag should look like for an image like this:

redsweater

<img src=”red-outdoor-sweater.jpg” alt=” Men’s long sleeve red outdoor sweater” title=”Red Outdoor Sweater”/>

Now let’s break this tag down into its 3 separate parts.

  1. src=“red-outdoor-jpg” is the image file (or source) that is being displayed on the page.
  2. alt=“Our red outdoor sweaters are on sale now!” is the images alt text, which stands for alternate text. Its purpose is to describe the image textually so that search engines and screen readers (software used by the visually impaired) can understand what the image is.
  3. title=“Red Outdoor Sweater” is the image title, which as the name implies, is the title of your image.

To summarize, your image tag (the entire HTML code snippet) should always include the following two attributes; image alt text and image title.

How to Optimize the Image Filename

There isn’t too much to do with your image filename, but you should keep two things in mind. First, give descriptive and informative filenames for your images that contain relevant keywords. Filenames are sometimes used for the image’s snippet in Google image search results so it’s important they are written with users in mind. Second, use hyphens between the words in the filename; it’s best practice.

How to Optimize Alt Text

An image’s alt text describes the picture for search engines and screen readers. All images should have alt text. The text doesn’t need to be particularly lengthy; a sentence or two will suffice.

Whenever possible, include one of your page’s target keywords in the alt text as this could improve your keyword ranking for the page, and it will help the image rank well for the keyword during an image search.

However, avoid stuffing your image with keywords as this makes the text unhelpful for users and might be seen by Google as spammy. You can see a good example of alt text above; a bad example would be something like this:

alt=“Our red outdoor sweaters are on sale now! These red outdoor sweaters are perfect for winter. Buy a red outdoor sweater today!”

As you can see, this looks spammy and doesn’t provide any additional value for the user.

How to Optimize the Image Title

The image title attribute doesn’t have any impact on keyword rankings because search engines don’t crawl them, so if you had to choose between optimizing alt text and titles, you should choose the former every time. That said, image titles are displayed when your mouse hovers over an image in some browsers (like Firefox and Opera) so it does improve user experience to have a proper title set. You don’t need to do anything crazy here; just write a quick and easy title for the image that complements what you wrote for the alt text and call it a day.

TL;DR:

In the context of the image tag, alt text displays when an image doesn’t load and describes what the image is, and the image title attribute displays on mouse-over and is just the images title. Alt text has potential SEO benefit, titles do not. Make sure all images include at least alt text (with relevant keywords included), and ideally a title as well.

Comments

8 thoughts on “Image Alt Text vs Image Title: Using ALT & TITLE Attributes In Image Tags
  1. Izloo says:

    Quite helpful to understand the image optimization.

  2. Chris Brown says:

    An alt text description should either describe the image for somebody who can’t see it or describe it’s meaning. Remember that not everybody who has a visual impairment was born that way. So for the image above it should be something like “Postbox red long-sleeved V-neck woolen sweater”. If the image was promoting your summer sale the alt text might be “Summer Sale starts July 14”. For a photo of a person it might be “Doug Miller, CEO of Acme Corporation” or even “Doug Miller, CEO of Acme Corporation examining next season’s range of shirts”.

  3. Sarah T. says:

    Hey, Justin, I am grateful for the article and surprised there are no comments here. Your effort is appreciated.

    A couple of questions. What character count would you suggest for image alt text? Few sources state any limits one should keep to. Some say a couple of words, others think up to a couple of sentences. Not that specific.

    Hoping to hear from you

  4. Sarah T. says:

    Oh, also forgot something else! Guess there will be two of my comments here 😉

    Do you believe alt text should be unique for every image, even, say, on a photographer’s portfolio website where there could be up to a few dozen images on one page, from one shoot? Do you think it’s better to include the same alt text for multiple images than not to include one at all? Won’t Google see that as spam/duplicate? Finally, I’ve done some poking around with WebAnalysis (many similar tools can be easily found via Google), and few of the photographers I compete with seem to bother with alt text. Obviously, it could potentially give me an edge in ranking, at least in theory. Or is it because the effect is not really that pronounced?

    Again, hoping to hear from you, thanks!

  5. Nick Kirk says:

    Hi Justin. Thank you so much for explaining these two img attributes so helpfully. I learnt a lot. There is just one sentence above that doesn’t quite make sense. I think it’s because the word ‘alt’ shouldn’t be there. Here’s the first part of the sentence: “The image alt title attribute doesn’t have any impact on keyword rankings” I think it’s just meant to say: “The image title attribute doesn’t have any impact on keyword rankings”.

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