You don’t see the same images as the search engines!
Take a look at the two pictures below. What are they? Well if you guessed that the left image is a fireworks display and the image on the right is a ladybug, congratulations! You’re right (what a surprise). That wasn’t very hard, right? That’s because the brain loves to digest visual information and it’s wired to analyze objects visually at pretty amazing speeds.
The problem with images on the internet is that even though the user can see what the image is, search engines have a hard time determining what images are other than images. So to most search engines, the two images above aren’t any different and they really only know that they’re both just images. That’s where an important piece of data comes into play in the SEO and search engine world… The alternative attributes of an image or “Alt” tag.
What is an Alt tag?
The alt attribute of an image is a piece of data that provides the search engines with descriptive information about the image being called in an image tag within a page of HTML code. This allows search engines to properly index the images on your page and it provides visually impaired users the ability to better navigate your site with the use of screen readers. Below is an example of the alt tag used for the image of the fireworks above.
The importance of Alt tags explained
Alt tags do describe to the search engines determine what an image is and they do benefit those who use screen readers for assistance navigating the web, but the major search engines to not put a lot of weight behind Alt tags when determining your website relevance. This doesn’t mean that it serves no benefit to your website for rankings in the search engine results pages but rather, the major three (Google, Bing, Yahoo) don’t put solely rely on this as a ranking factor. Consider it another piece of the SEO pie and a part of the big picture of your SEO campaigns.