When a search engine indexes a page and explores it for ranking purposes, its robot combs through code and content, picking out terms that people might use as they are settling in to look for a specific topic online.
That’s all well and good, but when it comes to an image, that search engine’s robots are stumped- they’re looking for something to explain the content of the image without text to tell it about that picture, the bot moves on, ignoring what could be valuable information someone could use to find your website.
Simply put, search engines can’t take info from images unless text is included to say ‘Hey! This could be useful to people!’
This is where the image name or ALT tag, and even the way you use keywords in the ALT tag all come into play. Don’t worry, I’ll explain all of this soon enough
Why is the image name important?
Imagine your ideal customer is searching for something they’ve seen before but can’t remember the exact name of. Let’s say, for the sake of this example, your exact brand name. If you’ve recently taken a photograph of the newest product your company sells, you might upload it to your website and not think much about it, because you know exactly what it is, and you know the name. So, you leave the name of your image something like DCM15001.jpg, or whatever file number your camera assigned.
You’ve missed an opportunity!
When a search engine crawls your sales page, it will skip that image, because there’s no text to say “this is important.”
If you name the image of the product, perhaps, [Product Name]-[Company Name].jpg you increases the chances that your website will pop up when someone searches for the service or items that you sell. Boom. Results!
But now, what’s an alt tag?
An ALT tag is the text alternative description used when images are broken or not being able to be seen. Let’s take the photograph of you, the lovely business owner that you are, as the example again. Let’s say something won’t let the image load properly. Instead of just seeing an empty weird square, your visitors will see the text in the ALT tag! It might look something like “[First Name] [Last Name], Founder of [Company Name]” This describes the image accurately and provides information if your images fail to load. It will also tell visitors who are visually impaired and using a screen reader what the image is supposed to be.
This is a big deal, because the image hasn’t cost you much in terms of search engine rankings. In fact, if you find that you can use keywords in the description, it might boost your ranking for those terms! Awesome, right?
Use caution with keywords
It’s good to use the keywords that you want to associate with your brand, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If you use too many of your keywords in a single ALT tag, or in the content of your site in general, search engines will penalize you. That is the opposite of the result you’re looking for.
You don’t want to write something like this in the text:
“Our customized coffee mugs are the best in the city. If you’re looking for a customized coffee mug, call us today.”
This is a set of sentences that screams ‘keyword stuffing!’ and is really not all that fun to read. You really want to keep your content relevant to readers and visitors. Don’t write for Google’s robots, write for your readers and make it coherent for them.
For ALT tags and file names, try to keep it as relevant as possible to what the image is. If it’s your headshot, you can easily add your name and your company name in the ALT tag.
If the image is you doing one of your service, why not add your name, the company name and the service name too?
Something like “Angela working on highlights at Mermaid Hair Studio”. That would work great if you had a hair salon and your website had a picture of Angela actually working on a client’s highlight!
Basically, you want to describe the image accurately instead of trying to use the ALT tag or the image name to stuff keywords. Google doesn’t like that. I don’t like that either.
Got it? Awesome! Now, go optimize those images or yours!