Dumb SEO Questions

(Entry was posted by Dante J Funari on this post in the Dumb SEO Questions community on Facebook, Thursday, December 6, 2018).

Do img alt tags have an impact on SEO?

Do img alt tags have an factors on SEO?

I am currently in the process of working to make a clients site ADA Accessible. I`ve spoken with 2 ADA Compliance professionals who have stated according to their data they don`t believe the `alt text` has any actual affect on SEO. However, an Wordpress SEO presentation I attended told me that it does have affect SEO.

What is the general consensus when it comes to images? Is there a hierarchy of importance (Ex: File name > Title > Alt Text > Description, etc).

I bring up the ADA because we find ourselves needed to add descriptions in the alt text that don`t necessarily hit any keywords that particular page is looking to grow in rank.

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Selected answers from the Dumb SEO Questions G+ community.

  • Roger Montti: Alt is for screen readers. Just describe what it is for blind people.Short answer is no.
  • Kristine Schachinger: Roger Montti that`s not true. Alt text in images that are linked is considered anchor text. Alt text otherwise is counted as text. Never ever query stuff alt text.
  • Ryan van Brunschot: Yes they do.
  • Mark Johnstone: The Alt attribute is just like any content on your website , and Google reads it.
  • Paul Thompson: And it is heavily used for Google Image rankings - as is the title edited to correct from description attribute. (Note the title attribute doesn`t seem to contribute to regular page content though.)
  • Roger Montti: There is no such thing as a "description attribute."That does not exist.You may be confusing WordPress` "description field" in the media attachment screen for an actual HTML element. The WP description field is simply for organizing images for WP.
  • Mark Johnstone: I disagree with what you are all saying here .... it has been tested and it definitely is counted by google algorithms as part of the page content..... I know this because there is a SEO group out there who test these things in on websites (scientific testing) no guess work.
  • Mark Johnstone: Sorry I am reffering to the Alt attribute only .
  • Paul Thompson: Roger Montti My apologies - I was referring to the title attribute. I`ve been editing OG tags all day.
  • Kristine Schachinger: Paul Thompson title in images has NO SEO value.
  • Paul Thompson: Kristine - that`s only partly true. The title attribute doesn`t seem to contribute to on-page SEO, but it turns out it is used for image search ranking.Dawn Anderson alerted me to this a while ago (she did a post about it some time back) and in the couple of tests I`ve tried, it clearly is being indexed and has some influence. I haven`t had time to do a really competitive test, but it`s pretty clear the title tag does have some SEO benefit for image search. At least in enough cases that it`s` worth optimising for images that you think are worthwhile for image search results themselves.
  • Kristine Schachinger: Paul Thompson did you try them without alt text?
  • Kristine Schachinger: Google themselves have said they have no value. Could be that`s changed, but I would like to see a test images alone with no contextual content and no alt text as see if that`s the case.
  • Paul Thompson: Yup - thats how Dawn did her test too.
  • Paul Thompson: Look at Dawn`s test - that`s exactly what she proved. And I can`t count the number of times Google has claimed one thing, and done something else in practice. So testing claims is always worthwhile. (I had always believed title attributes were completely ignored too unit Dawn mentioned her tests.)
  • Kristine Schachinger: Paul Thompson I`ll ask her about it, but they were always ignored that`s relatively new
  • Kristine Schachinger: Too easy to game. That was a Matt Cutts reason for not using it.
  • Paul Thompson: Well, her test was 2.5 yrs ago. And the title is no easier to game than alt text.
  • Kristine Schachinger: Paul Thompson actually they have a manual action for kw stuffing alt text. They don`t for titles. And that`s just what.Matt said.
  • Roger Montti: The Alt element is not like any other content. It is an accessibility feature. Very different. There`s a nuance to how to use it. If you use the Alt element correctly, it will describe the image. That`s the limitation to the Alt Element. It`s not for keywords. The image itself is not a keyword, but what it describes could impact rankings. So if you are careful/artful in the choice of images, then that and other more important factors, work together to help the entire page. Structured data, context, captions, etc. The alt element itself is strictly for screen readers and the only benefit you will receive (if you`re looking for a benefit) is to accurately describe the image itself. Google has image algorithms that can understand the image, so it`s important to get this right.
  • Mark Johnstone: Roger Montti you`re wrong
  • Kristine Schachinger: Roger Montti in this case you are wrong..sorry :s
  • Jeff Ferguson: Roger Montti I know it’s tough to get criticized by someone who uses the incorrect “you’re, ” however, in this case ALT does help on image based SEO results (and potentially some regular results). Google’s image recognition machine language is improving, but it’s still an experiment, so it relies on ALT for information.
  • Roger Montti: So everyone disagrees with this?"The alt element itself is strictly for screen readers and the only benefit you will receive (if you`re looking for a benefit) is to accurately describe the image itself. "And also disagrees that the Alt tag is not just ANY content, that it has a special context (accessibility)?
  • Jeff Ferguson: Roger Montti I think like most things in SEO, the ALT tag has its real purpose in life (accessibility), however, it is also used by the SEs for its algo.
  • Roger Montti: You know, I`m getting frustrated because I am not denying that it`s not used in the algo.What I AM saying is that it`s a disservice to answer Yes and that`s it, like some have done. Which is why I said the short answer is No. What I AM saying is that the long answer is more nuanced, there is a lot more to it than just adding keywords.
  • Kristine Schachinger: Roger Montti there isn`t though except if the kw stuff you`ll likely get a manual action.
  • Mark Johnstone: Jeff Ferguson thought this was an SEO group , not a grammar or spelling group! 🤔
  • Jeff Ferguson: Roger Montti There I believe you have a point. I agree, the tag should be used for its purpose (descriptive text), but that text can include keywords naturally. Kind of like the title and headline tags.
  • Jeff Ferguson: Mark Johnstone Every group on the internet is a grammar and spelling group. 😜
  • Roger Montti: Jeff Ferguson I`m glad you brought up the title and heading because imo how Google uses those has changed dramatically.In the past it was critical. Slap the keywords in there, wait a month for the dance for it to rank. But in the present, the content has to be hyper aligned by topic and user intent.It`s not about the headings and titles anymore but really, it`s about what does a person mean when they type Blue Widget? Are they asking Why? Do they want a list? A review? or do they mean Near Me?So that then plays into the image itself. Sometimes the thing you`re writing about is an Entity that can be represented by another entity. So will you mix up the image relevance by using the wrong entity? (hint: Use the alt text to describe that the entity is a metaphor!).This stuff is super nuanced. Answering Yes and walking away is most definitely not the answer. There is so much nuance to it.Yes, I was being provocative in saying no. What I`m trying to do is help move the discussion away from the caveman level of Rote SEO where H1, H2, Title, Alt = ranking Factor = Recipe for Success. <--- Because that is not real anymore.Saying Yes is not enough. So the short answer is No if you mean it`s a Ranking Factor, go ahead and add your keywords and take a coffee break, you`re done.
  • Jeff Ferguson: Roger Montti Valid!
  • Christopher Fleming: Alt text is there to describe your image to the hard of sight and blind who use screen readers. Because it`s discrimination and illegal to make your site inaccessible to those with disabilities. That`s what alt text for.
  • Mark Johnstone: Christopher Fleming yes but it is still taken onto account as content when your page is crawled.
  • Kristine Schachinger: Christopher Fleming of you are in the US it is not illegal at all.
  • Kristine Schachinger: Only some verticals like govt and a few others with special classification are required to have WCAG standards.
  • Casey Markee: With respect Roger Google DOES use ALT Tags as a ranking factor for Google Image Search: References here:"Alt text is extremely helpful for Google Images -- if you want your images to rank there. Even if you use lazy-loading, you know which image will be loaded, so get that information in there as early as possible & test what it renders as."John Mueller - https://twitter.com/JohnMu/status/1036901608880254976And Google Image Best Practices has detailed info on that as well:https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/114016?hl=enCorrectly using ALT Text alternatives is something Google has a great page on here as well:https://developers.google.com/.../text-alternatives-for...So no, correctly using ALT tags has much wider benefits than just "accessibility and optimizing for screen readers." It`s imperative for bottom line solid image optimization for Google Image Search.
  • Roger Montti: That agrees with what I said. :)Alt text is for describing what the image is. That`s why it`s helpful to Google. It`s not a place for adding keywords. The sources you link to state, as I stated, that the proper use is as method for describing what the image is for.The short answer if it`s an SEO factor, is no. The longer answer is as I already stated in another post here, that it has a limited use, the use is limited to describing what the image is.The image itself is more important, imo. Adding Alt elements to photos of people jumping up and down with pies in their hands accompanying an article about Pecan Pie Recipes is like adding lipstick on pigs. The alt text to that image would be, "Image of people jumping with pies in their hands." Some would put Pecan Pie Recipes but that is not an accurate description. That`s what I mean by the short answer is no. There`s a whole lot of nuance.
  • Casey Markee: Roger sorry no, it is absolutely an SEO factor. I cannot fathom why you would say it`s not based on the above.
  • Roger Montti: Alt attributes are accessibility factors. GOOGLE"To summarize, all images should have an alt attribute, but they need not all have text. Important images should have descriptive alt text that succinctly describes what the image is, while decorative images should have empty alt attributes..."W3C:"The generic rule for the content of the alt attribute is: use text that fulfills the same function as the image."It`s a fairly redundant thing. Google has image algorithms that can parse the image. So all you`re doing if you add keywords there is adding null content. The reason for Alt is to describe the image. The image itself is what is important. The alt, really, just supports that image.https://developers.google.com/.../text-alternatives-for...
  • Casey Markee: Roger again, ALT Tags are a SEO factor for image search. John clearly says this. You have stated nothing here to disput that.
  • Roger Montti: Maybe the disconnect is that I stopped thinking in terms of ranking factors because "ranking factors" have lost relevance in today`s search engine. Images are just one piece of the content puzzle. So rather than an SEO factor, it`s really a content factor. For me, that`s very different.
  • Casey Markee: I mean it SEEMS to me Roger the sticking point here is that you don`t believe that an ALT Tag can be used both for accessibility and for algorithmic scoring on a page, and I absolutely believe that it is used for both.In every instance where I have had bloggers actually spend some time writing correct ALT Tags (not keyword-focused but visually descriptive) we`ve had clear gains in image search traffic.And ALT Tags is something I`ve PASSIONATELY had to train the entire Food Blogging niche to use correctly for years.Just read this:https://www.wptasty.com/blog/we-made-a-mistakeAnd I devoted like 4 paragraphs on it during my recent SEM Rush interview, it`s a big deal:https://www.semrush.com/.../advanced-seo-food-bloggers.../But without hesitation, I absolutely believe that ALT tags are a ranking factor in image search. And I say that because if you SPAM them you get pummeled. You can`t have a stick, without a carrot.But I definitely see where you are coming from.
  • Roger Montti: I am passionate about using images correctly, then describing that image with an alt attribute. If a blogger is using the Correct image, then the alt attribute is useful in the context of describing that image. Otherwise, the alt attribute is about as useless as a 301 redirect that redirects from a deleted page of content to the home page.The short answer is no. The longer answer is more nuanced than patting someone on the head and saying, Yeah, go ahead and fill out the alt text.
  • Kristine Schachinger: Roger Montti really you.are wrong here (said respectfully). I have done accessibility since 2004. Was trained by one of the guys who wrote the WCAG standards for the W3C. Worked 5 years for the US govt as an accessibility consultant. Worked at Director of IT which included SEO on a commercial site from before it launched that focused on WCAG standards. Etc etcAnd Maihle talked about it at SMXNY...I think it was 2011. They are text and when linked they are anchor text and it`s not just for image search.
  • Kristine Schachinger: The title attribute in images is the useless one.
  • Loren Baker: Alt Attributes, yes. Image titles, no.
  • Mark Johnstone: But he (john m) doesn`t tell u it`s part of your on page SEO .... because he doesn`t want to tell you google`s secrets .
  • E Dieter Martin: Are we going to vote on this?Alt text describes the image and is a great opportunity for Google to understand what the image is about. So yes, it has an SEO impact.
  • Roger Montti: This image is technically incorrect in terms of SEO. The article is WordPress 5.0 Release Date is in Limbo. Limbo as in uncertain. But the image describes Limbo the game or dance. But as a piece of content, for me, it works. Because it appeals to the users with whimsy. So it functions on a higher level than just SEO. Does it have an SEO impact? Who can say for sure?My focus is in on the content and the promotion and appeal of it. The alt attribute for the image below is something along the lines of child symbolizing wordpress playing game of limbo. <--- That`s an accurate description that defeats any SEO purpose for ranking for WordPress 5.0 Release date.And as you can see in the next post, it is ranking in Google Images.
  • Roger Montti: And here it is in Google Images. Yeah, it`s probably not a competitive SERP! But... there it is.
  • Jenny Halasz: I agree with Casey, but I also want to drop this link... It has several ADA compliance website links that might be helpful. https://www.jlh-marketing.com/seo/site-ada-508-compliant
  • Kristine Schachinger: They do have an effect.If the image is linked they act as anchor text. Never query stuff alt text, Google can give you a manual action for it. There is no such thing as ADA compliance for the Internet. Govt sites must follow the 508 standards, but they are pretty slack. Use the WCAG AA standard. Use WebAim.org to learn how to write them properly.
  • David Gizzarelli: do you want images to show up on Google Images?
  • Roger Montti: Here`s my LONG answer to this question.h/t to Casey for the Mueller tweet!;)…Lihat Lainnya
  • Kristine Schachinger: Roger Montti re article Penguin was an over optimization algorithm when it was released.
  • Roger Montti: Heh.I`m aware of that very poor analysis.That was a guess, not anything Google confirmed and most definitely NOT anything based on scientific research or patents. That was BS pulled out of thin air. A very crappy analysis that was done at that time.We now know they were patenting link ranking algos.
  • Kristine Schachinger: Roger Montti what wasn`t confirmed? GOOGLE did confirm it was an over optimization algorithm. In fact that`s how they released it. It`s what they called it. It was targeting the violations in the webmaster guidelines.
  • Kristine Schachinger: Official announcement from Google
  • Kristine Schachinger: And the confirmation that this is what we called Penguin
  • Kristine Schachinger: The link https://webmasters.googleblog.com/.../another-step-to...
  • Roger Montti: Read your link. It`s about PANDA. ;)
  • Kristine Schachinger: Roger Montti no it`s not. They mention Panda in the beginning as the prelude to what it`s targeting then they talk about the new algorithm they are releasing. Notice I posted that the date is the date of the penguin release.
  • Kristine Schachinger: Targeted webspam including links NOT content.
  • Kristine Schachinger: For CONTEXT......here`s how many were affected by Panda.
  • Kristine Schachinger: This was a new algo change in April 2012Panda was first released in Sept 2011.
  • Kristine Schachinger: I can also tell you for a fact with data behind it that they do still do exactly match key terms, not only those, but except for edge cases if you just have similar words not the key term you won`t rank.
  • Roger Montti: That`s true with longtail. Been happening since about... 2012.
  • Kristine Schachinger: Roger Montti no it`s true with short tail too. Just dealt with it in a site for a two word term. Several two word terms.
  • Roger Montti: Penguin is links. Some SEOs noticed correlations with a wide range of link related symptoms. Ultimately the community settled that it was catching spammy or paid links and really there wasn`t any attempt to figure it out afterward. I remember that a lot of people with long forgotten TLA links that they weren`t even paying for from years earlier got swept up into Penguin and forced them to disavow other kinds of links that I suspect Penguin hadn`t found but came into view after the fact. Penguin gave birth to disavows because it`s a link thing. The problem is that nobody understood and put a name to a specific patent or research paper to identify what Penguin was. So until I published my article last year (which was published privately the year before), there was literally only guesses and no citations to research or patents.
  • Kristine Schachinger: Roger Montti penguin was to catch webspam, which includes links. That`s even mentioned in what I posted. It became an algo that primarily attacked links, but that wasn`t is only focus .I posted the actual announcement Roger it`s not really a debate.

View original question in the Dumb SEO Questions community on G+, Thursday, December 6, 2018).

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