Using ALT and TITLE Attributes For Your Images

One of the most effective ways of making your content more interesting and eye catching to the reader is through the use of images. However, just throwing an image onto your site and calling it a day will not work for long. There are a few things you need to follow.

First, there’s image optimization:

Image optimization involves making the image file size smaller so your website loads faster. In the online world, bigger is not better (sorry folks!). I get into image optimization a bit in my post on resizing your images using picknic.com. However, this post will cover the use of ALT and TITLE attributes for your images.

Using ALT and TITLE attributes:

So you are thinking, alright, I’ve re-sized my image, uploaded it to my website, job done. Well, not really. See, according to W3C (short for World Wide Web Consortium), “it is a good practice to include the “alt” attribute for each image on a page, to improve the display and usefulness of your document for people who have text-only browsers.”

What does this mean? Basically, it means that in cases where images are not rendered normally on the web page, the “alt” text displays alternative information about the image. This is what search engines rely on when trying to understand what the image is about.

Now what about the “title” attribute? The title describes to the reader what the image is about. On some browsers, if you hover your mouse over the image, the title will be displayed. The title attribute is used for advisory information. What the heck does that mean?

Here are some synonyms for advisory:

  1. Optional
  2. Suggested
  3. Recommended
  4. Consultative

The alt attribute describes the image with use of alternate text and the title attribute is additional information about the image. I like to liken it to, the alt attribute being the cake and the title being the icing on the cake. Make sense?

Now that we got that out of the way, what do we do with this information and how important is the addition of alt and title tags to your images?

After a bit of investigative work it appears they both have relevance, however, more emphasis seems to be placed on the alt attribute. It is in your best interest to use both, but if you are going to pick and choose, then at least make sure you have an alt attribute assigned to your images.

Here’s a short video on alt attributes by Google Advisor, Matt Cutts. It’s short and simple, but he does a good job at describing alt attributes and how to effectively use it with your images.

How do you make the most out of your alt and title attributes? This would be a good opportunity for you to utilize your keywords; make sure to keep the keywords in your alt and title attribute different to prevent keyword stuffing.

Where to place your alt attribute

When writing your alt attributes, you’ll want to make sure the description is relevant to the image. I like to ask myself, what is the image conveying? If the image were to disappear, what text could I put in place that would accurately describe it?

Utilize the title attribute for any additional information you would like the reader to know. If the image was linked, this would be a good time to add a citation for the URL. What additional information can you provide to the reader that is relevant to the topic at hand?

I know this can be a bit confusing at first, but with a bit of practice I’m sure you’ll have it down in no time. Have you been using ALT attributes?

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