Saturday, September 06, 2008

Matt Cutts discusses the importance of alt tags for images

I recently came across this video Matt Cutts Discusses the Importance of alt Tags

He of course means alt attributes - which is the correct way to refer to 'alt tags'

It's especially relevant to artists as it describes why "alt attributes", are important for images in search engine optimisation (SEO) and why you need to avoid "word stuffing".

You can also read the associated blog post on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog here Using Alt attributes smartly

Why should you listen to Mat Cutts?
Matt Cutts is the Head of Google's Webspam team - which involves him in enforcing Google's Webmaster Guidelines and cracking down on link spam.

He's done some nifty videos on YouTube advising about various ways in which people can help their sites without running foul of the stuff that Google (ie Matt and his team) does to catch spam.

This is what it says about Alt attributes on Webmaster Help Centre. In other words - this is a reiteration of what Matt is saying in the video - except this time the example is puppies!
Alt attributes

The alt attribute is used to describe the contents of an image file. It's important for several reasons:

  • Googlebot cannot read text embedded in images. Therefore, alt text is a useful way to give Google information about an image.
  • Many people, for example users with visual impairments, or people who use screen readers, or have low bandwidth connections, cannot see images on web pages. Descriptive alt text provides these users with important information.

Not so good:

Golden Retriever puppy fetching a stick
To be avoided (may cause your site to be perceived as spam):
puppy dog baby dog pup pups puppies doggies pups litter puppies dog retriever labrador wolfhound setter pointer puppy jack russell terrier puppies dog food cheap dogfood puppy food
Webmaster Help Centre - Make sure that your TITLE tags and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate
Matt Cutts has to be an OK guy - because he has a cat called Emmy who features on a regular basis on his blog. He then uses her as the example for his technical videos - and then guess what - if you put "Emmy Cutts" into Google images then you get to see stacks of photos of Emmy Cutts! (Thought! I wonder if he would like somebody to draw his cat? ;) )

Now the thing I haven't found yet is the one where he (or somebody else) explains how to add in the alt tags to images uploaded to that well know Google owned product Blogger (Matt doesn't use Google's Blogger!!!).

I've found the alt="" bit in the code for his image. Do I just add in the alt tag description inbetween the quote marks? Answers below using the comments function please......

Plus I'm still trying to work out how I do the alt tags for images on my website. However I have taken to labelling and tagging images using my image/picture software - I just wish they'd label their software with which bit is the 'alt attributes'!

...and just in case Matt turns up - my cat drawings are here and here!



  1. Yes, you can just add the description between the quotation marks after "alt". For your website, I guess, you can just add the same tag yourself (if you can edit the html code of your pages).

  2. You've completely lost me now!!!!


  3. Which bit Jenni - the concept of alt attributes or how to do it?

  4. It's ALL double dutch to me! As you can guess, I'm not computer literate. My son is coming over from France next month and computers are his world, so I'll get him to explain. He's very patient with me.


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