How Google Wants You To Use Alt Tags & Title Tags on Images

Nov 17, 2008 • 7:24 am | comments (9) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

A Google Groups thread has discussion around how to properly use the alt attribute and title attribute for your web page images. Of course, Google recommends that you make sure to make them as useful for the end users. So use them as per W3C recommendations but let's hear from Google on what they expect.

JohnMu from Google explained how to use both the alt and title attribute:

  • alt attribute should be used to describe the image. So if you have an image of a big blue pineapple chair you should use the alt tag that best describes it, which is alt="big blue pineapple chair."
  • title attribute should be used when the image is a hyperlink to a specific page. The title attribute should contain information about what will happen when you click on the image. For example, if the image will get larger, it should read something like, title="View a larger version of the big blue pineapple chair image."

I'll quote John from Google now:

As the Googlebot does not see the images directly, we generally concentrate on the information provided in the "alt" attribute. Feel free to supplement the "alt" attribute with "title" and other attributes if they provide value to your users!

So for example, if you have an image of a puppy (these seem popular at the moment :-)) playing with a ball, you could use something like "My puppy Betsy playing with a bowling ball" as the alt-attribute for the image. If you also have a link around the image, pointing a large version of the same photo, you could use "View this image in high-resolution" as the title attribute for the link.

There is a Google blog post on using alt attributes as well.

Forum discussion at Google Groups.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: November 14, 2008



11/17/2008 01:20 pm

Thats interesting. They don't say whether or not they use the title attribute as ranking criteria or not. I would assume not but it is interesting that they make mention of this at all. I suppose this is saying that you should make pages for users and let the Googlebot worry about what it wants to see. Afterall, thats the official line all along.

Michael Martinez

11/17/2008 10:12 pm

There is no need to make any assumptions. All one needs to do is embed unique text in an alt= attribute and unique text in a title= attribute and then see if a destination appears in search results for either expression. People have found through numerous tests that the alt= text will be passed as anchor text. Maybe some day Google will pass the title= text. I haven't found any tests that suggest this happens. It's been a while since I last tested the title= attribute myself.

Jordan Kasteler (Utah SEO Pro)

11/17/2008 11:44 pm

Thank you Michael Martinez!!! that needed to be clarified. title tag/attribute is VERY different.

David Martin

11/18/2008 08:23 am

Google must read this: I think the title atribute is not recommended for images. The images can use alt or Longdesc.

Rob Abdul

11/18/2008 11:21 am

You just have to say what you see. The name of the image is just as important at the ALT text.

John Doro

12/17/2008 01:22 am

In the ALT section, I've ever heard that we should add word "image" so that Google will be more understand that it's an image. Is this true?


12/19/2008 07:30 pm

Hi Michael, very helpfull. Hope applying this will improve search engine ranking.

Jim Luthra

11/14/2012 06:35 pm

Thanks, Very Useful information

Rohit Gupta

11/28/2012 01:03 pm

I was not even aware of the use of Alt tags till recently, it sure is one of the best ways for organic traffic.

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