Does The Alt Tag Improve Search Engine Rankings?

Dec 4, 2008 • 8:18 am | comments (2) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

We know Google recommends using alternative text for your images. But does that mean your rankings will improve in the search engines if you use the ALT attribute?

That is the question at WebmasterWorld. Forget about what is "best practices" or what is nice to do, but does it actually improve rankings? The thread is not sure. We do have moderator, Robert Charlton, speak up and say:

I've seen some boosts from the alt text for a linked image, probably not as much as the boost for a text link would provide, but it's been noticeable on some phrases. I've not seen any boost from alt text in unlinked images, which doesn't mean it isn't happening.

Another senior member said:

The relative value of alt text for ranking has always been very little, but the spammy use of this has also been discouraged. I always try to fit in a 1-2-word alt text descriptor for real pictures but an empty value for spacer images.

So what do you think? Does ALT attributes directly increase your search rankings? Take the poll:

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: December 3, 2008


Michael Martinez

12/04/2008 10:52 pm

As best I have been able to determine, the ALT= attribute text just acts like text on the rest of the page. You can use it to describe an image and help that image's relevance, and you can use it to increase targeted keyword frequency in page copy, and you can use it as anchor text to pass value to another page, and you can use it to increase the variety of text on your page (making your page more relevant to long-tail queries). It's a block of text that gets indexed. There's nothing magical about it.


12/05/2008 02:29 pm

Funny this roundtable question was just asked. A client came to me upset that they weren't ranking #1 anymore. They have a site with healthy amount of content, tagging, and links. I went to the competitor that was now ranking number one (less links, no content, good tagging) and lo and behold were about 50 or so alt tag images tied to little blocks which made a nice design on the bottom of the page. Sneaky bastards. To anyone who thought black hat SEO was a thing of the 90s. Think again. You get them Google!

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