ALT tags...


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Ed the Webmaster

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Kate the Webmistress

Using ALT Tags For Site Promotion And Web Navigation

By Guest Writer Scott Whitehead

A well chosen and well positioned image can enhance your website and differentiate the site from competitors. It can inject a personality, color-code and help brand the site, and in general assist with creating and maintaining an online identity. And as the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words.

One way to make your images paint these words is by using the HTML code ALT on all your images.

ALT Tags - ALTered Images

Any image can be given an ALT tag; readable in most Explorer and Netscape browsers, the ALT tag allows site visitors to read a description of the image while it is downloading. For disabled users, who have their image downloads switched off, it allows them to navigate the site better, as they will have an understanding of what each image is for. This is very important if you are using images as links, because with the ALT tag, you have the option of allowing disabled users the chance to navigate your website. Additionally, sites that are being viewed on slow connections may time out before all your images have uploaded, and with the ALT tag you can help your visitor navigate and use your web page.

The majority of the search engines prefer sites that use ALT tags, it gives them more assistance in matching your site to visitors requests, and more files and content for their image search databases. The search engines that do not consider ALT tags when ranking sites do not penalize against sites with ALT tags, and therefore they are thoroughly recommended.

It is for this reason that, the HTML code validation group for the internet, thoroughly endorse the use of ALT tags within HTML coding.

Perhaps a thousand words is too much of an exaggeration - but certainly 25 words of text is fine in the ALT tag. Below is a snippit of HTML coding from a page on the article author's website, demonstrating the ALT tag in use. It is taken from a page that hosts this article as well.

The description above clearly introduces the consultant, who's profile can be viewed by clicking the image to go to web page services-scott-whitehead.htm.

A web page that has ALT descriptions simply rewording or rephrasing the same keywords for each image runs the risk of being reported to the Search Engines for cheating the system. And if you are ranking higher than they are, you can be sure your competitors will report you.

By using phrases and words that combine both navigational assistance and relate to the web page they feature on, you can help increase your ranking and assist the disabled users at the same time. In the example above, you can see that the alt text features a range of text that is relevant to the web page, and introduces the link to the author's profile.

Wordtracker has a system that allows you to view the keywords that the search engines are searched for, by looking at the last hours log and comparing your target words with related words from its built in thesaurus. Using this system, you could tweak your ALT tags and copy to ensure it features the words and terminology that will help your website rank higher.

Furthermore, if you focus on the order of the wording, and you can get more relevant keyphrases in the ALT description. Within the ALT text in the example above, you can see the key phrases

"internet marketing"

"search engine optimization"

"search engine optimization tips"

"tips for webmasters"

"optimization tips for webmasters"

As well as key phrases within words:

"search engine optimization tips for web(masters)" becomes "search engine optimization tips for web"

"tips for web(masters)" becomes "tips for web"

"webmasters and business(es)" becomes "webmasters and business"

"(inter)net marketing" becomes "net marketing"

So if you are looking for new ways to promote your web pages, start work on your ALT tags to get the keywords involved, and your ALT tags will ultimately work harder for you.

Article by Scott Whitehead, the project manager of, a website for small businesses around the world, advising webmasters regarding online marketing and website promotion. For more information on his website promotion services, click here or email Scott at

Click here to find out how slow pages can actually increase your traffic!

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An Ed-U-Kate production. This page was produced 16 February 2002 and last edited 9th June 2015.
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