Pictures are one of the easiest ways to improve the look of your website, convince people to stay on your pages, and provide information to visitors visually. Pictures are a great benefit for any site, but they have one major disadvantage . . . Google can’t see them!

Luckily, the brilliant people who invented the Internet (Al Gore?) have provided a simple way to show Google what pictures are about. This incredible tool is known as an alt attribute. Confused yet? We’ll fix that.


What is the alt attribute?

The alt attribute is part of the <img> tag which is used to insert a picture on a page and is located in the HTML code. Alt is short for alternative, and it defines text that is supposed to be displayed as an alternative in case an image doesn’t load correctly in a browser. It is also the text that will appear when you hover your cursor over an image (which is a fast way to see if an image has an alt attribute).

Here is a common example of what the <img> tag looks like in the HTML and where the alt attribute is located:


<img src=userphoto/mono-cat.jpgalt=Funny Animal Picture-“Monorail Cat width=68″ height=76” class=photo” />


If you are a nerdy computer genius, then you probably know exactly what the above code means. But since you are reading this article, then you probably aren’t a nerdy computer genius, so I’ll clarify even more for you.


What does the alt attribute do?

That is a simple question to answer. When you post a picture on your site, what people see is not what search engines see. Google cannot see the actual picture. But, if you add an alt attribute to the picture, Google gets a little more information. The only thing that search engines see is the text that has been defined as the alt attribute for the picture.

I can tell that you are starting to get it, but you don’t understand why it is so important to add a few words to an otherwise empty box. Just keep reading, and the mud will become even clearer.


How do I add an alt attribute?

There are too many answers to this question for me to address in this short article, but I can at least try. The simplest way to add the alt attribute is to edit the HTML code directly to include the alt attribute to make it look like the code we used earlier. The text inside the quotation marks is the text that you want Google to see:


alt=Funny Animal Picture Monorail Cat


But since we have already established that you aren’t a nerdy computer genius, you there is a good chance that you have no idea how to edit HTML code directly. That is when having a webmaster that makes changes to your site for you comes in handy because then you can just tell him to do it.

If you don’t have a webmaster and you don’t know how to edit your site, I highly recommend that you hop on and learn how to edit HTML code. If you use a CMS program like WordPress, Joomla, or some other program to edit your pages, then there is a very good chance that they provide a way for you to add an alt attribute without going into the HTML code. If that is the case, you can usually find online instructions on how to do that in your specific CMS program.


Why is it important for Google to see an alt attribute?

Here is the real reason you are reading this. There are two main reasons you want Google to see the alt attribute:

1. You want to show Google that your pictures are related to the keywords you want your website to rank for. Alt attributes are one of the elements that Google looks for when determining the quality of your site and what your site is about. That being said, you definitely want to make the text in your alt attribute to contain such keywords.

2. When someone does an image search on Google, the search results are more likely to be pictures that have the search term in the alt attribute. How would you like the pictures from your website showing up on the first page of an image search? Then add an alt attribute to the images and include the keywords you are focusing on.


The Internet is a huge mess of millions of websites. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a great way to get the right people to your website, but you need to make it easy for Google to put you in the right spot. Use every opportunity to help Google understand what your site is about and adding alt attributes with keywords to your pictures is another great way to do this. Thanks for reading and happy tagging!



Colton is the former Director of SEO Strategy at Boostability testing and defining the products and processes that make Boostability's customers successful. He was part of Boostability for over 8 years. Colton loves hanging out with his family and gaming. He runs a personal blog over at where he discusses gaming, life, and SEO.