What Are Alt and Meta Tags and Why Are They Important for SEO?

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What Are Alt and Meta Tags and Why Are They Important for SEO?

Marketing is a dynamic field in which to work. Strategies that do well today may get thrown out tomorrow. This may result from changes to how consumers shop, new technological advancements or updates to AI algorithms. These changes keep marketers on their feet. They also prompt business owners to work with marketing agencies that keep the pulse of the industry and its many changes. From alt tags to link-building strategies, good marketers work hard to meet clients’ expectations. Great agencies work even harder to surpass them.

Like social media did years ago, SEO helps level the playing field for companies that can afford to invest in content. This content involves not just text but also videos and photos. These types of content allow marketers to include information that creates further context. By using meta tags and alt tags in particular, companies can capitalize on the benefits of semantic SEO.

 

What Are Alt and Meta Tags?

The use of tags is part of building on-page search engine optimization. To first understand why they are important, you need a good grasp of what they are. An alt tag is also known as an alt description or alt attribute. It adds text data to images so that search engine bots can “see” them. If the image fails to load in the body of a webpage, visitors to your website may also use alt tags to draw conclusions about what you tried to show.

There are several different types of meta tags:

  • Viewport meta tag, which determines the scalability of a page
  • Meta tag keywords, where you enter keywords relevant to your website
  • Robots meta tags, which tell bot crawlers how to treat specific content or webpages
  • Meta descriptions, which preview your article in search engines and some social media websites
  • Social media meta tags, which are similar to meta descriptions, but you can fine-tune them for specific social media platforms

These are the main ones, but this article focuses mostly on the use of meta tags that include descriptions. These types of meta tags provide either an excerpt of the content or a summary of what it covers. Some sources say Google does not use some meta tags at all for ranking purposes. Still, meta descriptions may help to reduce bounce rates. Your website visitors may also rely on this to figure out if an article is useful before clicking on it.

What Is Semantic SEO?

Keywords have dominated SEO strategies for years. They still play a crucial role in helping search engines determine what results best meet users’ needs. However, search engines are now including additional factors to provide context. Context can completely change the underlying meaning of a person’s search query. Alt tags for images, excerpts of article text and even a user’s search history all contribute to the contextual data search engines now use to return relevant results.

Semantic SEO involves the process of optimizing websites with the intention of improving the deeper meaning of the content. Depth helps Google and other search engines better understand the value a particular webpage may offer to people making queries.

 

What Are Some Meta Best Practices?

Using tags to improve the customer experience and boost SEO takes time and practice. Some marketers become too focused on keyword stuffing alt tags and forget to consider the other aspects of a holistic approach to SEO. Best practices should take into consideration the contextual meta clues search engines now use to return the best possible answers to search queries.

Consider Character Limits

Most content management systems allow you to add meta descriptions that are as long as you want them to be. However, any characters beyond the 150 to 160 count may not show. Google reportedly does not consider the information here when ranking. So, writing anything more than readers can see is probably not worth the hassle.

Create Unique Descriptions

Alt tags and meta descriptions can sometimes feel like boring additions to a page. Because of this, many people try to maintain a standard formula that they can copy across with few adjustments. Note that one company may have several webpages show up on the first page of a search, so make it easier for users to differentiate between one page and another.

Include a Call to Action

It’s important not to go for the sales pitch too early. This can drive customers away or cause them to view the information you present as biased toward your business and your own self-interests. Still, a call to action in the meta description may prove useful. You may use CTAs as subtle as “Find out more” or “Call us for more information.” Some people have experienced success with more heavy-handed CTAs, such as “Buy one today” or “Schedule your appointment.”

Ignore Meta Keywords Tags

While Google continues to rely on alt tags, a decade or so has passed since it first began to ignore the information entered as meta keywords. As a result, some content management systems no longer include this for you while creating articles or editing webpages. It may not hurt to enter your best keywords here, but for the most part, you can ignore it.

 

What Are Some Alt Best Practices?

How you use alt descriptions may play an even more important role in semantic SEO. This stems from the fact that Google and other search engines still rely on the text entered here to determine what the picture is.

Start With the Most Useful Images

Optimizing all the images on your website may take a long time. Your content management strategy and the age of your website may contribute to the length. Instead of trying to optimize all the alt tags at once, or in chronological order, it’s a good idea to start with the most important photos. Skip over generic stock photos and start with infographics, bar charts and photos of your products.

Break Up Image Galleries

Marketers often use images to break up long blocks of text in an article. However, some webpages may have lots of photos with few words. Adding alt descriptions can help to break up these intentional or unintentional image galleries to add meaningful words to the mix. Potential additions you may consider include not just what’s happening in the photos, but also the following:

  • Product specs
  • Date or location on candids
  • Summaries of the most important information under graphs and charts

Keep It Natural

Writing for people instead of bots is as important for alt tags as for meta descriptions. Remember that while search engine bots crawl the information, people read them too. Visitors to your site with slow internet connections or who have data-saving features turned on are more likely to encounter alt descriptions. Use keywords reasonably and avoid stuffing. Try to focus more on keeping the language conversational and fluid.

 

Why Do Tags Matter to SEO?

Meta and alt tags offer a direct way for you to tell Google how to treat your website content and what value it brings to customers. Meta tags, especially, get broken down into several useful types. You can rely on these to increase the level of control over what gets indexed on your site and what Google should ignore. You may also improve the customer experience. This, in turn, reduces your bounce rate and potentially improves engagement rates.

Alt attributes also help with optimizing a type of content that many business owners may feel serves more entertainment and aesthetic value. You may now use those dozens of photos on your website to rank higher in Google Image searches. The more unique the photos and descriptions, the more likely you are to carve out your own niche.

Even so, optimizing meta and alt tags requires knowledge of current SEO practices and the time to get it all done. This is why so many companies rely on professional services. Do you need help optimizing your website? Start with a free website analysis from Boostability today.

Colton Miller
[email protected]

Colton is the Director of SEO Strategy at Boostability testing and defining the products and processes that make Boostability's customers successful. He has been a part of Boostability for over 7 years. Colton loves hanging out with his family and gaming. He runs a personal blog over at www.coltonjmiller.com where he discusses gaming, life, and SEO.