SEO’s Photo Alt Text Versus Tilte Attributes

Google understands what’s shown in an images by reading alt attributes (you may have heard them called alt tags) in the HTML code of a webpage. An alt attribute is text behind the image, visible only when the image cannot display like during page load or in email messages.

The text you use in the alt attribute has a multiplication affect because it counts as important text on the page (helping your page rank), adds keyword credit when the image is linked, and may help your images appear in Google image searches. Make sure to read my post 5 Things to Know When Writing Photo Alt Text for more on that subject.

Matt Cuts from Google gives his own explanation and rationale for alternate attributes in this video, saying to use them on ALL IMAGES!

Alt text is displayed in HTML as

<img src=”/image.jpg” alt=”Short description of the image” title=”Text that appears on mouse over” />

You may have noticed the title attribute in the above tag. Google Webmaster Central explains in its post, Using Alt Attributes Smartly:

Some of you have asked about the difference between the “alt” and “title” attributes. According to the W3C recommendations, the “alt” attribute specifies an alternate text for user agents that cannot display images, forms or applets. The “title” attribute is a bit different: it “offers advisory information about the element for which it is set.” 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!

Let me read through the technical speak here and say that you mainly need to focus on the alternate text and not worry much about the title text. If it makes you feel better, I rarely use title text for my images (but I always use alt text).

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5 Responses to “SEO’s Photo Alt Text Versus Tilte Attributes”

  1. Scott Webb August 9, 2010 at 10:19 am #

    Great reminder for people. I use the Title text as well because it may help a user at some point in time. Even if there isn’t much focus on it from search engines or google specifically, it doesn’t mean it won’t be looked at in future algorithms. Pretty easy to cut and paste the alt into the title if anything.

    Just my thoughts on it.

    • Scott

      August 9, 2010 at 12:25 pm #

      I try to use Title and Alt for every image. Sometimes I forget but then go back and do it later.

  2. Stephen August 9, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

    wow again!! got to love the internet and Zach!!! immediately after I post a comment at the site of the linked post here, I receive a notice that Zach is following me on Twitter and immediately after that I see a tweet re my site and his recommendation re some much needed seo work on my home page. wow!! thanks for taking the time to look and to note the need. a work in progress that is coming together over the last couple of weeks–which I need to add is coming together with all the SEO help I got from Zach’s ebooks and video and blog posts–amazingly helpful

  3. Tyler August 10, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    I wish there was a simple tool that just gave you a checklist of things you need to do on your site. Point the tool at your site, and after a few minutes you get a list of things to do:

    Modify your meta tags, they are too long.

    Change your page titles…

    Fix IMG SRC=’blah.jpg’, by adding alt and title tags, we suggest…

    …etc. I would LOVE that!


    • Bethany August 24, 2010 at 10:50 am #


      Have you seen Hubspot’s website grader? It doesn’t do everything you mentioned but it is a really neat tool for seo.

      Hope that helps! Great info on this site btw. Love the specifics on the AIO plugin. Thanks!


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