The Impact of Alt Text on Google Image Search Rankings

2 min read

Alt text serves to assist computers in interpreting images.

However, does the inclusion of alt tags impact your organic search standings?

Continue reading to discover if a correlation exists between alt text and enhanced rankings within Google Image Search outcomes.


Decoding the Assertion: Alt Text as a Ranking Element


Alt text, or alternative text, constitutes an HTML image attribute enabling the provision of a descriptive alternative for images facing loading issues or accessibility constraints. Acknowledged for its significance in Google Image Search, it holds weight as a ranking factor determinant.


Alt Text’s Impact on Rankings: Examining the Proof


Google underscores the pivotal role of alt text in facilitating the recognition of your images through Google Image Search.

Within Google Search Central’s Advanced SEO documentation, a “about alt text” section delves into image best practices. Google delineates the significance of alt text, stating, “Google leverages alt text in conjunction with computer vision algorithms and page content to comprehend image subjects. Furthermore, alt text in images serves as anchor text when utilizing an image as a link.”

Google doesn’t explicitly state that using alt text improves your rankings, but it cautions website owners about the potential harm caused by improper usage.

Their guidance emphasizes crafting informative, contextual alt text that incorporates keywords sensibly. They warn against keyword stuffing, which could lead to a negative user experience and potentially categorize your site as spam.

Additionally, Google’s documentation offers examples illustrating excellent and bad alt-text usage practices. Some images might come with auto-generated alt text, possibly containing keywords that may not align with your optimization goals.

For instance, when downloading stock photos, the embedded file might contain a text description of the image, serving as a default alt text.

When images are uploaded to a content management system (CMS) like WordPress, the textual descriptions may require relocation to the alt text field or adjustments to eliminate unnecessary keywords.

In Google Search Central’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide,” advice is given regarding alt tags when utilizing images as links. It notes that if an image serves as a link, its alt text functions like anchor text in a text link. However, Google doesn’t recommend an excessive use of images for navigation when text links could serve the same purpose.

In a 2020 Google Webmaster Office Hours session, John Mueller, a Google Search Advocate, discussed the role of alt text. He highlighted its relevance for Image Search, indicating that while alt text might not be crucial for general Search, it significantly aids in Image Search rankings, particularly for displaying specific images.

Regarding alt text’s impact on rankings, Moz suggests that while it may not directly function as a ranking factor, it presents an additional opportunity to include target keywords. Given the weightage of on-page keyword usage in search engine rankings, crafting descriptive alt text incorporating relevant keywords is advisable.

In a 2021 Twitter discussion about ALT text and its SEO benefits, Google Developer Martin Splitt affirmed the importance of alt text for SEO. However, Mueller later clarified that while alt text holds significance, it’s not a magical solution for optimization geared solely toward indexing purposes.


Verdict on Alt Text as a Ranking Factor:


Alt text serves as a confirmed ranking factor exclusively for image search. Descriptive, relevant alt text enhances visibility in Google Image Search results. However, in the broader spectrum of Google Search, alt text does not directly influence rankings. Google clarifies that while it functions like regular page text in overall Search, it isn’t a standalone ranking factor within page content.

Despite not impacting general search rankings, ignoring alt text is unwise. It remains an essential accessibility tool, particularly for screen readers. When composing alt text, consider what information you’d want someone unable to view the image to grasp from its description.

If navigating this seems like you need more clarification, consider exploring our monthly SEO packages. Our experts can assist you effortlessly.

Shilpi Mathur
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