When you upload a new image into WordPress, you are given the choice to modify some of the image’s attributes, including alternate text (ALT) and image title. Do not ignore those attributes if you intend to make your WordPress site as SEO friendly as possible. Both play a major role in helping search engine algorithms understand what an image displays.
The more important of the two attributes is the ALT attribute. This attribute was originally included in the Image tag back in the days of dial-up internet access in order to act as a placeholder while images loaded. If you are old enough to remember those days, you recall it could take upwards of one minute or more for a decently sized image to load; the alternate text displayed in its place kept your attention in the meantime.
The ALT attribute is no longer necessary to act as a placeholder in the era of high-speed broadband. But according to Google’s Matt Cutts, the attribute is now used by search engine algorithms for SEO purposes. He explained the importance of the attribute in the video originally published in 2007. His explanation remains valid today.
The More They Know, the Better
Given that search engines are not human beings, they have no way of intuitively understanding what a web page is about by simply glancing at it. A search engine algorithm can only analyze the code that makes up the page, comparing it to certain standards, and then ranking the page accordingly. Therefore, the more data you provide algorithms, the more successful those algorithms will be in analyzing and ranking your site.
The ALT attribute is limited to 125 characters for SEO purposes. Anything above and beyond that will be considered junk. Use some sort of descriptive tag that tells search engines what the image is, using SEO friendly keywords. There is no specific number of words here, but a general rule is to shoot for between four and 10. Whatever you do, don’t stuff the attribute with keywords.
There Are Plugins for That
If your website uses an unusually large number of images that you do not have the time to go back and edit, there are plugins available to automate the ALT and Title attributes. Most of these plugins simply look up the source file and use whatever attributes the original author gave it at the time of creation. The only caveat with these plugins is that there has to be some information attached to the file in order for them to work.
Updating current images aside, you should make it a practice to utilize the ALT and Title attributes for all images you upload in the future. The more information you can provide search engines, the more correctly your site will be analyzed and the better it will be ranked. Ignoring the attributes is akin to not taking advantage of a very simple tool that could increase the performance of your website through better rankings.