Caroline Desrosiers, the Founder & CEO of Scribely, has contributed a comprehensive guide to improving image seo and visual search. She specialises in supporting publishers achieving greater title visibility. Her expertise covers Image SEO, visual search, populating alt attributes (alt titles, alt text, image file names), alt text publishing workflows, accessible eCommerce and inclusive social media.
An image description attached to the image file. It describes visual elements so that people with visual disabilities can comprehend what the image is. Ideally, Alt Text is 125 characters or less (screen readers stop reading after 125 characters). If more description is needed, a best practice is to link to a long description. Purely decorative images do not require alt text.
Image File Name
Just like it sounds. Or, the words that come before .jpg or .png. Think of it as a concise version of Alt Text, or the “greatest hits” from your Alt Text. It should be distinct from alt text, so there is an opportunity to add in more target keywords and show up in more searches. Use hyphens to separate words and avoid special characters.
Make each image file distinct, even if the subject is the same. Brevity is the name of the game – stick to 4 words or less.
Use keywords but avoid keyword stuffing (i.e. “Cat kitty kitten meow cats”). Weave keywords into Alt Attributes to match natural speech search patterns. Voice searches (i.e. Siri, Alexa) are increasingly common nowadays. When alt attributes are more natural, they help images show up in voice searches.
Image Recognition Technology
Do Not Rely on Automatically Generated Alt Text as AI has a history of providing inaccurate or harmful alt text. For example in one of our studies, an image of a person using a wheelchair was given the automatic alt text: “Person riding a bicycle.” This is not only incorrect, it’s also ableist.
Personalize Alt Attributes to match your brand’s tone. It makes your Alt Attributes stand out. In addition, when the tone matches that of the text on your website it can contribute to your SEO – like context clues.
Alt Attributes add context and tags for images, which helps search crawler bots categorize your images.
Images with Alt Attributes show up in more Google searches, especially when target keywords are placed in the alt attributes.
This is another reason why your Alt Attributes must be specific to your image (AKA Don’t rely on AI). The more relevant and accurate, the more likely someone will see your image and click through to your website. Many users rely on Image Searches (i.e., Google Images) to quickly find exactly what they’re looking for. For example, if they’re searching for the best recipe ever for chocolate chip cookies they are more likely to look through the images and click on the yummiest looking cookie.
Show up in more Visual Searches – This is when someone takes a picture of something they cannot identify (like a rare flower or an unknown location). They use an app that matches the image to similar images in Google Image search to try to identify what it is. Visual Searches are quickly becoming a new trend. Tech giants like Google and Microsoft are investing in building apps that will continue to improve over time (i.e. Google Lens, Seeing AI).
Opportunity to improve organic SEO using Target Keywords in Alt Attributes. This drives target audience to site and attracts new clients/customers. Stronger presence of keywords equals a potential for higher SERP ranking .