Matt Cutts discusses the alt attribute


So imagine you've gone to Google Images and you type in cat, or cat sketch, or something like that. You might get a picture that looks like this. Now, just to let people know, this is wonderful. Here's my cat, Emmy Cutts. Here she is, she's got a ball of yarn. She loves to play with the yarn. That's all really handy, but computers are not great at saying, oh, this is a picture of a cat next to a ball of yarn. In fact, if you go to Google Images and go to the advanced search, you can say, show me image type faces. And we can sort of pick out faces from a scene, and it actually does it very well. But the general problem of detecting what an image is and being able to describe it is really, really hard. So you shouldn't count on a computer being able to do that. Instead, you can help Google with that. Now, let's see what this image might look like. If we move over here to the right, this might be a typical image source. You've got your image tag. You describe what the source is. Here's DSC because it's a digital camera, blah, blah, blah, 42.jpg. That does not give us a lot of information. We want to be able to say, well, this is a cat. It's with a ball of yarn. We don't want to just say, here's a number. That gives you virtually zero information. So if we go down a little bit, here's the sort of information that we want to show up. You want to be able to say, this is Matt's cat, Emmy Cutts, with some yarn. And that's not a lot of words, but it adequately describes a scene. It gives you a very clear picture about what's going on. It includes a word like yarn, and then a word like Emmy Cutts, that are completely relevant to that image. And it isn't stuffing it with tons of words like cat, cat, cat, feline, lots of cats, cat breeding, cat for all that sort of stuff. So you want to have this very simple description included with that image. How do you do that? Well, if you move over here, you can see now we've got this image tag, image source, and we've got the image again. And now we've got an Alt tag. And Alt stands for alternative text. And so if somebody's using a screen reader, or they can't load the image for some reason, your browser can show you this alternative text. And it's very helpful for Google. Now we can see what's going on. Different people, and people who are interested in accessibility, can also get a good description of what the image is. And you're not spamming. This is a total of seven words. Now if you've got 200 words in your Alt text, or, really, you don't need a ton of words. Because seven is enough to describe a scene pretty well. So if you've got 20 or 25, that's even getting a little bit out there. But this is perfectly fine. You're talking about what's going on within the picture itself. You can also look at alternative tags like title and things like that. But this is enough to help Google know what's going on in an image. You could go advanced and you could think about naming your image something like catandyarn.jpg, but we're looking for something that's lightweight and very easy to do. Adding an Alt tag is very easy to do, and you should pretty much do it on all of your images. It helps your accessibility. And it can help us understand what's going on in your image. 

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