Implementing alternative text tags on your Blog – how and why

It’s a common misconception that the Blogger platform doesn’t allow the user to add ALT (alternative text) tags, or more accurately attributes, to their images. As a side note, you should never call your ALT attributes ‘tags’ in the presence of a techy, they will get very cross about it! In fact, it’s a simple job to add them to Blogger and it can have multiple benefits, particularly if your Blog forms part of a concerted and well thought our technical PR campaign.

What do ALT tags do?
The intended function of the ALT attribute is to allow a visually impaired reader, who is using a screen reader such as JAWS or Orca, to hear the alt text in place of the image. A text browser such as Lynx will display the alt text instead of the image. A graphical browser will typically display only the image, and will display the alt text only if you ask it to show the image's properties (as described above). Many graphical browsers can be configured to show the alt text instead of the image. However, if you are using a Mac, Safari won’t show up the ALT attribute at all, although it will still have the same effect on search.

In addition, ALT attributes have a secondary function, which can be really important to Bloggers. Search engines will ‘read’ your ALT tags when crawling your site, so having them well marked up can help you be found be readily in Google (other search engines are available, etc, etc).

What do they look like?
The image on the right, below, has no ALT attributes. When you hover your cursor over it, nothing will happen. The image on the left has attributes in place. When you hover your cursor over it, you will see a little ‘speech bubble’ pop up, containing a description of the image.

This is a picture of a Polar Bear cub. It has nothing to do with technical PR or ALT tags, it is merely an example and a good reason to save energy.
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So how should I add the tags, I mean attributes?
When you post an image into Blogger, you should select the ‘Edit HTML’ mode and you will see a piece of code that looks something like this:

Example code to help you learn to set ALT attributes as part of a technical PR campaign






To create your ALT attributes, just insert the text you want to use in between the quote marks where it says alt=” ”. Simples, as Alexander the Meerkat would say...

Should my ALT attributes be keyword heavy?
Opinion is well and truly divided on this subject. You have two options, one is to accurately describe your image in your ALT attributes, thus making it useful for the visually impaired, and the other is to just spam it with all your key words, thus making it useful from an SEO perspective.

Clearly, the correct thing politically and morally is to make the tags useful for the visually impaired.

However, this could also be the best thing to do from an SEO perspective. There is one theory that spamming your keywords can actually result in reduced search visibility.

My theory is that the best way to do it is to include your search tags in well written and descriptive tags. This should ensure you achieve the best of both worlds.

So, happy tagging (although technically you are attributing...Sigh...)

Richard Stone

Stone Junction is a cool technical PR agency based in Stafford. We work for all sorts of businesses, with a particular focus on technology, technical and engineering companies. We like being sent cake and biscuits by clients, journalists and prospects.

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