Make sure that your <title> elements and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate.
– from the Google webmaster guidelines 1
The importance of titles and alt tags
- Titles are the first thing that a person sees about your site in Google search results.
- Alt tags describe your images to people who can’t see well and also to search engines.
We begin with titles, but you can skip ahead to ALT tags.
Titles are a short, concise, and compelling description of a webpage.
An accurate and descriptive title helps both people and search engines determine what a web page is about.
Titles are important and very visible to users. Having a descriptive and accurate title allows people to choose your page above others in a list of search engine results.
Titles should be page specific, descriptive and accurate.
If you have a website that has pages about dogs, cats, and turtles: your dog page should have a title including “dogs”, the cat page should have a title including “cats” and the turtle page should have a title including “turtles”. They are different pages therefore they require different titles.
Why titles are important:
Titles play a large part in why people visit your website.
The listings in search engines are just lists of titles and descriptions of sites. Depending on what people see in those titles, they choose which websites they will visit.
Just like you do.
The title of a web page can be compared to the sign of a typical brick and mortar store. If you had one chance to tell people what that one specific web page is about, what would you say?
Your title is a visible and repeated part of your webpage during a users experience. Here are some places your title is displayed…
- The title is displayed in search engine results.
- The title is displayed in the “tabs” of web browsers.
- The title is displayed as the headline in social media shares.
Common title mistakes
The two most common mistakes made by webmasters are:
- Each page of their website having the same title
- Listing keywords instead of accurately describing the page
Examples of common mistakes:
- If each page in your website has the same title, you are not following this guideline.
- If any two pages in your website has the same title, you are not following this guideline.
- If you title does not accurately describe the contents of the page you are not following this guideline.
- If the title of your “dog” page on your site is “Dog dogs dogsdogs dawgz dog dog doggy dog” you are not following this guideline.
When deciding upon titles for your web pages is is probably good to keep in mind that the only thing Google recommends about titles is to make them descriptive and accurate. Common sense will tell you to make them compelling so people will click on them.
What your title looks like in HTML
The “title tag” of your webpage assigns the title. It looks like this…
ALT tags provide a text alternative to an image.
They are a way to “describe” an image to those who can not see the image. The most important function of an ALT tag is to explain to a blind user what an image is
displaying. Search engine crawlers also use ALT tags to decipher what an image is or what it is representing.
If you have images on your web pages that are not described by an ALT tag your HTML is not valid and you are not following this (and other) Google webmaster guidelines.
What should go in a Alt tag?
It is recommended to “use text that fulfills the same function as the image”. When deciding upon the text you use to describe your images it very important that you
keep the people who are unable to see your images in mind. A great example of this is …
If a ‘question mark’ icon or image is used to represent the help page, the alternative text should be ‘help’ or something similar.
Do not add keywords to your alt tags
Alt tags that are full of keywords are not following this guideline and are disruptive for blind users. It is often not understood that when a blind person is surfing
the web they are normally using software that reads aloud the entire page. Can you imagine how irritating it would be to have to listen to an ALT tag that is “stuffed” with keywords?
Check the ALT tags of your webpage with the Google guidelines tool which will display all images found on a webpage as well as the alt text used.
- Titles are page specific and should be accurate and descriptive
- No two titles on your website should be the same
- ALT tags should be used to accurately describe the images on your page
- ALT tags should not be used to add keywords to your page
How to determine if your website is following the guideline
Checking for accurate titles can be accomplished by taking advantage of the “site:” operator of Google search. To do this go to Google and type in…
This will result in Google listing all the pages of your website that it knows about. This is a useful and quick way to determine if your titles are unique. Look through the results and make sure that no two of your titles are the same.
Checking for ALT tags can be accomplished by visiting our technical SEO tool and entering your web address to see if your images have alt tags and if they are accurate.
Google has published very clear image guidelines that discuss alt text in more depth.