Optimizing Product Image ALT Text for Maximum SEO Effectiveness

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011
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What is ALT text?

Images you see on a website are coded with HTML using an IMG tag. Part of this tag is a parameter called ALT, short for “alternative”. The text you specify within this parameter is used in a few ways. The original purpose of the ALT parameter was to provide an alternative display in case of image failure. Should an image should fail to load, the ALT text would display instead. Screen reader software also reads the ALT aloud.

ALT text and SEO

Search engines also read an image’s ALT text to help determine the relevance of the page within search results. It’s this functionality that you want to take advantage of, especially if you have product images. The more relevant your product page appears to the search engines, the better that page will rank for people searching for that product.

What should you put into the ALT text?

At the very least, enter the name of the product. But you don’t have to stop there. Take the time to think about what users might type into a search engine when searching for this product. Here are some examples:

  • People often enter a model number or manufacturer part number when looking for something very specific. Product names often overlap multiple products, and model/part numbers help users zero in on the right one.
  • Searching for a product by name often yields articles about that product, so some users will search using phrases like “Buy Balance Max Golf Bag” in order to find retail product listing more quickly.
  • Misspelling product names is common. Since most people don’t see the ALT text, it could also be a good place to put common misspellings. Rather than “Buy Callaway FT-I Driver” you could have just put “Calaway FT-I Driver” – notice Callaway isn’t spelled correctly.
  • Often users searching for products don’t have a particular brand in mind. They may be searching for certain characteristics. So instead of “Adams Micro-Pima Tour Shirt” as your ALT text, you could put ” Adams Micro-Pima Tour Shirt breathable soft cotton machine washable”.

Use, don’t abuse ALT text

There was a time when “keyword stuffing” was a common SEO practice. Keyword stuffing is cramming as many keywords as you could into any available piece of code, whether they were relevant to that page or not. Search engines caught on long ago and now penalize sites that still do this. When entering keywords into your ALT text, think quality, not quantity. More is not better, relevance is better. Use key descriptors that are unique to this product.

How to customize your ALT text in the Nexternal Order Management System

  1. After logging in, click on Products in the left menu.
  2. Locate the product you would like to customize and click the blue pencil in front of it.
  3. The ALT text field is on the second page, so scroll down and click the Next button.
  4. On Page 2, scroll down to the Search Engine Options section and locate the “Image Alt Tag” field.
  5. The text you enter here will be entered into your product image’s ALT text.
  6. Keep clicking the Next button until that button is replaced with a Finish button.
  7. Click Finish.

Coming from a medical and non-profit management background, Taryn has extensive experience in customer service and marketing. She is a Senior Account Manager for Nexternal and loves working with her clients to develop social media and marketing strategies to improve their online presence. In her spare time, she also runs a successful eCommerce jewelry and essential oils business.