Matt video: ALT attributes for images

In case you missed it, a short while ago we posted a video about how to use ALT attributes for images. I’ll include the video here, but I’ll also use this opportunity to remind everyone that you really should subscribe to the Official Google Webmaster Blog (Atom link for feedreaders). Here’s the video:

In the comments, you’ll note that Philipp Lenssen corrects me about something: “IMG” is a tag, but “ALT” and “TITLE” are attributes of the IMG tag. So referring to an “ALT tag” is a bit sloppy and incorrect. ๐Ÿ™‚

Luckily, the webmaster central folks were kind enough to clarify the original post. John Mueller also made the original post even more valuable by talking about ALT and TITLE and how those attributes are slightly different. John is one of the newer voices in webmaster/SEO communication (okay, he’s been a voice for quite a while, but only joined Google a few months ago); I’m really glad that he’s joined Google. For example, you might have missed his incredibly useful meta tag reference guide that he posted not long ago. Yet another reason why you should be subscribing to the Official Google Webmaster Blog (Atom link for feedreaders). At this point, the official webmaster blog is doing Google SEO-related posts faster than I can. ๐Ÿ™‚

73 Responses to Matt video: ALT attributes for images (Leave a comment)

  1. Well goodmorning Matt (over here it is ๐Ÿ˜‰ ),

    Let me correct you and Phillip. IMG is an Element! Not a tag!

  2. Matt,

    Good informative post!

    But its a yesterday’s news ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. The Webmaster blog is a wasted of time and energy. It is done completely wrong. What could have been a driving force – it just a superficial, badly constructed mish mash.

    It will never catch on, no matter how much you or Google tries to push people in that direction.

    There is a coldness and impersonality about it that is repulsive.

    There is no bonding, nor do the personalities of the posters show.

    There is no spontaneous, give and take, and very little human emotion.

    The intelligent route would be to expand this blog to include a couple of other Google search quality Engineers, along with an occasional post by Sergey or Larry. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Out of thousands of tech blogs why did THIS one become of the few to reach the Technorati top 100 and STAY there!?!?

    The reason for this blog’s success (besides SearchEnginesWeb) – is the immediacy of the give and take, the spontaneity, the personalities of the contributers that do come through, and many complex, subliminal factors that often is just a matter of luck. ๐Ÿ˜•

    Also, it becomes like an ongoing serial – one knows that concerns expressed will be responded to by someone directly in a power making position, whose biases, strengths and weaknesses one learns from continuous communication.

    The arguments, the loss tempers, the insults, the compromises all ultimately work together to produce a work of art that will be archived and enjoyed by future generations around the world.

  4. Matt, OT question.

    Why do sites like text-link-ads have the PR they do when THEY are the heavy weights in the manipulation of Google’s SERPs? One only needs to have cursory read of their pages to know that.

    There home page even has the heading of;

    Improve your traffic and search engine rankings.
    Only TLA can deliver an ad that does both.

    It quite clear to most that companies like this are profiting by preying on the uniformed. Yet, most (not all) the main “SEO” forums are affiliated with these type companies. Those who seek SEO guidance often read these “SEO” forums and as they are affiliated with with such companies they have a vested interest in spreading black hat tricks!

    Why doesn’t Google take a top-down approach, rather that bottom-up?

  5. Matt,

    I’ve been telling myself (and other as well) since 1995 that I should be using ALT tags for images. Somehow, I never, ever got around to it, even though filling in the ALT text is on the same screen in my Windows 3.1 HTML editor (which I’m still using) as picking the image! So, I’m going to take a few hours today and give it a shot, and if I crash in the search results, I’ll come back and complain.

    BTW, an earlier inspiration from your blog

    finally caught up with me, and I started posting publishing videos a month or two ago, using a Flip video I picked up on Amazon. Set up my own channel on YouTube,

    Would be nice if you set up a MattCutts channel rather than using the Google channel. Too many fluffy pieces there.


  6. Nice catch! But note that even occasionally calls it IMG tag, let alone 99% of webmasters ๐Ÿ™‚

    Let me correct you and Phillip. IMG is an Element! Not a tag!

  7. Richard Hearne (RedCardinal)

    Link to JohnMu’s comments/updates pls?

  8. In case you need it, there is a maximum size for the ALT attribute?

  9. Matt,

    Thanks for the Sunday night posting!
    I like ones like this that covers fundamental basics, that is at least until I learn them all! I have learned to always check late Sunday night for the freshest post.

    Search Engines Web, were you at Pubcon? Matt did you meet him?


  10. Hi Matt, I have been watching your blog for some time and i have found some interesting stuff on it.
    Today i stumbled upon something strange:
    this shows me 9 670 000 000 pages and i don’t think they have that much…
    Is that a bug or they have found a way to manipulate google?
    Thank you

  11. Good post Matt, we all seo-r knew it, but if we add alt tag (or attribute?) why we use title tag in this, then seo-r can spam it with keyword, right?


  12. Tonnie writes:

    > Let me correct you and Phillip. IMG is an Element! Not a tag!

    Tonnie, if you take the time to read my original comment which Matt quotes from you will notice I mentioned that the correct wording is *element* or tag. I usually prefer to use the name element as it’s more correct when you want to refer to the whole thing. But correcting people to use “element” instead of “tag” is not helpful, I think, because the two concepts are very closely related.

    I don’t think this forum lets you talk about HTML tags (or use those ASCII arrows?) so I will try use another syntax to get this across:

    { [opening tag]foobar[/closing tag] } and this is all an element

  13. Unbelievable
    up to the point where chest beating appears, SearchEnGinesWeB actually made a post I agree with.

    Sorry but the webmaster blog is impersonal at best, and personally I found it’s one of those that assumes you already have all the context to whatever they are posting about at the time. I gave up looking at it a long time ago.

  14. You also use text in close proximity to images. I see this often with writers of newspapers where the image from the article gets associated with their name.
    For example WSJ columnist Walt Mossberg is pretty good but there are some images that clearly aren’t Walt or aren’t even people showing up

  15. Matt,

    Are there ALT tags for videos, or can one use the image tag somewhere in an embedded video link? I looked at the YouTube code for your video above:

    and there isn’t a video title or ALT attribute in there. Would be nice to have YouTube generate both, or to be able to hand sew them in. Also wonder if a REL=NOFOLLOW tag is possible with YouTube embedded videos. Don’t know if I’d use it, just curious.


  16. @ Philip Lensen,

    that the correct wording is *element* [b]or[/b] tag !?

    But enough of this discussion, if you don’t want to be corrected, thats oke with me.

  17. SEW, I assume you’re joking, but just in case: this is my personal blog. Having an official Google webmaster blog where bunches of people can chime in is a much better way to do it, in my opinion. I’m glad that so many other Googlers are doing more communication. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Dave (Original), if I answered that I’d answer over on the more relevant thread. I’m working on a couple more video-related posts right now, but ping me on that in a week or so. The short answer is that the bar for penalizing brokers is higher, but if a broker is doing something that normal people would consider deceptive (e.g. pushing a solution that hides links in content with no disclosure whatsoever, or trying to garner a bunch of off-topic links via expired domains), that’s the sort of thing that would cause us to look more closely and possibly penalize the link broker site as well.

    Tonnie, you would make a good proofreader. ๐Ÿ™‚ Truth be told, lots of people at Google refer to elements/tags/attributes pretty interchangeably, and usually everyone understands what we mean from the context. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Richard Hearne (RedCardinal), John did the final paragraph in the webmaster blog post at . By the way, sorry I missed you at PubCon, but I liked your summary + the idea of Googlers wearing Google T-shirts at those Q&A sessions.

  18. Hey Matt,

    Since youยดre helping out. What information does Google get out of the filename? Would it behelpful to change the DSC287287.jpg into cat-ball-yarn.jpg?

  19. Where’s your valid xhtml my boy. W3 spits back 4 errors on your tag!

    Just messing with you, nice post.

  20. Hello Matt.
    Metadescriptions grow horrible for me. I have 14400 sites with really good content. Only 200 sites are normal indexed. 14200 sites are in your supplemental index. I have no DC, no Proxy shows my sites. Only social bookmark sites are shown my metadescriptions – and this sites you will find all into the supplemental index.

    It seems as if it would not be a good idea, to feed sozial bookmark systems with our metadescriptions, when Google kills these sites because DC(?) It should be better to have no description because nowhere can read them automatically into his system.

    Best regards: Regine

  21. Omar Yesid Mariรฑo

    I have not read all the comments, but I think that a descriptive name for images could help to Google and could be more search engine friendly… instead of DS131313.jpg you can rename the image like keyword1-keyword2.jpg… Of course, the keywords must be related to the image.

  22. Hello Matt;

    My picture includes pen and sheet but this mean is search engine optimization. Should i write “pen and sheet” or “search engine optimization” in description of picture?

    Best Regards

  23. Peter (IMC), yes: one of the things I wanted to get across in the video was that renaming images to be descriptive can help (just don’t go overboard and stuff a whole bunch of keywords in there).

  24. Hi Matt,

    [quote Matt]
    Tonnie, you would make a good proofreader. ๐Ÿ™‚ Truth be told, lots of people at Google refer to elements/tags/attributes pretty interchangeably, and usually everyone understands what we mean from the context. ๐Ÿ™‚


    I know, but just got a little itchy about corrections that realy … well, enough about that.

    Back to the originall ‘alt attributes’, i think a lot of misunderstanding and wrong use of the alt and link attributes in the img element are based upon IE’s wrong interpretation and the fact that many forget to put a good description in it for the visual impaired. We easily think ‘he, i can see it’, and don’t think even further.

    I like your videos, simple and easy to follow even for those that just started with building websites and optimizing them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  25. Someone mentioned a site with 9.6 Billion pages indexed in Google.

    Here is another one, with 7.7 Billion pages indexed:

  26. Nice post Matt, although to have your .jpg file named as catnyarn.jpg as an added extra would help the big G index and recognize the image for what it is, as long as the file name is not stuffed with keywords/phrases, as you say.

    Keep up the great work.


  27. Saw the video last time. Good tips Matt, thanks!

  28. Thanks Matt!

  29. The Official Webmasters Blog and GWHG have really stepped up their game as of late, excellent very meaty posts with real good information and great interaction with the community as well. It’s really too bad these resources don’t get discussed more in the regular SEO/SEM/Webmastering community. It just may be the best kept secret for Google webmastering information.

  30. Matt, further to Dave’s OT post, can I holler at you with a smaller example but one that’s slowly creeping into public view?

    And as stupid as it sounds, I think SEW has a bit of a point. The look and feel of this blog itself add to its unique charm. It doesn’t have the white sterile hospital feel that the Webmaster Help blog does. The header’s cool in the Webmaster Help blog, but the rest of the layout could stand to have a little more color and background contrast.

    One other question from left-field: any plans to use the longdesc attribute for “graphic-textual” images (i.e. images containing a large text block that needs to be a specific font size and style because Graphic Geek X said so?)

  31. g1smd, I feel sure we don’t have that many pages from that site. ๐Ÿ™‚ Let me ask a few folks about that.

  32. JLH, well-put. I’m happy that if I fail the bus test (that is, get hit by a bus), there will be plenty of folks who can take on more communication. Plus an official channel is always a good thing.

  33. Matt, would I be correct in saying that the estimated number of pages Google shows is rarely accurate?

    On the pages g1smd links to, I count roughly 10*100 nowhere near 7.7 Billion pages ๐Ÿ™‚

  34. I have 14400 sites with really good content.

    Do you mean pages? Because the context that you’ve put this in gives this sentence a whole different meaning.

  35. [quote=Multi-Worded Adam Said]Do you mean pages? Because the context that youโ€™ve put this in gives this sentence a whole different meaning.[/quote]

    Yes – sorry because my bad english. I mean pages, not sites. We are looking around to find the problem but we only found the copys of the metadescriptions at Wong and Del Icio because the get bookmarked. So I deleted the metadescriptions yesterday. If the metadescripton is the killer of a website because fans are bookmarking websites with the metadescription text we have really a problem.

  36. Regine,

    Yes – sorry because my bad english. I mean pages, not sites. We are looking around to find the problem but we only found the copys of the metadescriptions at Wong and Del Icio because the get bookmarked. So I deleted the metadescriptions yesterday. If the metadescripton is the killer of a website because fans are bookmarking websites with the metadescription text we have really a problem.

    The subject of this thread is ‘alt attributes’ not meta description. Probably thats why Matt isn’t responding.

    Next to that, the same meta description on several other sites can’t be the problem.

    On the other hand, i have seen one on your site that most definitly is, duplicate content. index.php and startseite-1.htm are the same.

    Basically also ‘/’ would be a different destination and therefor you have the exact information on 3 different pages / locations on your site. I bet i would even find more problems when looking closer ๐Ÿ˜‰

  37. Hello Tonnie,
    thank you for your feedback. Matt refered also about the ” incredibly useful meta tag reference guide “. If Im wrong here, please delete my postings.

    We changed the URLs of the system to html-urls. The html-Links do not call the index.php since a few weeks. But: the index is only one of over 14.400 pages – without the print-versions. The index is not into SI.

    The only DC from my site we did found at Del Icio and Wong. I do not believe that a slash more ore less kick nearly all my pages out of Googles index.

    Good night.

  38. Hi Regine,

    It says above the form:

    Got a webmaster-related question or suggestion that is not directly related to the topic of this entry?

    Index.php is still linked from the pages.

    The slash ‘/’ mentioned is the relative anchor for the root and seen as a destination, the same as index is.


    all point to a different location, where the same content can be found.

    Further more, i did not state that THAT alone is the problem, it is one of them.

    You now state that you have switched from .php to .html. Did you make 301’s or just changed the lot and hope for the best?

    If so, it will take some time for Google to reรฏndex your site.

    Well, thats it for me. Night.

  39. “Matt Cutts Said,
    December 17, 2007 @ 1:55 pm

    Peter (IMC), yes: one of the things I wanted to get across in the video was that renaming images to be descriptive can help (just donโ€™t go overboard and stuff a whole bunch of keywords in there).”


    Don’t worry. Keyword stuffing is the best thing to do if you want to unfocus a page… ๐Ÿ™‚ which of course is the best thing to do if you want to show up in positions below 1000.

  40. That is a crack up Michael dressed up like a Googler. It was fun to watch your guys body language at the beginning of your keynote at Pubcon.

  41. long time programmer

    Whoa… the IMG “tag” is just that… a tag. IMG would be an element if HTML was an object oriented platform, but it isn’t. However even then it would not be an element it would be an add-in for the variable in which the programmer wants it to correlate.

    Sorry, but I am a stickler for correct terminology.

  42. Well, longtimeprogrammer, there you go, HTML isn’t about programming, it is a Markup Language.

    Elements are not tags. Some people refer to elements as tags (e.g., “the P tag”). Remember that the element is one thing, and the tag (be it start or end tag) is another. For instance, the HEAD element is always present, even though both start and end HEAD tags may be missing in the markup.

    It can be confusing.

  43. I swear you look like Joel comm in that video. Just without the cheesey superficial grin.

  44. Thanks for the video Matt. I actually have seen this one before. I have been doing some searching lately trying to find the different ones you have put together. Thanks for making them.

  45. Thanks Matt. But I can’t see the video here :S

    I only use alt tags for my images. Never titles for img and a tags.

  46. Whereโ€™s your valid xhtml my boy. W3 spits back 4 errors on your tag!

  47. Hello Matt,

    Watching your ALT tag video one important issue came up.

    The ALT tag is original to be used for web browsers that can not show images (so called text-browsers).
    Using the ALT tag, the reader can see (if using a text-browser) what the meaning should be of that image.

    Now I have a problem, I create (try to) my websites according to the W3C design rules, that means that I use the alt tag for text-browsers too.
    But I also use the “title tag” in the image. The title tag in an image has the purpose to show a tool-tip when people pointing their mouse over the image. At some places on my website I used to have images for navigating (forward and backward), they were ‘arrow’ images. I use the alt-tag for the text-browsers and the title-tag (also within the image tag) as a tool-tip for the visitor. I used the same text for the title and the alt-tag.

    If I only would use the alt-tag, then people who are using Firefox will not see the text when pointing on the image (only MSIE is doing this). But if I only use the title-tag (tool-tip) then the validation of my HTML page would be incorrect (according to the W3C it would say “missing alt-tag”)

    How will Google treat this (stuffing?), because I am using the same text for two different tags? (and for proper web design I need both)

    Kind regards,
    Bart Dirks
    The Netherlands

  48. It is so funny that I stopped by and found this post today. This morning I had the audacity to call it an ALT Tag to our Webmaster. He looked at me like I had three heads. I got a long (condescending) attributes lecture. Everyone that has been calling it an ALT Tag raise your hand…its not just Matt and me right. I was nice in not pointing out that the reason we were having the discussion was that the generic non-descriptive Tags (sorry I couldn’t resist) were missing their intended purpose in the first place.

  49. Good tips through video to put alt attributes for images

  50. The Use of an ALT and TITLE Tag with images is for SEO very important. But more important is to use the right image naming and the right use of stop characters. Let me explain:
    1.) image-stuttgart-aktiv.jpg
    2.) image_stuttgart_aktiv.jpg
    What is the difference ? Only in 2) we use the right stop character _ which can be crawled by google.
    Thurthermore in the ALT Tag it is important to use the right stop character.
    The only stop character that works is | .
    So an ALT Tag has to be written like:

    This stop charakter can also be used in the TITLE tag.
    Using the right stop characters can improve key word relevance and keyword density of a site successfully.

  51. All you are saying here is to use (up to 7) words in alt tags… nothing new there… I’m not sure, but I think I already knew of this back in ’97 before Google even came online.
    How about telling us how many repeat words in an alt tag is considered spammy… or if size, color, and shape of image used as a link is judged at all. Can/Does Google detect image color?

  52. Hey Matt, thanks for the post. While on the subject of images, I was wondering if you might consider making a post about how to optimize images for Google images? One of my main sites has been getting a lot of great traffic through Google images but sometimes I’m surprised by which images rank and which don’t. Aside from alt tags, basic descriptive titles/text, enabling the Image search option in the webmaster console, etc., are there any other tips you could share? Or even just explain a little more how the logic behind the image search algorithm works? Sorry if I missed a post you’ve already made on this :).


  53. people are talking that tags or no more in seo games but as i always use appropriate tag in all of my website believe that tag are still alive and will stay on for seo if and only if you use them properly and donot try to trun them into spam

  54. If a site is receiving an over optimization demotion, would it be better to just leave out the Alt tags? Example, if a page is about blue widgets, url:/blue-widgets.php, image:/blue-widget.jpg, Alt: Blue Widget, H1 – Blue Widget, etc. Should they omit the Alt Tag all together, or change it to something more descriptive such as “Image of Blue Widget on a table?”

  55. Good day,
    Yeah I am late in on this but will still make the comment in the hopes that maybe just maybe I will be heard and my point will be ‘mathed in’ and the 7 words for alt will be morphed upwards;)
    You see, if we are trying to offer good readable alt text for accessibility (sp?) then I think 7 words is way too short. In the photo galleries especially along with key descriptive images I try and paint a picture for people in words. I envision someone who may be visually challenged and is working off braile (sp?) . I might put something into an image that is also a link and say; this is a picture of a beautiful sunset on lake whatever, with people walking barefoot along the beach. This image links to our such and such page where you can make a reservation or call us for more information.
    SO would Google say ‘off with her head’ more than 7 words (39(and my math says downgrade her page/site. you see are we going to write alt descs for people or some predetermined word count for da search math? I might say something on an image nav. menu that says ‘this image is the first button in the navigation menu and it takes you to such and such. I am trying to talk to peeps who may not see things like I do and make them feel comfortable.
    Thanks for reading my thoughts.

  56. Hi Matt,
    Thank you for the video. Very good post.
    I think the Use of an ALT Tag with images is for SEO very important.

  57. Hi! Many thanks for the video… it may be old news to some of those who read your blog, but there must be millions who don’t know about the alt attributes.

    So in the video, you seem to imply that if alt is specified, title attribute is less important?

    One more question, just out of curiosity: in addition to the alt , does it benefit Google to add a line of descriptive text under the image (within the same html td or paragraph ). I have been doing this for a while, not really with google in mind but because I always like to describe photos – in a similar fashion to what you see in newspapers, a descriptive line always goes down well.

  58. Hi Matt, above – someone asked the question “Are there ALT tags for videos, or can one use the image tag somewhere in an embedded video link?” – is there an answer to that? I’ve also been trying to find the answer to this question. For example, if you’re using the EMBED code, can you use EMBED alt=”Me driving a red car.” src=”../path-of-video/” etc. If so, does this help Google know more about the video, or is the text around the video good enough? Thanks

  59. Should we use both “alt” and “title” for the IMG element? Or “alt” is just enough?

  60. Hmmmn, the link to the meta tag reference guide is very useful. It does imply that google doesn’t use this and the classification tag though, is this ture Matt. I always use both tags but ensure that words contained within the tags appear on the page as text. Also, could you clarify two things for us, how many words should the alt tag/element be and the discussion about the stop character is also quite interesting, I personally think that this is very useful within context, never really read anything about it before so it was nice to read info on it here.

    A personal opinion, I have posted comments and queries on the google webmasters blog and was quickly shouted down by ignorant and over zealous individuals who obviously had their own agendas. I shall revisit following the comments above.

    Thanks all!

  61. I use “alt” tag always on my pictures but I didn’t see it as so important to SEO. It has very small part on SERP, I can say even less than famous Page Rank. But it is good that you write post about this.

  62. There is a maximum size for the ALT attribute

  63. Thanks for this great video.

    For anyone who is unable to view the video or would just prefer to read the content in text form, we have created a transcript of the video here:

    Please don’t hesitate to contact us for any future transcription needs or if you would like this transcript removed.

    Thanks, YouTranscript

  64. Hey Matt,

    Just looking over some of your older posts and I can’t believe that there’s a webmaster blog with RSS! How on earth have I missed that! I think I may have associated the blog with Google’s webmaster tools or central. Such a great resource that I’ve been missing out on!

    Glad I stopped by!

  65. Matt,

    Is there a way to add an ALT attribute to your embedded YouTube video? I don’t see you using one on this page, so I am still looking for an example. Thanks.

  66. Hello Matt,

    I have a question if i may, whois stats says that I have 19 alt tags missing but I’ve been through every page and cant find them. the only thing I can think of is that there maybe unused images in the image folder, would items not used be seen if that is the case?

    many thanks,
    Andreas from London

  67. Great video and it helped me understand the importance of naming pictures correctly. I am currently getting ranked quite highly by Google for some pictures and but not for others. With this actionable information I will now be able to tweak my site to make it more friendly for the search engines.

  68. Matt You are awesome for sharing your knowledge with so many people. Every little bit helps, thanks so much. My wife automatically knows I am reading or watching your videos every time I put the headphones on and have a certain look on my face. (The in the zone, don’t bother me look). Thanks for the alt tips. I need to be sure I am naming files correctly. Do you recommend I go back and change old files or just go about it correctly from here on out?

  69. Matt:

    Let’s start with, I’m a photograher. So my web site has to show my work, educate and sell. Let’s face it the sell part is important. No revenue, no food or mortgage payment!

    So the issue. I have a commercial, portrait and wedding photography page linked from my index page. The commercial page has about 8 to 10 sample images. They all have alt tags. The alt tags for each image is the same “Photography – Commercial, Business and Organizations”.

    Should each image have a different alt tag, where each tag describes the image? Or should the alt tag incorporate key words related to search key words?


  70. What happens to my google ranking when I remove content from my web site that has inbound links. Will the ranking increase as crawling continues?

  71. Thanks for the video Matt. I actually have seen this one before. I have been doing some searching lately trying to find the different ones you have put together.

  72. Matt, many “experts” are saying that, nowadays, the “alt” attribute plays NO role in the ranking of sites. This video is from 2007. Can you confirm that?

    Thank you for all these very helpful videos!

  73. I recognize this post is very old but I am wondering if anyone can provide better insight (or point me in the right direction) of how to make Google better understand what is in the videos I add to my pages. I have many pages with video and it seems like the ones that do not have any video rank better than the ones that do. I am not sure if it is a coincidence or if I am not adding them properly.