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Image Alt Text vs. Title Text vs. Filenames: What’s the Difference?

Image Alt Text vs.  Title Text vs.  Filenames: What's the Difference?

Optimized captions (also called alternate text), captions, and image file names are all part of good image optimization.

But what is the difference between the image’s alt text and title?

Do you keep them the same? Do you make them all different?

In this post, you will learn about the differences between the image’s alt attribute, image caption, and image file name and find recommendations on how to better optimize them for search.

Alt text vs Alt tag: Which is correct?

When you think of image-alt-text, the phrase that can immediately come to mind is “alt-tag”.

Well, the alt tag is really a misnomer and does not exist at all. All text or alternate text is the image tag the alternate text attribute.

What is Image Alt Text?

All text or alternative text is used to display text that describes an image to “alternative” sources.

Primarily, its goal is to make images more accessible to the blind who use screen readers, in order to make the Internet much more accessible according to W3C accessibility guidelines.

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It lets you specify an image description that is passed through an audio-based prompt that tells people with low or no vision what is currently on the page.

The secondary goal of alt text is to describe the image to people who, for whatever reason, have decided to turn off images in their web browser application.

In addition, it satisfies the user agents who are also unable to “see” the images.

As a rule, alternative text should include targeted keyword optimization in a context that describes what the image is about. If there is no alternative text for the image, it will appear as a blank image.

Because Google cannot exactly review images in depth, Google uses alternative text as a focus when trying to understand what the image is about.

It is important to note the W3C’s Alternative Text Accessibility Guidelines:

When using the img element, specify an alternative to short text with the alt attribute. Note. The value of this attribute is called “all text”.

When an image contains words that are important for understanding the content, the alt text should contain those words. This allows the alt text to play the same function on the page as the image. Note that it does not necessarily describe the visual properties of the image itself, but should convey the same meaning as the image.

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What is caption text?

Caption text is an attribute used to provide additional information about the image. That said, the title of the picture is not used for search ranking, so it is not quite as important to optimize for.

However, if you are an obsessed SEO completionist and want to optimize for the best in W3C optimization, you need to include both the alt text and the title text of your image.

However, you do not have to do anything super crazy for optimizing title texts.

Just use a quick, short, catchy title that complements what you’ve optimized for the alt text, and you’re off.

User intention and user experience should be the main focus of your optimizations

Not much has changed in the last 10 years when it comes to optimizing for all text and title attributes.

While optimizing both of these attributes, you should focus on not only keyword targeting but also the intent of the user.

You must not keyword keywords, and of course you must turn off your keywords when relevant.

When optimizing all the text and titles in images, it is important to ensure that you focus on the following:

Will this alt text and title text help my users? Will this alt text and title text satisfy the user’s intent? Will this improve the user experience?

John Mueller from Google has also confirmed in one 2017 tweet that images used for design / positioning purposes do not have to have all text, so empty all text like this (alt = ””) is fine.

More clarification on how Google handles all text

John has mentioned before that Google could use alt text as anchor text if the image is also a link.

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In addition, John has also stated that Google can see text in image -all attributes as part of the page where the image is embedded.

It is also worth noting that Mueller has explained how useful alt text is to Google images, especially if you want them to rank there.

He also recommends if lazy loading is enabled, to ensure that the image has the alt text as early as possible.

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Depending on your lazy loading implementation, it may render differently, so be sure to test your configuration and make sure Google can crawl and index.

Google Image Recommendations

Here are Google’s suggestions for improving the user experience of alt text, directly from their image publishing guidelines:

Create a great user experience

To increase the visibility of your content in Google Images, focus on the user by providing a good user experience: create pages primarily for users, not search engines. Here are some tips:

Provide a good context: Make sure your visual content is relevant to the topic of the page. We suggest that you only display images where they add the original value to the page. We especially advise against pages where neither the images nor the text are original content. Optimize placement: Whenever possible, place images near relevant text. When it makes sense, consider placing the most important image at the top of the page. Do not embed important text inside images: Avoid embedding text in images, especially important text elements such as page headings and menu items, because not all users have access to them (and page translation tools do not work on images). To ensure maximum accessibility of your content, keep text in HTML, provide alt text for images. Create high-quality informative websites: Good content on your webpage is as important as visual content for Google Images – it provides context and makes the result more actionable. Page content can be used to generate a snippet of text for the image, and Google considers the content quality of the page when placing images. Create device-friendly websites: Users search Google Images more from their mobile phones than on their desktops. For this reason, it is important that you design your site for all device types and sizes. Use the mobile-friendly testing tool to test how well your pages are performing on mobile devices and get feedback on what needs to be fixed. Create a good URL structure for your images: Google uses the URL path as well as the file name to help it understand your images. Consider organizing your image content so that URLs are constructed logically.

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File name optimization

Google uses image file names to measure exactly what the subject of an image is.

By optimizing file names in accordance with alt text and title text optimizations, it is possible to provide an increased understanding that helps your images rank in image search.

For the most part, you do not need long filenames with long descriptive text.

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The keyword phrase that mostly describes the image is fine.

Just make sure that your file name text also accurately reflects what the image is about.

Yes! Optimize your photos. But do not overdo it

While it is important to optimize images properly, it is not necessary to spend so much time on them that you lose the larger image of sight.

Make sure you only use what is necessary to get your images to rank and complement your online marketing efforts.

But do not miss the ultimate goal of doing so – to improve the user experience.

More resources for image optimization:

Image credits

Image 1: metamorworks / Shutterstock.com
Image 2: Piscine26 / Shutterstock.com
Image 3: GaudiLab / Shutterstock.com
All screenshots taken by the author

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