SEO Q & A: Does Image ‘Alt Text’ Matter?

Hello! We are here with the SEO question and answer session. You ask, I answer. No question is too trivial or complicated.

Today we are discussing image alt text. If you are a photographer, you have seen the alt text a lot. And perhaps dread the alt text. Uploading 50 images to your gallery and now 50 text elements needed!
seo question alt text matter

The question is, are image alt texts still important for SEO ranking?

And, as usual, the answer is yes and no – it’s complicated.

First, what is an alt text?
The W3Schools site says, “the alt attribute provides alternative information for an image if a user for some reason cannot view it (because of slow connection, an error in the src attribute, or if the user uses a screen reader).”

First, alt text is used for those visually impaired and need a way to understand what the image on your page is about.

Second, while Google and search engines are getting better and better at interpreting image compositions, they are far from perfect. Alt text can help understand what is in the photo and provide more details than the search engine knows.

Now the question is do you need alt texts for your images?
In my opinion, yes. Alt text is a minor ranking factor. When you upload images, you should add a text that describes the image.

Here is an example.

What would be your alt text here?
shutterstock_130237643 copy

If you said “woman lace” or “woman lace veil” you are referring to keywords – not really an alt text.

What you need is a simple phrase describing the image. How about this: “woman with white lace veil covering her eyes”. Or, “profile photo of bride covering eyes with a white veil”

Are you able to a visual in your by reading the phrases above? If so, then you wrote a good alt text.

But Preeti, I upload a LOT of images in every post. Must I write an individual alt text for every single photo?

This is where I say one has to calculate the ROI. Because alt text are low on the ranking factor scale, you do not want to spend time writing alt texts all day long when you could be doing things with better SEO return.

If you are photographer or publisher or someone batch uploading photos for one page, then create a general alt tag.

For example: Barnyard wedding at Casa Bleu San Jose. This can be used for most of your alt texts on a single page.

A few more things. A trick question…
Is alt text the same as alt tag?
Technically no as there is no such thing as the alt tag. Most people use alt text and alt tag interchangeably.

For the coders out there…
What is the HTML code compliance of the alt text?
According to W3C Accessibility Guidelines, for code to be considered W3C-valid, it is important to include both image alt text and image title text in the image for important images on the page.

Thanks for joining. If you have an SEO question, fill out the form here.

How to Fix a Google Violation: Unnatural Outbound Links

This week I came across a nasty manual spam action penalty from Google. It’s called Unnatural Outbound Links.

If you got this penalty, you’re in a state of chaos. The penalty is usually applied site-wide and it will take A LOT of work to clean.

Here’s what the email looks like:

Google has detected a pattern of links from your site to other sites that is either unnatural or irrelevant. This pattern attempts to artificially boost other sites’ ranking in Google Search results. Such unnatural ranking would cause search results to show preference for results not relevant to the user’s actual query. It also violates Google Webmaster Guidelines. Therefore, we are discounting the trust in links on your site. This manual spam action has been applied to WWW.SITENAME.COM. To fix this, remove the unnatural links on your site and file a reconsideration request. After we determine that you have complied with our guidelines, we will remove this manual

What is a unnatural outbound link?
While the penalty addresses the obvious issue, unnatural outbound links = links that were paid for, chances are, you are not directly engaged in this practice (if you are, you’re stuck in the stone age).

What this penalty addresses are compensated links in form of (edited from

  • free product in return for writing a review of the product.
  • free product to give away to your readers in a contest.
  • free experience in return for writing a review of the experience (hotel stays, amusement park tickets, access to an exclusive event, etc.).
  • free product to develop and publish content that uses a specific product or service (creating recipes using a specific product, makeup tutorial, clothing moodboard, etc.)
  • writing about products featured in a Swag Bag from a conference or event that you received for free.
  • recipe link ups or other content sharing link carousels that aren’t using a nofollow attribute (you’re only linking to all those recipes because they’re linking to yours = compensation by exposure).
  • links to affiliate programs on the base merchant’s domain without a nofollow (especially Amazon).
  • Guest posts from a company.
  • Links to advertisers in your sidebar, etc. that link to the advertiser without using a nofollow link.

Basically, ANY link you didn’t come up with on your own is subject to the Unnatural Outbound Links violation. The reality is that people get advice and tips through others. But Google being Google, wants you to no follow ALL those links.

  • Got a button from a conference and posted a pic with a link? NO FOLLOW
  • Got crayons in exchange for a review? NO FOLLOW
  • Part of a blogger network and got stickers to make your own DIY card? NO FOLLOW
  • Have banner ads? NO FOLLOW
  • Have affiliate links? NO FOLLOW

The violation oversteps common sense, but hey, Google doesn’t have common sense, they just wage war on anything that appears to be paid.

  • Google’s John Mueller stated:
    “This includes links to the product itself, any sales pages (such as on Amazon), affiliate links, social media profiles, etc. that are associated with that post.”

How do I fix the violation?

This is what Google will tell you to do:

Here’s how to fix this problem:

1 Identify unnatural links on your site – Look for links that were added to your site in exchange for some type of compensation like money, goods or services, or reciprocal links.

2 Remove or use on these links- The nofollow attribute allows you to tell Google not to crawl a specific link.

3 Submit a reconsideration request – Include any details or documentation that can help us understand the changes made to your site.

What you need to do is:
1. Be a detective and figure out what happen. You HAVE violated their terms, so arguing with Google is fruitless. Now is the time to buck up and fix your issues.

2. Create a spreadsheet with all the website pages that the issue appeared on and that action has been taken. You will need this spreadsheet. Every piece of work you have done to rectify the problem needs to be documented.

3. File the reconsideration request. Be polite, be nice, and most of all, DON’T BE ARGUMENTATIVE. Do feel free to ask for more clarification if what you did wasn’t right. YOU NEED TO FIX THIS, so get help.

Once the request has been, you’ll wait from Google. If they approve your fixes, you’ll see changes in the search results almost immediately. If not, they will tell you to keep working. At this time, you can ask for guidance from them to make sure you remove the violations completely and wholeheartedly.

Have you received an Unnatural Outbound Link penalty? Do you need help? If so, please reach out to chotipreeti at gmail dot com.