If you thought that site owners would soon no longer need to use alt texts as well as other image description features, you aren’t right. Google still needs site owners to optimize their images in spite of the strides it has made in relation to image recognition by its search engine.
Asked about the issue of image optimization during Tuesday’s Google Office Hours, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller said that the SEO image description texts could be done away with in the future but not at the moment. He explained that the additions are necessary at the moment as they help them (Google) understand what the image is about.
The need for file names, alt attributes and title tags
During the same session, Mueller also went ahead to talk about some of the techniques which are needed for the optimization of images for search engines. On this, he advised website owners to clearly outlined file names, alt text features, and title tags as well as image captions. He explained that all these features on your image link boosts the search engine’s ability to recognize your image and its relevance to the search query.
A long way to go before Google stops needing image optimization information
As per John Mueller’s it will be very long before Google stops needing extra data from you so as to easily recognize your images. Mueller said that the possibility of that happening would perhaps be in 10 or so years time. To quote his exact words he said that maybe in 5 or 10 years time when things are working so perfectly such that they are instantly able to recognize what an image ranks for, they will no longer need all that extra information.
As a website owner, the statement above therefore certainly means that you have no option but to continue adding descriptions and other optimization tags to your images. Furthermore, you can’t risk not having relevant information accompanying your images as this is detrimental to your site’s SEO performance. This is especially true if you need your site to rank top on Google so as to promote your brand or for any other beneficial purpose.
Meaning and significance of image optimization techniques
To further help you understand the importance of using optimization techniques on your images, here’s is a brief explanation of three such techniques:
1. Alt text
Alt text is also referred to as alternative text. It refers to the text added to the image to serve as its description in case a web user may not be able to view it for one reason or another. Alt text comes in handy in a situation where a web user has turned off the ‘load images’ feature on their browser. In such a case, they are still able to know what the image is about even if they aren’t able to look at it. In addition, alt text is also useful in a case whereby a web visitor is using a screenreader due to visual imparity. There are many other situations where alts texts come in necessary and thus the reason to include them in your image.
Caption refers to the text around or beneath your image that talks about the picture. A caption is useful because it not only helps people to understand what your image is about but also helps them scan your article or post. It’s been deciphered that alongside headings, web users use image captions to scan a web page and deduce what it’s talking about. In fact, KissMetric stated in 2012 that people read image captions 300% times more than they read the body of an article itself. This therefore can explain why it’s necessary to add captions to your images as a site owner.
Aside from the reasons above, captions also help in giving your images authenticity. In this era where it isn’t unusual to use a Stock photo, a caption gives you a sense of ownership of the image.
3. File name
File name refers to the name of your image as it appears to the such engine or to anyone who gets to download your image on their device. Under normal circumstances, the file name usually comprises of a mix of letters and numbers preceding a suffix that defines the type of file such as .jpg, and .png among others. It is however more advisable to add a keyword to the file name so as to help search engines recognize your image easily. An ideal file name could for example be ceramictile.jpg. Such a name would help Google or any other search engine to recognize that your image is that of a tile.
It is all in all important to add descriptive information to your images and to use images in your website posts. Images help to give your posts visual appeal and to also emphasize their subject matter.