Image 'alt' attribute, how to bulk check it

Visual SEO Studio tutorial: How to find all images with no 'alt' or 'title' attribute.

There many repetitive task SEO professionals have to do. One of them is searching for image tags with no alt or title attribute.

What the "alt" attribute is

The "alt" attribute (often erroneously referred to as "alt tag") is an HTML attribute of the IMG tag. Its purpose is providing an alternative text for the image in case the image were not downloaded, and to provide a text for screen readers used by visually impaired people.

<img src="iceberg.png" alt="an iceberg" />

Unless the image is purely decorative and does not add to the content (is it really worth having it?) the "alt" attribute should be present and not empty. A proper description also helps search engines better rank your assets in image search.

How to bulk check the "alt" attribute

Luckily Visual SEO Studio makes the task easy: the Images Inspector feature comes to the rescue.

Assuming you already crawled the site you want to check, open "Images Inspector"; all IMG tags within the crawl session will be inspected.

Images Inspector summary page
Images Inspector summary page (click to enlarge)

Note: if you had the site crawled with the "Crawl Images" and "Save images" options selected, you can enjoy a better auditing experience seeing also image status codes, size and preview. They are not necessary for the task at hand though.

Select the second tab sheet "IMG tag list"

Images Inspector main table
Images Inspector main table, several columns are hidden (click to enlarge)

Filter data to display only IMG tags missing the alt attribute:

IMG tags list, filtering options
IMG tags list, filtering options

And there you are: just a couple of clicks, and you have all the results you were looking for!

What to do next

Once you have located all images missing the "alt" attribute, it's time to populate them at best.
There are some rare case where you might want to leave them missing or blank, but in most cases you should write them with a one line sentence describing what the image is about.

A few recommendations:

  • User Experience comes first. Keep the text clear and concise.
  • Search engines use the alternate description to rank graphic content in "image search". Don't try to trick them telling the image is something it's not, they are smarter than you might think. Most of all, don't stuff keywords. A well thought keyword may fit in the text, but use them with wit and moderation.

You might want to fix on your own all the images found, or you may pass the list to a team mate.

Fix it on your own

You can easily check where the selected <img /> tag is, both within the DOM and in the HTML code of the page.

Function 'Show in DOM'
You can see where the image is in HTML and DOM views

Now, suppose you were using WP and were already logged-in, selecting with the right-click context menu the menu entry "Browse page" would open the page were the missing alt attribute is:

'Browse page' option
Browse page option

it then just take a quick "Find" within your preferred browser to locate the actual IMG occurrence in edit mode to insert the proper image description.

If you used the "Save images" crawl option, your task will be eased by the image preview. It makes straightforward to understand with a quick glance what's the referred image, what the image is all about and conceive a proper text for the alt attribute.

Pass the task to a team mate

Many times the SEO guy/gal is only tasked with analysis, reporting, and giving indications, but does not the actual work to implement his/her recommendations.
This could happen for several reasons: for example the SEO may be an external freelance not paid to do the groundwork because the client has an internal resource for that; or she might not be proficient with the used CMS and prefers to delegate a colleague it the dev team.

One common mean is passing Excel spread sheets.
Visual SEO Studio "Export to Excel" produces neat spreadsheets.

Export to Excel
Export to Excel

Like all grids in Visual SEO Studio, you can customize columns order and export data to Excel or CSV file in one click.

And what about the IMG "title" attribute?

The optional "title" attribute (not to be confused with the title tag in the page HTML head) is not specific of the IMG tag; browsers normally use it to show a tooltip.
In the case of images, it is common practice to set it the same as the "alt" attribute (no, it will not be a duplicate content issue).

Even though Google has previously stated they do not use the IMG "title" attribute for ranking, with a simple experiment Dawn Anderson demonstrated they do.

You can check the "title" attribute in the main table using the column name "title" (did you guess?)

So what are you waiting for? Go to check for "alt" attributes with Visual SEO Studio!

See also:

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