Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Overlooking Alt Tags

Years ago when I started out in Internet marketing – I can’t believe I’ve been at this game since the mid-‘90s – Alt tags where a big deal. Of those of you that forgot or just don’t know, alt tags are those text boxes that pop-up when you mouse over graphic. After awhile, alt tags seemed to be a bit of a nuisance except when experimenting with SEO tactics. There always seemed to be more important issues to concern our staff with than alt tags. However, they shouldn’t be overlooked.

Years ago when most people where on dial-up to connect to the Internet, alt tags where very useful. (That’s when you connected to the Internet through a phone line and modem which for me started with a 14k download. Yes, back in the olden days.) Alt tags where important if you created a site with the end-user in mind because they gave the site visitor valuable information.

Many people turned off their browser’s graphics display because downloading graphics slowed surfing the net to a snail’s pace. You could literally go grab a cup of coffee and snack and when you returned a Web page was still downloading. If you had graphics turned on, the alt tags gave you a clue to what the graphic was about and was waiting worth it. Or at least they were supposed to give you a clue. Back then most site where strictly done by programmers and most graphics where just labeled such creative and useful names like “pic1.jpg” or “graphic2left.jpg” and the alt tag, if any, was the same name such as “pic 1”. Why bother with an alt tag like that?

Today we have high speed Internet connections and computers are faster than ever, but alt tags are still important and for the same reason. Alt tags are important as a visible clue to inform and persuade the end-user, to help in SEO efforts and if you want to comply with the American with Disabilities Act as it applies to the Internet.

Consider emails with graphics. Many times you have to right click to see all the graphics and correct and interesting alt tags can help inform and persuade the end-user to view the email with graphics.

Many mobile devices don’t show graphics by default. Alt tags give the reader a clue as to what your graphics are about. Entice and inform the reader to turn on the graphics to view your message.

Don’t overlook the importance of alt tags. They are worth the time adding a brief but complete description of the graphic.

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