Title Tags and Alt Tags: Why Do They Matter?
Amy Daniels |July 24, 2013
Check out the SlideShare version of this post here!
When you own a website for your self storage brand, there are certain HTML and SEO phrases that become a part of your vocabulary. Why? If you’re going to take the time, effort, and money to produce and manage a website, there are certain steps you must take to 1) improve the user’s experience, and 2) improve the website’s visibility on search engine results pages. Ignoring one or both of these components to a website can send your brand’s online presence into the abyss – and ultimately send your potential renters to one of the other storage facilities in town.
Two such HTML and SEO terms are title tags and alt tags. We’ll cover each of these in depth below, remembering all along that our good practice of title tags and alt tags is good for our website and good for our company.
What are they?
If you look at the top of this page, just above the URL, you’ll see the title tag in a tab that reads, “Title Tags and Alt Tags: Why Do They Matter? | storEDGE.” This short description accurately depicts the content of this page. Though this particular title tag is arranged as “Description of Page | Brand Name,” websites have the freedom to format the tag differently.
On a more technical note, a page’s title tag is in thesection of a page’s HTML code. There are a few things you need to know about title tags to understand why they matter:
1. Purpose. There are two main purposes of title tags and they align with the purposes of a website: they improve the user’s experience and they improve your website’s visibility on search engine results pages (otherwise known as SEO). When you utilize title tags correctly, you can attract users to your site even if you haven’t yet achieved the position that you want. Title tags also tell users and search engines: “clear and concise, this is what my page is about.”
Apart from the site’s content, title tags are the second most important on-page SEO element. If you’re going through the effort to produce exceptional website content, it’s worth your time to write exceptional title tags. The more relevant they are to a user’s search, the more likely your site is to receive a boost in position (translation: more rentals).
2. Placement. We’ll look at two main locations you’ll find title tags using our storEDGE blog page as an example. Say you were to perform a Google search for “self storage blog.” You would land on a results page with plenty of self storage-related blogs. Among those results you would find a link to our blog page and it would look like this:
You’ll also see title tags, as mentioned before, at the top of the webpage you are viewing. When on our blog page, you’ll see an excerpt of the title in the tab and the full title when you hover your mouse above it:
The text is exactly the same text you find when our page shows up in search results because they’re both being pulled from the page’s title tag in the HTML code.
A word on meta tags
In the above example, you may have noticed a small set of text directly below the URL. This is called the meta tag, or description, of the webpage. What is its purpose?
Let me make this very clear: The meta tag has no bearing on your SEO ranking in major search engines. It used to, but major search engines no longer factor your page description into the page's SEO.
So why does it matter? The meta tag of a webpage goes hand in hand with the title tag. It's your opportunity to provide more information to the user (because, let's face it, 70 characters doesn't give you much room to summarize everything about your storage facility).
Think about it: when you conduct a search, you can tell a bit about what the page is about just by looking at the title. But before you actually click through, do you ever read the description below it? If you're anything like me, a brief scan of the description helps me decide if this is actually the page I'm looking for.
Everything you need to know about meta tags:
They do not affect your page's SEO ranking on major search engines.
A good length to shoot for is 155 characters.
Though the meta tag doesn't affect SEO, you want to include keywords. If your facility page doesn't include a meta tag with relevant keywords and locations, search engines may find other text on the page that includes those keywords. That text may sometimes be words that are less important to the user, like content from the footer.
Just like the title tag, meta tags should be descriptive, concise, and reader-friendly.
And the most important thing you need to know about meta tags:
Meta tags/descriptions have everything to do with conversion. A professional, enticing description draws users to the page.
So there you have it. By writing a great title tag as well as a great meta tag, your page receives a boost in rankings (through the title) and a boost in conversion (more customers!)
Things to consider
Consider the importance of the title tag on a search engine results page. In a sea of blogs relevant to the self storage industry, what will lead users to a particular page? A large part of that is the rank of the webpage, which is search engine optimization (SEO) in action. But part of that will also be the title tag.
Let me show you an example to prove my point. Let’s say you were searching the web for resources on how to tie your shoes. You see something like this upon conducting a search “how to tie shoes”:
If you were actually looking for a resource for tying your shoes, you would naturally choose the second result here even though it isn’t the highest in ranking. Why?
The first link isn’t too bad, but it’s not as relevant to your search as the second link is. It seems like clicking through will send you to a page where you can shop for shoes.
The second link matches your search almost exactly. You can tell, just from the title, that this page’s content will teach you how to tie your shoes.
The third link has more keywords than the first two, but they don’t make sense when you read them. You’re not sure what you’ll find if you click the link.
Unfortunately, this third example pretty accurately describes how people use title tags. They hear the words “boost SEO” or “improve rankings” and they forget about the user. But the writers for the first and second link will earn the user’s clicks because the text is compelling to a reader.
Just as you would choose the link that seems most relevant to your search, your potential renters are doing the same thing. So the question becomes: why fill in the HTML with spammy or dull text? Even if your website isn’t ranking first on the page (yet), this is your opportunity to draw a customer to your site instead of the site from the storage facility down the street. Use your chance!
What to do
DO: Make your title tags both descriptive and concise. If you could only say one thing about the page, what would it be?
DO: Think of the user when writing the title tag. Write content that’s compelling and helpful – something you would want to read if you were searching for self storage.
DO: If the webpage you’re writing for is directed toward users in a certain city, include location information in the tag. A page for your storage facility in New York City should have the location in the title.
DO: Consider the placement of the keywords in your title tag. The closer the keyword is to the beginning of a title tag, the more likely a user is to visit the link.
What to avoid
DON’T: Use title tags to spam or over-optimize your keywords. Remember that, while Google will use the tag as a factor for your website’s ranking, users will be reading the tag to decide whether or not they want to click through.
DON’T: Waste the opportunity to bring users to your site. If your self storage website is ranked higher than mine but my title tag is more enticing to the reader, chances are you’ll lose the customer.
Additional resources on using content to win customers: 4 Things You Didn't Know About Web Copy and How to Actually Get Noticed with Fantastic Press Releases.
Alt tags & image title tags
What are they?
When you upload an image to your webpage or directly into the HTML, you’re prompted to input an alt tag. But why?
There are a few reasons. The primary users who rely heavily on alt text are those who are blind. Many will use software to read a webpage aloud to them. Such software will read the alt text of an image so that this user can still reap the benefits that the image provides.
Another time you’ll see an alt tag is when a page is having issues loading its images. When images have proper alt tags, a user can get an idea of what the image is even when it isn’t loading.
Of course, there are some images on a page that are purely decorative. Small icons may improve the look of a site without providing any additional information. Images such as these may not include alt tags. But images like your storage facility’s photos, for example, are equipped with alt tags and image title tags.
It's important to think about the messsage you're trying to convey with a particular image. Take our management suite product page as an example. Next to the "Support for Your Employees" section, we've included a fun image that represents a support specialist.
For the alt tag, we could repeat "Support for Your Employees," or we could simply use "Support Specialist." Both of these routes aren't ideal, since the first is merely recycling the section's heading and the second isn't descriptive.
Rather than input alt text that's repetitive or vague, think about how you can use the alt tag to provide more information to the user. In the above example, our alt tag reads, "Our support section is comprehensive and easy to navigate." This type of description can help all users understand exactly why the image is there.
Some browsers even display alt tags when a user hovers their mouse over an image. If you've ever seen an image, wondered what it meant, and hovered over it to wait for a tag, think about what text would be most helpful when viewed together with the text that's surrounding the image.
Things to consider
So what images do you have on your site? Penn State provides a great example of a common image that you may not have even considered:
You could write a tag that reads “Credit Card Logos,” but what help would that be for users who hover over the image or blind users who hear the phrase read to them? Not much. A better option would be “Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover cards accepted.” Now your user enjoys the benefit of a visual image as well as a concise, helpful description.
Imagine that you want to use a picture of a security camera:
You decide to use the image because you want to portray the security of your storage units. Let’s consider what the user experiences with various alt and image title tag examples:
By putting a bit of thought into the purpose of each image, you can dramatically improve the user’s experience and set your website apart as professional and well designed.
What to do
DO: Consider what purpose the alt tag and image title tag would provide if it were read aloud to every user visiting the page. Tailor the description to offer useful information.
DO: Write a descriptive tag, especially if the image’s purpose is mostly aesthetic.
What to avoid
DON’T: Write a long string of text. Shoot for approximately 150 characters (like the title tag, consider what’s most important about the image and use concise language to describe it).
DON’T: Use the alternative text for meaningless or spammy text. Imagine landing on the page and hearing “clean storage unit best storage unit secure units self storage facility.” Always consider the user’s experience.
Additional resources on visual content for your website: The Importance of Adding High-Quality Images to Your Website and The Foolproof Guide to Making Fantastic Promotional Videos.
Now that you’ve spent the time to read this article and you’ve gained more understanding on title tags and alt tags, you can best utilize the opportunity to make some improvements to your site. Take a moment to review your pages. Here are some questions to help you evaluate your tags:
What improvements can I make to my title tags?
Are they descriptive?
Have I dumped in keywords just to boost SEO?
If I were looking at a list of results, what would make me want to click on this title?
Will users get an accurate understanding of my webpage just by reading the title?
Is my location included?
Are there repeated titles between pages on my website?
Consider what changes you could make to your title tags, and make them! Again, an appropriate and descriptive title tag is an easy way to boost your site’s visibility and to bring more customers to your self storage company. For an expert article dedicated solely to this topic, turn to Moz’s guide on title tags.
What improvements can I make to my alt tags and image title tags?
Are they helpful? Or are they just there?
If someone read them aloud to me, would I find them annoying, unprofessional, or irrelevant? Why?
Do they provide additional information not found in the text?
Would it matter if they weren't there?
To aid you in this questioning process, check out some tools that will help you analyze your site’s image tags. This useful tool will give you a simple, yet detailed, breakdown of each image on your site. Feedthebot’s Patrick Sexton will help you understand why certain alt tags aren’t ideal and even provide a guide as to how you can improve them.
Ultimately, taking the time to put yourself in the shoes of your user will work wonders in revamping your tags. By making these relatively small changes, your site will inch closer and closer to being the best in town.
If you liked this article, you may also like: New to Blogging? Content Marketers Love These Free Tools, Link Building & Self Storage, and Google's Hummingbird and Your Self Storage Business.