Nov 2, 2008

ALT Attributes And Your Garden Photos

One of the more annoying things about conducting an internet search for something gardening or plant related is the amount of non-relevant image results you can get back. This is a result of people spamming images to get visitors to their websites but properly naming your images and using ALT attributes for your plant and garden photos could bring visitors to your garden blog by helping Google discover your photos and garden blog. While there isn't much we can do about the spammers that abuse this we, as garden bloggers, can try to make the information we dispense easier to find by following some simple steps.

Recently Southern Oregon Garden Geek informed me that a photo on my garden blog of some Bells of Ireland I was growing in my garden was the number two image result on Google for that term. Curious, I searched for Bells of Ireland and sure enough that is a photo from my garden blog entry on Bells of Ireland.

ALT attributes exampleThis didn't occur accidentally but it didn't involve any magic or special tricks that you have to pay a, so-called, SEO expert for. You can do this too with two simple steps that you should get in the habit of doing every time you upload an image to your garden blog.

Step #1: Title your photos
When you take a photo and save it in your camera or memory card it the name of the image is usually something like this DSC000333a.JPG. While this is a useful way for your camera and memory card to number and record images it isn't optimal for humans and search engines. Get into the habit of giving your photos a proper name before you upload them to your garden blog. If your photo is of a specific plant or flower name your photo that. In the example I took the screen capture of above the name of my photo is "Bells of Ireland.JPG" because that is what the image is of.

Step #2: ALT attributes
When you upload an image to your garden blog if you click on the Edit HTML tab in the window where you are typing the text for your garden blog entry you'll see a bunch of words and numbers that may look confusing to you but your browser understands enough to be able to display the image to you on your screen. Within the code that comprises the image above is this snippet

...src="" alt="" id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_526...

of the larger code. As you can see it holds the name of my image but it also has a spot for ALT attribute. What that does is provide information to browsers and the visually impaired who may be using a screen reader to surf the internet to identify what the image is about. Since I had already properly named my photo all I had to do was provide the ALT attribute by typing it within the quotation marks. Once I did that it looked like this;

...src="" alt="Bells of Ireland" id="BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_526...

Use the ALT attribute to give a short description of your photo to make it more discoverable by search engines and to help make your garden blog more accessible to people who may be surfing with the help of screen readers. Here's a video of Matt Cutts of Google explaining the importance of ALT attributes while it is designed for webmasters this information can be used by us gardeners and applied to our garden blogs to bring us visitors and help spread gardening and plant related information on the internet.


  1. Very interesting. I've always named my photos descriptively but I didn't know about the alt attribute. I'll give it a try!



  2. Wow - excellent info I'd never thought of on my own.

  3. Thanks for these tips! I used the alt attribute back when everything was hand-coded, but forgot about it when using different tools.

    But I noticed a few months ago when editing and saving photos under new names that I was losing the EXIF information about the camera settings, which Picasa will display if available. So I stopped renaming and the info was preserved. I'll now look into a way to preserve the camera data AND have a descriptive name.

  4. Hi Mr Brown Thumb,

    Thanks for this idea - I tried adding names for some of the photos in my latest post and it worked.

    Am I right in assuming that to get the alt tags onto the photos in my previous posts on Blogspot each post would have to be republished after changing the code?
    It would be cool to label the photos, but getting a ton of old posts might annoy people who get my blog from a feed.
    Ah, what to do!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  5. Annie,

    I believe the old posts get republished. My suggestion would be to label the most important ones (rare plants, info for local gardening etc) on your garden blog. That way your feed readers don't get bombarded with old posts. Or edit the photos over the coming holidays when feed readership may drop some as people get busy with family events.

  6. Thanks for the answer and suggestion, Mr Brown Thumb.
    Since I work at a glacial pace anyway, maybe I'll just pick and choose favorite photos and redo one or two posts a week. I never did add any counters so still don't know my readership unless they comment.


  7. Well then. I was clueless, until now. Thanks. I'm giving away some seeds it you are interested just stop by.

  8. Your blog provides the best technical information. Neat to tag your photos and make it so others using a screen reader can find the pics. My sister in law is legally blind and she is one of those that would use a screen reader. Thanks!

  9. You provide such terrific technical information, and explained so I can understand it! Thank you!

  10. M. D. Vaden of Oregon12/01/2008

    One thing I like about images too, popular ones that related to my content, is to hyperlink to them. I'm amazed at how many Google Image results of other's websites, show a few of my pages as the original context page.

    Not always, but often enough to be very practical. Otherwise, I utilize several of the good principles you mentioned.


    M. D. Vaden


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