A recent report on on-page SEO by Raven Tools took the data obtained by their Site Auditor product—data from over 200 million pages crawled—and summarized their findings. Their #1 key finding was that 78 percent of all on-page SEO issues were image related. They went on to name the top 2 common on-page SEO issue on the web being:

  1. Images missing title attributes
  2. Images missing alt attributes

But let’s break down what this really means before you get too excited at the prospect of setting those attributes and garnering new traffic to your site.

First, yes, it’s not surprising that there are so many images on websites missing these tags. Marking up every image with a relevant and useful title and alt attribute is not difficult, but when sites are initially built there are hundreds or thousands of images at the outset and setting those attributes is rarely a priority. Unless you have a full-time SEO expert in-house, your web team probably sets those attributes, at best, as an afterthought.

Second, consider this: a typical website, especially one built 3 years ago or older, has an abundance of images as part of the page structure. A complex page template before the content is even added could easily contain 50 structural images. Those images may have the alt tags set, but probably not the title tag. What SEO value does the average structural image like this hold? None. And consider that those images would be counted for every page crawled in the report, inflating their numbers geometrically.

Finally, is it even worth evaluating your site and making changes? Yes. Images in your body content are extremely valuable, and training your web team to properly mark them up will add to your page’s SEO value.

But what this report really reveals is not so much an SEO issue, but an accessibility issue. All those structural images with no value? Every single one needs an alt attribute set to “” so that screen readers know to ignore them. While there is always something new you can do to improve your site’s SEO, accessibility isn’t sexy and site owners who aren’t government funded are generally ignorant of good accessibility practices. Take the first step by improving your image tagging.