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What's the general recommended maximum length, and just how descriptive do they need to be? I've seen some that had what I'd consider too much; mine have always been only a specific phrase.
Right now, it'll be for a very large site with multiple products and keywords, practically all dynamic, and the alt text will remain uniform thoughout all of the site pages, except for several HTML pages which I'll have the opportunity to change when I do the text modifications and optimization.
I know the ones used throughout should reflect the primary keyword phrase for the site; it's a question of deciding how many more, or whether that will be enough.
I can probably do more in this area than I have been. Any suggestions?
But I'm looking further than just that, I'd like to start making better use of the alt tags and give them more attention, even on more traditional type of sites.
I always try to keep in my mind the human reviewers that may or may not be looking through and seeing the ALT tags that I have put into place. Are they going to be mad that I have 15 words in 1 ALT tag?.....Probably. Are too many keywords in the ALT tags going to trigger an alarm....Probably.
This being said, I think that although ALT tags are not the most important thing on anyone's To Do list, they should be done with a certain level of care.
They can help, not only in SEO, but from a design and usability stand-point.
In addition to the alt="", you can use either longdesc="" or a description link.
Both provide references to text alternate pages which would describe the image in detail, but the former isn't supported by all browsers. The latter places a "d" next to the image with a link to the description.