By Robin Nobles
For years, search engine optimizers have included their
important keyword phrases in
text for images, feeling confident that many of the search engines considered
the contents of
text when determining relevancy.
The big question is, has this changed?
Yes . . .
None of the Major
Text When Determining Relevancy
According to research by expert SEO researcher
of WebMarketingNow and
Academy, at the present time, none of the “Big Three” search engines (Google,
text when determining relevancy.
West explains, “Over the last six months, we have seen
a trend on our testing servers that shows that using ALT text for SEO purposes
has not only diminished, but adversely affects the rankings in the SERPs. It
is clear that search engines continue to catch up to 'SEO tricks' that are
intended to improve search engine ranking while damaging the visitor
experience. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) has strict guidelines as to
what your site needs to contain in order to be ADA compliant. I guarantee you,
they do not look favorably at ALT text that has been keyword stuffed.
“Have you ever witnessed a visually impaired individual
use the Web? With a device which reads aloud the contents of a Web page, the
impaired individual will be inundated with what I refer to as, ALT Text Spam.
Sometimes the reader is stuck on one graphic for more than 40 seconds reading
all of the keywords that have been stuffed.
“According to a Google engineer, what you should do is
create an ALT tag that is relevant to the picture, so it gives the user a good
experience, including the visually impaired. The ALT text is indexed, but it
is down graded in the algorithm. The reason?
"'We see ALT text as relevant as
the Keyword Meta tag,’ said the Google engineer. That should say it all as Google
has never used the Keyword Meta tag due to the high spam rate.
"How do we test? I have outlined our testing methodology
below," continues West.
"Our Testing Setup:
- We have four servers (Two Apache servers, one
Windows, one Sun Solaris);
- Each server is located in a different part of
- Each test sever has 16 test domains;
- Domains are matched in pairs for A/B testing;
- All domains are "dot com"; no testing
is done with other extensions for the algorithms;
- The 8 pairs are configured as follows: 3 pages,
8 pages, 25 pages, 50 pages, 100 pages, 150 pages, 300 pages, 500 pages;
- When performing testing, one of the domains in
the pair is tested while the other remains constant;
- Due to varying issues within the algorithms, it
takes approximately six weeks to see consistent numbers in order to
formulate accurate conclusions."
What Does This Mean to SEOs?
Search engine optimizers no longer need to use keyword
phrases in the
text of images on their Web pages.
However, let’s look at a smarter approach.
I’ve been recommending to my online
and offline SEO
students for a
long time that they needed to use
text in the manner in which it was designed to be used by the W3C: to describe
the image. Then, they can include the keyword phrase in one or two images on
the page, if appropriate.
Continuing with that strategy is still viable. The major
engines don’t consider the contents of
text now, but that doesn’t mean they won’t six months from now. Always
remembering the “basics” is one of the best strategies to follow.
Text Tips . . .
that the purpose of
text is to describe the image for the benefit of those who surf the Web
with images turned off and for those who have the contents of Web pages
read out loud to them. The WC3 highly recommends that Web site owners use
text to describe images.
your keyword phrase in one or two instances of
text on the page – no more. Use moderation in everything you do in
search engine optimization.
use text that is non-relevant to the image. Don't keyword stuff. Jerry West
adds, “Give the visitor information that is worthwhile, especially for
the visually impaired.”
using a description below the graphic. Based on recent test results, this
is read often,” states West.
remember to be compliant, not just with the W3C, but also with the
ADA. It all comes down to intent. If your intent is to fool the search engine
into giving you a higher ranking, you are performing 'grey or black
hat' strategies. Stay on the right side of the path and the engines will
Remember . . .
text is Just One “Piece of the Pie”
Relevancy and ranking are determined by over 100
different factors. ALT
text was just one piece of that pie,
a sliver at that.
Don’t ever focus on just one piece of the pie. Always
remember the basics – the SEO foundation – and make sure it’s solid.
If you know you’re weak in one or two areas, you know
you'll have to beef up on other pieces of the SEO pie.
We’ll talk more about the “SEO pie” in future
Robin Nobles teaches 2-,
3-, and 5-day hands-on search
engine marketing workshops in locations across the globe as well as online
SEO training courses. They have recently launched localized SEO training
For more information about Jerry West
and his research, visit his Web
site and consider signing up for his newsletter. It comes
out every week and is backed by solid research.
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