I-Search #129: Alt Text

                    I-Search Discussion List
            "Social Search Marketing and Technology"
Moderator:                                          Published by:
Disa Johnson                                        Search Return
May 10, 2007                                  I-Search Issue #129
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                   .....IN THIS DIGEST.....


             "Alt Text"
                         ~ I-Search




==> Alt Text

SearchReturn Tip:  Many SEOs have stuffed page keywords in areas
that don't fundamentally affect the way a page appears.  They do
this in an attempt to get rankings with on page criteria.  Meta
Keywords is one place where keywords are supposed to appear and
they don't affect the way a page displays.  We've covered some
key thinking in a previous issue about how to craft the Meta
Keywords container.

Alt text, on the other hand, is an attribute of the image
container and it deserves specific treatment.  The text does
appear, typically with a mouse hover and tooltip textarea.  The
visually impaired utilize software known as "screen readers"
that essentially read aloud highlighted page text or the contents
of a Web page - including image Alt attributes.

Few things trigger emotions more than stuffed Alt text,
particularly with the visually impaired.  Keyword repetitions are
read aloud over and over and are difficult to skip to make
navigation a pure nightmare on SEO pages.  Bear in mind this is a
large audience of avid Web users that include an elderly
population and all otherwise visually impaired users.

Alt text must depict the image that it applies to and that can in
fact include the use of a keyword where it makes sense.  This is
the seed of the problem when overzealous SEO practitioners took
the idea too far until they disconnected Alt text from its
natural purpose and supplied keyword lists instead of a proper

What makes Alt text increasingly important is that XHTML now
requires the use of it for all your image media.  Your page code
will not validate as XHTML without Alt text for all images.  You
can supply it empty if you want for those images that are used as
spacers (or other non descript images), but you must at least do
so in order to validate your XHTML document.

The consequences of not depicting images properly, or neglecting
Alt text altogether can lead to failure to comply by standards
of design (such as XHTML), or government body certification, and
can even lead to possible lawsuits such as that which Target
experienced recently.

The greatest part about paying attention to Alt text is that it
is perfectly appropriate to supply a keyword that depicts the
image properly - and you actually have to, so go ahead.  Just
avoid stuffing.  Images that link to destination pages can
provide you with opportunities to get creative with keyword
usage.  Keyword use in Alt text is not going to get you a number
one ranking but it benefits your visually impaired users.

Keep your focus on the visually impaired when authoring your Alt
text and you will have the right incentive to write well.
Search engines are paying attention too, and you can appear in
specialized search engines including Google's experimental
Accessible Web Search.  Assume that good Alt text descriptors
help your rankings, and stuffed ones hurt you pretty bad.


Stay Tuned.

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