Agreed Steve, I am also seeing unlinked alt text working.
Unfortunately, I can confirm this (independent from the DC). It seems that they changed their policy.
But wouldn't that make sense in a way? Correct me if I'm mistaken, but don't some sites use alt text on images with the handicapped in mind (browsealoud)? Could web accessibility be behind it?
Yea it definitely is being counted and will show in your snippet at times.
Makes sense to me although it is obviously prone to abuse.
I have a 3 word alt-text for the one image on my index page.
The phrase appears nowhere else on that page.
When I Google for the phrase as an exact quote, up comes my page.
Phrase is the FIRST thing in the snippet, followed by stuff that
IS in the page. - Larry
yeah...i found out about this a few days ago. A page I had which previously ranked number 2 for its keyword, now dropped to like page 3 or something. The only difference being that G has now picked up the alt text, and by looking at the new description in the serps for that page (which never changed in 4 years)im assuming there's a proximity issue now. Depending on where the images (alt text) fall in relation to text. I feel alot of folks will be finding this out real soon.
It makes the snippet look absolute garbage sometimes - especially when it doesn't even separate the alt text from the next word.
> Unfortunately, I can confirm this (independent from the DC). It seems that they changed their policy
It's something that has changed quite often in the past. I assume that Google like tweaking options often, to make it harder for people who track correlations to understand how the engine works.
I've had about 3 competitor sites in one area ( based out of Canada ) that have been sitting over me by using this on background singlepx "spacer" gifs ( they appear to "need" these at around 250 per page ) ..
It's been working for them for at least 3 years ..
the algo applied would appear to vary with site content ..
With these sites we are in a very image heavy ( page ) field ..it has always seemed to use this "Keyword stuffing" technique ..In this same "area" my site has always returned its alt texts in searches .
I don't think this is new. On a client's site we're using unlinked alt text to cover a common misspelling of the company name. It's been ranking for the misspelling ever since we added the misspelled alt text about 9 months ago.
In my opinion, it's obvious Google should count even not linked alt text as a text visible on page, and I've seen many examples it does.
Look at this issue from the point of not SEO-optimized site and what's good for users.
In our SEO optimized sites, we usually put paragraph titles in <h1> and <h2> tags. But if someone optimized a page for appearance instead, the title may be made as a nice graphics. And the meaning of the text on this image is normally put into alt attribute. So the only way to get the paragraph title on such a page is to look at alt text.
And clearly Google is designed to deal with such pages, not only with SE optimized ones.
And if someone uses text browser, like lynx, or a voice browser for seeing impaired people, all images are converted to their alt texts.
So it's absolutely natural to count alt text as onpage text, even if this can be abused. But isn't it easy to detect keywords stuffing in alt and apply a penalty?
If snippets look bad with alt text, it means the page isn't properly designed - the same garbage would be perceived with Lynx or voice browser. It's webmaster's duty to design a page so that it looks logical in text version.