Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from 54.158.228.55

Forum Moderators: open

Message Too Old, No Replies

Experience with ALT tags

Triggering Google's "over optimised" alarm

     
7:57 pm on Mar 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I'd like to share some recent experiences with ALT tags and invite feedback from others. My SEO experience is probably a little unusual. I run a system that offers self-editing templates to around 300 clients. We hide virtually all technology from clients, but we seek to offer SEO partly by advising clients on content, but also (as it is usually over their heads) by automated means.

Up until the end of 2003, one thing that was working quite well was image ALT tags. Now it isn't. We'd automatically/dynamically tag all images which clients put in, with the appropriate target search phrase for a page. We'd also dynamically tag various parts of the template with their phrases.

Around December clients started disappearing from Google completely, and after some investigation, it appears that the ALT tags have been the problem. I have a few "theories", that I'd like to put forward to see if anyone has similar hunches.

1) Google has some kind of ratio between keyword presence in text content and keyword presence in non-text content, and if you overdo the non-content, you're out

2) Google favours large images (not sure if these are dimensionally large or file size large) and if you use keyword rich alt tags on small images you're in trouble, especially if you use them a few times

3) Repetition of the same keyword rich ALT tag is a no-no, unless there is plenty of rich content to balance it out. I have clients where the same keyword rich ALT tag is very relevant, and some do well with it, others are dropped out. Can't work out the difference though - possibly point (2) above.

10:56 pm on Mar 8, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



The keyphase is not in the description. The two words are there but separated. The only place the phrase appears is in the alt text and the meta keywords.
1:36 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Hagstrom,

Thanks - I rest my case......

BallochBD - are they in the anchor text of incoming links?

Chris_D

1:49 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



"As I stated above google will also read the tag from the header image."

This seems so vague... a header area may have mutiple images and Google doesn't interpret which is more important than the other. So what is the header image? Is this a technical term associated with one particular image that is strategically placed on a page?

7:31 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Thanks - I rest my case......

..and thank you for pointing out this very interesting example (msg. #15).

In my experience, Google certainly uses alt-text – my site is #1 for terms close to ”next page”, ”previous page” – words that only appear in alt-text.

I wish I could explain your example. Maybe it’s the size of the image (that makes sense – except that the size is not specified) or maybe it’s the number of times the exact same text appears on one page?

8:05 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Chris_D, they are not in any inbound anchor text either.

Hagstrom, the image is one of two smallish images that make up the page header. As I said in msg. 21 they do not appear in the page text at all. This is why I thought it was significant.

This is a small (13 page) site that uses a template for the basic structure meaning that the page header is exactly the same for all pages.

8:52 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



It is not a bug. It is part of the MICROSOFT internet explorer specification and implementation. It is not part of the W3C specification. However, having the text show when you mouse over is INTENTIONAL and was specifically designed into IE.

Is there any proof to say that IE was specifically designed to do this? Not saying your wrong Rich, just want to see the facts before hand :)

Craig

9:09 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Guys, bugs in Internet explorer are off topic, this thread is about the use of alt text WRT Google.
9:24 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Chris_D, I think I have the answer:

It's true, as you say, that

 site:www.webmasterworld.com webmasterworld "local msg"
doesn't give any results, but
 site:www.webmasterworld.com webmasterworld "view user profile"
gives 190.000 results - so what's the difference between the two images?

The difference (glad you asked) is that "view user profile" points to a real page, which is indexed by Google, whereas "local msg" points to a FORM with

 <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX">
in the header.
9:48 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Hagstrom, the image is one of two smallish images that make up the page header. As I said in msg. 21 they do not appear in the page text at all. This is why I thought it was significant.

I think it has now been established, that Google looks at alt-text (I told you, I was #1 for words like "next page", "previous" page.)

You can easily (dis)prove this yourself: If you search for "widgets Glasgow" (with quotes) - does the Google snippets include your alt-text?

9:55 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Now, after having chased a few wild geese - and after having debated at length whether "alt" is an attribute or a tag - and after discussing whether Microsoft or W3C are the better browser designers - let's return to the topic.

The OP has experienced that his alt-attributes do not carry the weight that they used to.

A few experiments will show that alt-attributes are indeed ignored by Google for un-linked images. I'm not sure it has always been so. Maybe Google changed their algo in this respect, at the same time the OP discovered his problems?

10:35 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Hey Hagstrom,

Good pick up!

So - what you have found is that Google DOES index the alt attribute - but only where there is no 'outbound link text' - i.e. it's indexed as a 'substitute for link text'.

So it looks like, if there is no anchor text, and there is no title tag - Google will actually index the alt attribute as the 'pseudo anchor text' - as a 'last resort' to label the link.

But - if you try the same test on an image which has an alt attribute - where the image isn't a link (or is a link pointing to a non indexable page) then Google will ignore the alt attribute.

Excellent!

10:43 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



A few experiments will show that alt-attributes are indeed ignored by Google for un-linked images. I'm not sure it has always been so.

I have seen alt text being used as keywords on un-linked images in the last month. Only thing on the page is an image, one word from the title tag was used and the rest came from the alt text.

Craig

11:08 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



A few experiments will show that alt-attributes are indeed ignored by Google for un-linked images.

Can I just repeat what I said in message 35? This is an unlinked image. It part of the page header on a template.

Hagstrom, when I do a search for widgets Glasgow, both with or without quotes, the alt text does show up in the snippets.

Surely this proves categorically that this is what is getting the page found and that Google ranks alt text? What it does not prove is why the page has such a high ranking.

11:15 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



So - what you have found is that Google DOES index the alt attribute - but only where there is no 'outbound link text' - i.e. it's indexed as a 'substitute for link text'.
So it looks like, if there is no anchor text, and there is no title tag - Google will actually index the alt attribute as the 'pseudo anchor text' - as a 'last resort' to label the link.

Thanks, but I don't think I can take credit for finding that out :)

But - if you try the same test on an image which has an alt attribute - where the image isn't a link (or is a link pointing to a non indexable page) then Google will ignore the alt attribute.

It would take a lot more to prove it - but the part about non-indexable pages makes sense: A page that is not indexed is, SEO-wise, a black hole. The present page (before I posted) had a total a 77 links, 9 of which were leading into this black hole.

Multiply this by - say - 200.000 pages, and WebMasterWorld would not be leaking PageRank - it would be haemorrhaging! I'm sure Brett would have taken steps to counteract it, if this was the case :)

11:20 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Hagstrom, when I do a search for widgets Glasgow, both with or without quotes, the alt text does show up in the snippets.

How competitive is the term that you are ranking well for.

11:24 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Can I just repeat what I said in message 35? This is an unlinked image.

No, you can't repeat it - because you never said it ;)

By an un-linked image, I mean one that does not appear between <a> and </a>.

A linked image looks like this:

<a href="asdf.htm"><img src="asdf.gif" alt="widgets"></a> 
. Clicking the image will bring you to a new page, and Google will use the alt-text (in this example "widgets") as anchor-text.
11:26 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Hagstrom, when I do a search for widgets Glasgow, both with or without quotes, the alt text does show up in the snippets.

So you have proved -> that Google looks at alt-text.

11:42 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



By an un-linked image, I mean one that does not appear between <a> and </a>.

I would hope that people knew what was meant by an un-linked image ;) I think that is what has been talked about through the whole thread.

11:56 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Does anyone have any humble pie?

I must come back in to apologise for misleading you all. I had forgotten that my header image linked back to the home page. DOH!

(At least I had the cojones to admit it :o)

Sorry again folks!

11:59 am on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I would hope that people knew what was meant by an un-linked image

I just wanted to make sure. BallochBD in msg #35 wrote, "they are not in any inbound anchor text" - nothing about whether the image was linked.

You say you have found un-linked images, where Google has indexed the alt-text. Where these the rule or the exception?

I think that is what has been talked about through the whole thread.

Except for time spent on the attribute/tag-bickering and the M$-bashing ;)

<added>Just saw your post BallochBD</added>

12:10 pm on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



OK - so we are back to msg 41 and 44 being the current state of play.

I've checked quite a few - where the words in the alt don't appear anywhere else on the page, and the image itself is not a link - and the alt tags aren't indexed.....

12:13 pm on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



The images that I have seen are un-linked.
12:22 pm on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Craig - did you look at the cache? Are you sure its not offpage inbound link text?
1:20 pm on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Not that I have seen, it's my site. It runs as an album of pictures related to cars, click one image link and then you get an html page that has one image on the page, no other text or images. The stats and when I check myself shows that part of the title text and the alt text are used to gain results.

I have since changed the site a little and I dont think that I will be able to reproduce the same results as it was respidered recently. I will have a go though :)

4:43 pm on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



FYi, see [webmasterworld.com...] for continuation of "off-topic" discussion on ALT tag behavior.
5:18 pm on Mar 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bigdave is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



The ALT attribute should always be used, and it should only be used for its intended purpose of describing the image.

The only SEO that should be done on it is to make sure that the text also serves the SE as well as the end user with a disability.

If you think about it, proper ALT attributes should naturally give you some on-topic keywords.

- Any pictures on your page should be related to your topic.

- ALT text should describe your picture that conveniently relates to your topic.

If I have a page about cooking pizza, I might have a picture of my "wood-fired pizza oven" or "adding toppings to pizza". Wow! Look there! I fit pizza into two different ALT attributes on the page in a natural way. I also worked in some other words that users might search with.

Then there might just be some images that would not have pizza in it, but still have spider food while serving the user. "Slicing mushrooms", "Grating the cheese", etc. These terms are still related to pizza and will help drive traffic.

If you are just using the tag to keyword stuff, instead of describing the images, then you seserve to have your site removed from the serps.

8:45 am on Mar 12, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Good point Dave and you are of course correct, it is not difficult to create alt text that helps both SEO and users.
11:59 am on Mar 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Hi BigDave,

That point was actually made much earlier in this thread - way back in msg 15

I think you're barking up the wrong tree - alt attributes are good for accessibility by text browsers, and for the disabled - use them for that purpose
12:19 pm on Mar 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Yes Chris but they are definitely also recognised by the algorithm. Logically this is what you would expect. I know this can be manipulated but if a site has an image link to another page called widgets.html and the image is called "image of widgets" it would be reasonable to assume that there was some content about widgets in there?
4:23 pm on Mar 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



BigDave has summarized it nicely.

Here are some of my own thoughts on the subject.

Every page has a fair amount of image tags on it. Many images are relevant to the content of the page, some are there to aid navigation, and some appear for aesthetic reasons.

The only images that require the alt attribute are the content-relevant images and the navigational aids. Now, if I were google I would not want to count equally the alt attributes of navigational aids and “content-images”. So maybe filtering out small size (let's say smaller than 60 px) would make sense. Furthermore, if I were google I would find the appearance of alt content on small images suspicious. For instance, there is no need to provide an alt tag for a one-pixel, or a ten-pixel image.

Now, for the content-related images the alt tags must be very detailed if they are to fulfill their function properly. I once visited a site that was specifically designed for visually impaired people. I was surprised at how detailed the alt attribute of the images was. Each was a complete paragraph that described the image in great detail.

So if I were a search engine I would be trying to understand what is content, what is navigation, and what is aesthetics. Then I would be attempting to categorize the importance of the alt tags differently. I would not eliminate alt content from my algorithms though.

I am not sure how google thinks (ok, I know, google does not really think), but I believe in the long run all search engines would think this way.

I often also wandered how alt content affects the way search engines index images.

This 76 message thread spans 3 pages: 76
 

Featured Threads

Hot Threads This Week

Hot Threads This Month