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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.
I regularly use ALT Tags and at no point in time, could I precisely conclude it has anything to do with ranks going up/down.
* If you stuff your ALT tags with keywords you get penalized
* If use non-descriptive text for ALT tags you get penalized because Google likes web sites that are accessible, and without ALT tags even on small images your site is inaccessible. This "may" include having target keywords for every ALT tag, but these are still non-descript. They are obvious attempts at manipulating and not serving the ALT tag purpose.
* If you don't use alt tags your site will produce warnings with W3. Google likes (especially for spidering) sites that are easy to read and follow including having every ALT tag labelled.
Just my 2 cents
<= Mouse over the Stickymail graphic in your profile - the alt attribute is 'local msg'.
That alt attribute appears at least 10 times on every page here at webmaster world. alt="local msg"
So you'd expect it was indexed?
There were about 201,000 Google results for site:www.webmasterworld.com webmasterworld
Your search - site:www.webmasterworld.com webmasterworld "local msg" - did not match any documents.
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.
Effectiveness of the alt attribute aside, one thing to consider is that pretty much anything you repeat throughout the entire website (like, "Widget-Mania!") is going to be dampened. Thus, when a product manufacturer does a search for their product, post-Florida their website no longer appears in the first twelve positions of the serps.
You now find that one or two results will come from the manufacturer and the rest of the serps are from sites that talk about it in one way or the other. For instance, I did a Google search for "alt text w3c" which gave me the first two results from w3c, and the rest from sites that talk about it.
Doing a site search of the w3.org for the term "alt text" returns 4,330 results.
A search in Yahoo! returns 5 results from w3.org in the top 10, and the first position is held by a site other than the W3C (now there's food for thought!)
Widgets is used twice in the page title and the two words together are the listed in my Meta keywords. The ONLY other time the two words appear together is on a page header image alt attribute. This would appear to be very significant since my word widgets is very competitive. This page was not deliberately optimised for this particular term. It's high rank is purely coincidence and I am very surprised that it is there at all.
This would appear to fall in with Google's accessibility philosophy since alt text is also used for visually impaired users who use speech synthesizers with text-only browsers that cause this text to be spoken out loud.
WRT the over use of keywords in alt tags/attributes, let's say that you have a navigation menu with twenty options selectable by clicking an interactive button based on an image. Let's say that you named the alt text on this image "widgets menu button". Would it not be valid to name all twenty of them the same? If so would you be penalised for doing so?
* Alt tags have least effect
* Search terms in Domain names have more weightage
* backlinks are not getting updated
* Inner pages are not being crawled
(the content changes are not reflected even after a month)
* Some pages from sites such as www.amazon.com appear in top SERP's just because they have the search term specified once on the page.
[edited by: Grace at 2:32 pm (utc) on Mar. 8, 2004]
Let's say that you named the alt text on this image "widgets menu button". Would it not be valid to name all twenty of them the same? If so would you be penalised for doing so?
A disabled user would probably hope the answer is "Yes." :-)
A better solution would be simply to use the alt text "button." Or, even better, to dump the buttons and use text links.
Actually, I just checked some comeptitor sites and they actually have ALT text stuffed with keywords. It's an obvious attempt to gain rank in SERPS, yet they are #1 in the results! I think it's just a coincidence, where Google just ignores ALT text and looks at the other important stuff like "content" and "backlinks".
Can anyone comment on the significance of my previous message? (Number 21 in this thread.) Is there no significance in the fact that I achieved a very high ranking when the search phrase does not appear in the page title or page text, only in alt text?
The ONLY other time the two words appear together is on a page header image alt attribute
As I stated above google will also read the tag from the header image.
Does the keyphrase appear in the description of the page for that search result on google? If it is appearing in the description then yes it is having an impact. Since the phrase is only used once as a phrase, but the words appear elsewhere seprateley then, phrase + words = content match.