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Same image alt text on many images on same pages... Spam?

     
10:00 am on Feb 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Our pages feature a scrolling display of images, we gave them alt text and in many cases there are 6 -8 - 12 images with the same alt text per page.

Checking google's own cached copy of our pages, with whatever it was (html view) we see a sequence of alt texts, one after the other and all the same.

I am assuming that would be bad practice for Google SEO, what do you think?
11:29 am on Feb 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Mark_A, I can't imagine that the amount of identical alt text you describe is going to help you. Are your images which have the identical alt text all the same themselves? Or is there some difference?

- If the images are different, I would certainly try to come up with sufficient variations to establish whatever progression of images you have. Effectively, your sequence of alt texts is the content for your page. You normally wouldn't have a page of repeated paragraphs or sentences.

- If the images are all the same, motivating the identical alt text, that's not a very good selection of images. In terms of text, a page has to have a beginning, middle, and end... unless say it's something like an ecommerce category of all the same product.

I'd try to creat a page that evolves to the degree that it presents a story.. Don't think of it as for Google. It's really for the user. Put yourself in the position of the user and decide whether that much repeated content would be satisfactory to you. I'm guessing that it would not.

I alao suggest incorporation some visible text on the page. Most image pages I've seen that rank do so because of their text content. Good images help, of course, but the text content is still key, I think, and what's visible to the user carries much more weight than what's in an alt tag behind the scenes.

Time to get creative, and/or to push the writer and the art director (which may be you yourself, or it may be co-workers).

3:37 pm on Feb 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Put yourself in the position of the user


Especially one who is blind or partially-sighted with a screen reader!
8:10 pm on Feb 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Hi, thanks for the responses. I should explain, the page is a normal page with text but about half way down above the fold there is a strip of relevant images, and these images scroll after a few seconds, etc.

Normal visitors don't see the alt text for some reason - even when mouse-overing (hovering over) the images - so the only point in having Alt text is if it gives us any SEO advantage.

IT was when I was checking the google cache of one of the pages that I noticed all the alt texts appeared as a group, and as they were the same on that page, they just looked like an amateur attempt to spam google.

It is possible to say rather than just widget, widget etc .... blue widget, large green widget, small transparent widget etc .. I suppose we should probably do that .. lots of pages with this feature though. Sigh!
8:20 pm on Feb 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Mark A yes I agree each image on the page should have a good alt tag for each image not the same. I consider this IMO as spam
9:45 pm on Feb 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Normal visitors don't see the alt text for some reason - even when mouse-overing (hovering over) the images
You may be confusing alt and title. What you see when hovering--over any element, including but not limited to images--is the <title>, not the <alt>. (Until a few years ago, one major browser intentionally confused the two, treating the alt as if it were a title, but I believe this has long since been regularized.) Normal visitors only see the <alt> if they don't see the image at all; that's what alt (= alternative) means.

so the only point in having Alt text is if it gives us any SEO advantage.
Er, no. The point in having alt text is to make your site useful to visually impaired humans. Or, hypothetically, to humans using text-only browsers like Lynx, but you don't see a whole lot of those.

:: idly thinking back on series of Bureau of Ethnology articles from some years back, where I had no alternative but to give 90% of illustrations the alt text "clay pot, see caption" ::
9:59 pm on Feb 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I love what Wilburforce said

Especially one who is blind or partially-sighted with a screen reader!
10:58 pm on Feb 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Wow, thank you so much for asking this question, it hadn't occurred to me. I have alt tags on all my images, but don't really describe what they are. So on a page about rainbow unicorns I just have 9 images all saying 'rainbow unicorn'. I thought that was best for image search, but I can see how a sight impaired person would find that extremely annoying.

Would it be better to change it so say rainbow unicorn running, rainbow unicorn sleeping, rainbow unicorn babies, rainbow unicorn eating etc?
11:18 pm on Feb 23, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Would it be better to change it so say rainbow unicorn running, rainbow unicorn sleeping, rainbow unicorn babies, rainbow unicorn eating etc?


I would say so, yes. It is easy to picture these without seeing the image, which is a good thing to aim for.
8:44 am on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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a slight modification in the names could be beneficial.
10:17 am on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Hi Lucy24, you might well be right I could be confusing <alt> with <title> and your explanation for what <alt> is for makes a lot more sense. I will go back and check.
4:44 pm on Feb 24, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I could be confusing <alt> with <title>


<title> is a (required) tag, as opposed to title, which, like alt, is an attribute. They differ in that title is a global attribute (it can be used anywhere), while alt is a (required) image attribute. For correct definitions and usage see [w3schools.com ] (alt) and [w3schools.com ] (title).

IE7 and earlier versions show alt in the same way as title on mouseover, but I haven't seen any other browser do it. If both are present, only title is displayed on mouseover.

Screen readers are another matter - my only direct experience is with Chromevox, which I use for testing. Chromevox will read title if alt is missing, but will read only alt where both are present. This behaviour may not be consistent with other readers, so using title instead of alt may compromise accessibility.

Although title is always optional, my advice (and personal practice) is to use it as well as alt with images, and in place of alt with css sprites.
10:59 am on Feb 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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BTW I was wrong, it was title tags not alt tags. My mistake. We are looking at how many pages we have to update.
12:15 pm on Feb 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Thank you for asking this question.

Let's say I've 10 articles. Each of them has only one unique images, so there are 10 images respective but the alt text of all images is same. Is this fine?
1:14 pm on Feb 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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The last title attribute experiments I ran, which were a while ago, suggested that title attributes, used with href links, are not indexed by Google... at least they are not found in the visible index.

I myself only use title attributes in links as messages to the user, similar to tool tips. They're useful for suggesting to the user what to do next, and can even be a call to action, but don't overdo it. For best UX, title attributes should not repeat either anchor text nor alt text.

Alt attributes (aka alt text) can be much more important for SEO. Google recommends that in image links you try hard to use img alt attributes, or else to use text links with well-chosen anchor text which might be helpful to Google in understanding your pages. The importance of alt text in the algo can change over time. There was a period some years back when alt text was so over-used that the search engines disregarded it.

Note that alt text should describe the image... not list keywords.

Note also that spacer gifs, decorative text, etc, should have what I'd call empty alt attributes... ie, double quotes containing no text... as in ""...primarily for users who use screen readers.

Otherwise, lacking empty alt text, the screen reader will read the entire url of the image file, or else repeat the phrase "spacer gif" or whatever has been used.


9:34 pm on Feb 26, 2018 (gmt 0)

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For best UX, title attributes should not repeat either anchor text nor alt text.
I make an exception in the case of image-as-text--which, of course, should be used sparingly. For example if I've got an illustration of a book cover, the <alt> will say "cover image" with possibly a bit of description if there's a picture of something, and then the full text; the <title> will give only the text. Better to have double markedness with the chance of redundancy than have readers miss out on text.

For things like decorative dividing lines, I'll often use "----" or similar for the alt, so the appropriate information gets conveyed. Maybe let it look like the decoration: "x x x" or "-- O --" or whatever it may be.
12:25 am on Feb 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Normal visitors don't see the alt text for some reason - even when mouse-overing (hovering over) the images - so the only point in having Alt text is if it gives us any SEO advantage.


Tim Berners-Lee was an SEO of course and W3c is one of the best SEO sites out there...
12:38 am on Feb 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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For things like decorative dividing lines, I'll often use "----" or similar for the alt, so the appropriate information gets conveyed. Maybe let it look like the decoration: "x x x" or "-- O --" or whatever it may be.

What would this experience be like for a visually impaired visitor? I've never used a screen reader, so I don't know, but I'm thinking that what you've described might be very confusing for someone who couldn't see, but who was trying to get the sense of what a web page was saying.

The point of alt text is that, as a description, the words will be read by a piece of software and turned into audio. Now, is the audio for "----" or "x x x" or "-- O --" likely to be coherent? Does the reading software try to pronounce these text strings, or does it read the text letter by letter?

If the latter... ie, letter by letter... is there some sort of conventional usage, where using letters of the alphabet to emulate a visual pattern would make any sense at all to a blind user on the site? Sounds to me like you might be trying to describe an ASCII drawing by reading all the letters. ;)

And even if this were interpretable, would it be useful information, or would it be overkill?

Might alt text abstracting the text patterns into a function, like "dividing line" or "border", be perhaps more useful...? Or would this kind of minute description, condensed down into its layout function, still be distracting? In the larger scheme of things would it be essentially noise?

That's a judgement call that would depend on whether these descriptions make the whole page more or less clear, and more or less useful to the visitor.

12:45 am on Feb 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I agree with Robert here W3c have always said that it perfectly acceptable to have blank alt tags for decorative elements of the page, I just add alt="" to the decorative image, the screen reader then knows to skip this. Additionally remove the title tag as well.

[w3.org...]
1:27 am on Feb 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I should think that if a screen reader can render "--" appropriately (which it pretty well has to do, to deal with the painfully many websites that haven't got the hang of or &mdash;) it should have no particular trouble with "----".
1:41 am on Feb 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I should think that if a screen reader can render "--" appropriately (which it pretty well has to do, to deal with the painfully many websites that haven't got the hang of or &mdash;) it should have no particular trouble with "----".


Depends on screen reader JAWS will say "M DASH", NVDA Ignores and VoiceOver briefly pauses.
1:43 am on Feb 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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lucy24 - Again, I've never listened to a screen reader. What does is "say" when it sees "----"?

- "dash, dash, dash, dash
- "d-d-d-dash"
- "h-h-hy-hyphens"
- "four hyphens"
- "a line composed of dashes"

Is whatever it says useful or evocative to the user?

I'm not asking about the technical capability of the screen reader software. I'm asking about how this helps a blind user scope out the meaning of the page. In other words, why put into alt text characters that are essentially a diagramatic representation of what the user cannot see, if the user can't see those either?

2:03 am on Feb 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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Robert it would depend on the screenreader

either nothing, a brief pause, "dash dash dash dash" or "minus minus minus minus"

alt="" (and no title or title="") all will know to skip
8:38 am on Feb 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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I've never listened to a screen reader. What does is "say" when it sees "----"?


I certainly wouldn't put myself up as a good example of how to treat disability - I'm somewhere down in the Foothills of Ignorance - but a very large number of disabled people started out like the rest of us, and it may be any one of us one day.

Listening to a screen reader will give you a better idea of how your site comes across to people who have to use one. Chromevox and NVDA - among others - are free, although commercial readers are probably more widely-used.

Chromevox says "four dashes".
12:05 pm on Feb 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

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All of my images are alt="" UNLESS I can describe them for a blind person in a useful fashion. A line means nothing, decorations mean nothing. Arrows (for navigation) however might be "go back to previous" or "go forward to next" or "click to check out". Otherwise it is "cat" "dog" "cat and dog" "cat and dog drinking water from a bowl" "cat and dog fight" or...

I rarely use title="" unless a mouseover by a sighted user can provide ADDITIONAL useful information not contained in the body text.
 

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