For many years now, SEO folks optimizing images have included search-friendly phrases in the ALT text with the confidence that many of the search engines considered the contents of ALT text when determining relevancy. Has this changed?
None of the major search engines consider ALT text in determining relevancy to a web page. According to research by expert SEO researcher Jerry West of WebMarketingNow and Search Engine Academy, at the present time, none of the “Big Three” search engines (Google, Yahoo!, nor MSN), consider ALT text when determining relevancy.
West explained that over the last six months they have seen a trend on their testing servers that shows that using ALT text for SEO purposes has not only diminished, but adversely affects the rankings in the SERPs. It is clear that search engines continue to catch up to ‘SEO tricks’ that are intended to improve search engine ranking while damaging the visitor experience. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) has strict guidelines as to what your site needs to contain in order to be ADA compliant. And West guarantees us they do not look favorably at ALT text that has been keyword stuffed.
West goes on to ask have any of us ever witnessed a visually impaired individual use the web with a device that reads aloud the contents of a web page? The impaired individual will be inundated with what West refers to as ALT Text Spam. Sometimes the reader is stuck on one graphic for more than 40 seconds reading all of the keywords that have been stuffed.
Create your ALT tags to be relevant to your photos, according to a Google engineer, so it gives the user a good experience, including the visually impaired. The ALT text is indexed, but it is downgraded in the algorithm. And this same engineer stated that they see ALT text as relevant as the Keyword Meta tag…that should say it all, according to West, as Google has never used the Keyword Meta tag due to the high spam rate.
How does West’s team test? Click here for the full article – very interesting!