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Keyword use in IMG ALT attributes

Overview

The original HTML standard has always been geared with the idea of linking text documents together, but even from the earliest days there has been support for displaying images.

In the starting days of the internet effective download speed were very slow and even pages containing text may take many seconds to display.

When people started using images download times increased drastically and often the browsers allowed you to ‘turn off images’.

For web pages that realised on graphics to be usable, this presented a real issue. Fortunately images had always had the ability to contain a text description about what the image was about.

Now known as the IMG ALT tag it’s not only used for the above instances, but also is now a great component in making web pages accessible to users with a visual impairment.

In addition because search engines like Google cannot see images, they also look at this tag with regards to understanding images.

History of Keyword use in IMG ALT attributes

As soon as spammer learnt that search engines like Google looked at the IMG ALT text with regards to ranking, it initially became a great way to cheap you page to the top of Google.

Quickly Google has constantly looked for way to reduce this effect and initially discounted IMG ALT text substantially.

With Google starting to move back to on page content as its primary route for looking at SERPS, IMG ALT text has once again become more important.

But there is a big but…

With all the search engine optimisation techniques spoken about on this site, if you use too many tricks to try and increase you SERP, Google is likely to see an un natural page and penalise accordingly.

Google proof your search engine optimisation for the <h2> to <h6> tags

While it is true that no one outside of Google knows the mechanism for determining rank in its search engine listing, we do know Google likes the top ten pages for a given phrase for a reason, and it is this fact we can use to formulate our strategy.

The reason for looking at the top ten as a whole is that it allows us to remove the ‘freak’ results of any one website.

Optimising the body text for the phrase Gary Barlow on 17th December 2012 on Google UK

We could look at any phrase but it makes sense to look at a popular term. It’s also important to note that the internet is a fluid place and analysis on one day and with one search engine can be different on another day on another engine.

Looking at the top ten results the following can be seen

Search term: “Gary Barlow”
Number of keywords: 0 to 19
Keyword density: 0% to 83%

Search term: “Gary”
Number of keywords: 0 to 19
Keyword density: 0% to 41%

Search term: “Barlow”
Number of keywords: 0 to 19
Keyword density: 0% to 41%

Keywords “Gary” or “Barlow”
of keywords: 0 to 38
Keyword density: 0% to 41%

Generally you would look to get as high in the above range as possible without going over the largest figure. If you were to work though the above you would quickly discover if you tried to hit the top of the range for ‘Gary Barlow’ you may not be able to hit the individual elements within the long tail search term.

In this instance the best way forward would be work out ‘your best fit’, wait for Google to reindex and re evaluate that that point.