Using Images With SEO in Mind 

People vs Robots

People and search engine robots who visit websites look for very different things.

Humans like to see something visually pleasing, with nice pictures, graphics, video, and easy-to-find navigation. We like big, friendly greetings that tell us what we are going to find within the site. Personal greetings like “Welcome to Dave's Online Sports Shop” resonate well with human visitors. On the other hand, robots have completely different needs. They like to see lots of textual content they can fit into their algorithms, good site structure with site maps and lots of consistent links. Search engine robots like meaningful meta tags like “Cardiff Bay Online Sports Shop” in the heading of a page. Search engine can read the alternative tags website owners attach to images but they cannot look at and analyse the picture the way that people can.

We all know that a good website needs to be appealing to humans and robots alike, so how can we find the right balance and 'sell' to both kinds of visitor? Here are two easy-to-follow tips to help you.

1)    Swap Text for Images

Those of you familiar with search engine optimisation might think this sounds crazy but there is some text in a website that search engine robots have no interest in. Nice friendly greetings, for example, like “Welcome to my Website” or “Dave's Online Sports Shop” are of no use to a robot as they are not key word driven. They are jolly welcome messages for human visitors.

Change them to header graphics.

By changing the welcome message to a nice big header image using something like Photoshop or the free, you can let your designer loose and create a pleasant, welcome graphic that gets your message across. By using a graphic, you need not rely on standard fonts. By turning your header and buttons into images, you can use whatever font your designer uses, safe in the knowledge that anyone viewing the site will see the same.

Another benefit of using a header graphic is that you can take out words that are not included in your target keywords. When the robots visit your site, they read from left to right and top to bottom. The first 20 and the last 20 words are very important. As we have learned before, they need to match up for the robots to like your site. If you have “Welcome to my Website” in the first sentence, you are wasting valuable text that needs to be saved for key words.

By changing your banner to an image, the robots will skip your friendly welcome for humans and get straight to the juicy bits . . . content and key words.

2)    Alt Image Tags

“Alt Image” ('alt' stands for 'alternative') tags are short pieces of text associated with a picture or graphic.

These have a number of functions. They provide people with information or descriptions of the images if their browsers are set to block images or for browsers designed for impaired sites to provide text alternatives that can be read out. Search engines also use alt image tags to 'read' an image and index it with the rest of the website.

This means that in simple terms, alt image tags are small pieces of text that are hidden to most human visitors. You can therefore use them to add additional key words and phrases to your site, improving your search engine ranking.

Here are a few points to keep in mind when thinking about adding key words to alt image tags.

  • Don't go mad. Four to five key words are enough. The search engine robots can spot attempts to fool them with long lists of hidden meta tags and you could get penalised for it.
  • The alt image tag should include the primary key word for your site.
  • The alt image tag text must make sense to someone actually reading it and must describe what is shown in the image.
  • Include “photo”, “graphic”, or “image” at the end of the alt image tag. This stops the robots seeing the tag as spam.