Google ‘Design & Content Guidelines’: Part 5

This installment of our series on Google’s ‘Design and Content Guidelines’ focuses on the importance of using text with images, so that Google’s search engine bot can easily find and index your web pages.

Google Design and Content Guideline #5: “Try to use text instead of images to display important names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn’t recognize text contained in images. If you must use images for textual content, consider using the “ALT” attribute to include a few words of descriptive text.”

The first part of guideline 5 is pretty straightforward – use text on your web pages as much as possible!  Although images are always more visually appealing for the visitor than text, search bots cannot process images, nor can they process text within images.  Using text ensures that your web pages will be found.

If you need to use an image on a web page in lieu of text, you can place an ALT attribute along with the image.  For a visitor, an ALT attribute will appear as a description of the image if it does not load.  For a search bot, it will provide a textual description of the image that allows it to be found by a search engine.

ALT attributes are written in HTML or XHTML and specify what should be on the web page if the image or item does not load.  When loading a web page with pictures, you will often see text descriptions appear briefly, before the images load.  These are the ALT attributes for those images.

Not all images on your website need ALT attributes, but the most important images should have them.  When writing an ALT attribute, keep the description clear and brief, loading it down with keywords is not necessary and can appear as spam to search engines.

In addition to helping search engines and visitors, ALT attributes also help to make content accessible to visually impaired visitors to your website.  

Now you know a little bit more about the importance of text and ALT attributes.  These tips are just another way to ensure that your web pages are found and understood.

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