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    Misuse of Alt tags


    Hello all,

    I did try a search to answer my question but since the search doesnt accept 3 letter words then i didnt get very far.

    I have noticed that a lot of sites use alt tags as if they were title tags. Now according to accessibilty guidlines this is a bit of misuse.

    Basically i see something like <img src="phone.jpg" alt="Buy the nokia n70" /> when it should be <img src="phone.jpg" alt="Small phone image" title="Buy the Nokia N70" />.

    Now i think that this happens because (rightly or wrongly) a lot of people have been told that search engines use the alt tags when ranking a page.

    So to my question, how much weight does an alt tag hold? Does the title tag hold any weight at all? Does the title tag hold any weight when used in a <a href> link?

    Basically i need to know this because our SEO guy insists on us having the alt tags like above whilst i disagree as i am developing to strict XHTML standards and aiming for accessibility guidlines which specifically state that title should be used as in my example above.

    Thanx for your time, all insight is welcomed.
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    Last time I checked, the title attributes didn't hold any weight at all. IMO, it would have been better to have the "visible" title text hold SEO value as opposed to the "often hidden" alt text. But alas.

    I don't like to stuff alt attributes with keywords either. That said - being an SEO - I would always use alt texts of the type "mysubtlekeyword logo" rather than "big logo picture". I feel it's often possible to come to a compromise between SEO and accessibility.

    Also know that alt texts are not that powerful when it comes to SEO. Even on images within <a> </a> elements, they are not nearly as effective as proper anchor texts
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    if the image is hyperlinked to a page where u can buy the nokia n70 then the image alt is best as "Buy the nokia n70".

    where there is a hyperlinked image, the image should describe the link and the alt should also describe the link (or replace the image if the image does not describe the link as it should). examples:

    http://www.google.com/intl/en/about.html (alt of logo image describes link with "Go to Google Home")

    http://www.google.com/about.html (alt of logo image replaces image text simply by saying "Google")

    http://www.w3.org/ (alt of logo image replaces image text by saying "The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)")

    ...what neither does is say "this is a logo of blaaaa" because that's relatively unnecessary information.

    if u insist on "describing" the image with the alt then this should only be done when the image is not hyperlinked.

    also, i think the title should be the same as the alt but i dont use titles and neither do either of the links above so i can't really comment here

    from an seo perspective, alt tags are important because the image is otherwise useless. i would assume that the bigger the image, the more weight it's alt should have, but that's probably just the ideal and not the reality.

    hope that helps
    Last edited by Chat; Sep 29th, 2006 at 04:13 AM.
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    ALT is not only important from the seo perspective, it is also important from the web designers point of view where if some of the users use a browser which does not show pics, or mabe if the picture is not loading, the alt tag info will be displayed in case of the picture.

    so this is important both ways. so keep your alt small and descriptive.

    BTW i havent know any relation to say more the size of the image, more the weight its alt should have- from what chat said.
    this is because you can have a the same picture in a larger size .[for example your logo]
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    Originally Posted by nix
    BTW i havent know any relation to say more the size of the image, more the weight its alt should have- from what chat said.
    this is because you can have a the same picture in a larger size .[for example your logo]
    and you can have the same text in different sizes (h1, h2...etc) but the big h1 has more weight than the smaller h2. have 5 links to one site and 1 to another then the site with 5 links will take the greater pr weight. it's a general theory that the more u emphasise something with size/quantity the more important it is and the more weight it deserves from ur pr. same would allpy to regular text that's bigger deserving more weight than the small print. although text size is mainly style rather than markup, there is a semantic element in the size of some text relative to the rest of the text on the page. image sizes are usually written in mark up too, i don't know whether search engines check this though. like i said, this is just an ideal and probably not the reality. if google are hiring and reading this post - call me, i'll be happy to help
    Last edited by Chat; Sep 29th, 2006 at 04:35 AM.
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    Thank you for your replies,

    @Dzine:
    I dont like to stuff my alt tags full of keywords either, hense the post. I take what you said on board though, a little keyword cant hurt, e.g Nokia Phone image.

    @Chat
    Great references, but "Goto google homepage" is a misuse of the alt tag in my book, it doesnt decribe the image itself. The title should be "Goto google homepage", the alt should be "google logo", thoughts?

    @nix
    Yes i completely understand the point of alt tags to give users a discription of the image if it doesnt load or if they are on a screen reader etc, hense the point of this post really. An alt tag shouldnt say "buy the phone" it should describe what the image is, the title text should be "buy the phone".

    I guess it doesnt really matter but its nice to see everones thoughts, and the more i reread through what you guys have said the importance of my argument and the title tag seems less and less
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    Having tex is a different matter since it provides a material for understanding. not meaning that images dont but that their are a majority of images on web for example in galleries, now most of them are shown first in thumbnails and then in large view, in whichever case the purpose of the image does not change and hence it doesnt matter.

    also if you keep a larger alt, it will dilute the effect of your KW whatever it be.

    google and other SE's use image ALT tags to primarily find images for image search and for the purpose of knowing what the image is for.

    now if you search for a keyword in image search, if your alt is very long, most probably your image will not be shoen in top serps of image search.

    keep your alt brief and precise for the best results, in seo and in general.
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    "goto google homepage" is proper, and is in no way a misuse.
    misuse is when you repeat you main keyword more than thrice ~ keyword stuffing

    i would use my keyword twice, but yet some people like to push the line.

    yes if the google alt would be something like "google logo google homepage google main page ~ google" it would be spam.
    Last edited by nix; Sep 29th, 2006 at 05:01 AM.
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    Originally Posted by chewie
    @Chat
    Great references, but "Goto google homepage" is a misuse of the alt tag in my book, it doesnt decribe the image itself. The title should be "Goto google homepage", the alt should be "google logo", thoughts?
    ALT = Alternate Information Format. It is meant to give equivalent information, not describe the information that would have otherwise existed. Go to Google Homepage may be a misuse of alt, but only because the image is misused as a hyperlink. The image should say "Google Home" because it links to Google Home, and then the alt of "Go to Google Home" would be a good alternate format of this. Alt is not ideally exactly the same as a description, although they are very similar.
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    Originally Posted by Chat
    ALT = Alternate Information Format. It is meant to give equivalent information, not describe the information that would have otherwise existed. Go to Google Homepage may be a misuse of alt, but only because the image is misused as a hyperlink. The image should say "Google Home" because it links to Google Home, and then the alt of "Go to Google Home" would be a good alternate format of this. Alt is not ideally exactly the same as a description, although they are very similar.
    Thats a brilliant summary of what i was thinking. Well my questions have been answered very well here.

    Thank you all for your responces.

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