Don’t ALTer your site to fool the engines!

The ALT tag is used to describe in words the contents of an image on a web page. In this way, people who are visually impaired can use reader software that describes the page to them.

In recent years it has become the target of search engine optimizers who found that it was being used to help decide the ranking for a site. So started the inevitable doom loop of the SEO spammers.

It’s similar to what what happens in tourism. Beautiful place discovered, a few people visit, place becomes more popular, more infrastructure put in, and more infrastructure, locals start to resent tourists, tourists start to find that the beautiful place is no longer beautiful… I think it’s called the "euphoria to xenophobia" cycle.

I digress. In the world of SEO what happens is people spot a potential way to trick the engines, lots of people jump on the bandwagon, and the SEO companies crack down on the exploitation method. This time it’s ALT tags, previously it was META KEYWORD, Hidden text and many more. Recent research by Jerry West of Web Marketing Now has now demonstrated that the ALT tag is no longer used to help rank sites after years of being stuffed with keywords by unscrupulous SEO companies.

West explains, ?“Over the last six months, we have seen a trend on our testing servers that shows that using ALT text for SEO purposes has not only diminished, but adversely affects the rankings in the SERPs [when used incorrectly]. 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. I guarantee you, they do not look favorably at ALT text that has been keyword stuffed."


The bottom line as ever is – search engines want to serve excellent results. Excellent results are full of excellent sites that are well constructed with rich content. Excellent sites also areauthoritativee so link torelevantt outside sites, andrelevantt outside sites link to them. This is the long term strategy for building your sites reach (presence) online.

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Jeremy Webb

Chief & Adventurer

Jeremy WebbDon’t ALTer your site to fool the engines!

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