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Old 22nd April 2006, 10:21 AM   #1
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Default Are ALT Tags Back?

Hey,

Where are all our SEOs? I have a question. I noticed the home page of one of my sites was ranking high for a phrase that did not appear in the copy. The keyphrase was in the title. It had been awhile since I launched the site (years!) so I looked at a Google text cache to see if the phrase was anywhere else.

Other than the title, it was in a few ALT tags. That was it. So, I tried a little experiment. I removed that phrase and put in a new keyphrase. I put it in the title and in the ALT tags just as the first one had been.

Within a week I went from nowhere-to-be-found to #17 on Google. I thought ALT tags were all but ignored these days so I had not been making a big deal about writing ALT tags when I wrote copy for my clients. Have they grown in relevance again or do you think this quick increase in rank might be due to the fact that the term I chose is so-so in competitiveness?

I think I'll try one more experiment and switch the term to a more competitive phrase and see what happens.

Any thoughts?

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Old 23rd April 2006, 12:34 AM   #2
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Try putting the phrase in just the alt attributes, and not in the title tag, and see what happens.

I know the title tag is generally considered fairly important. For a low competition phrase, the title tag alone might be enough to get visible rankings.

I believe that Google has gone back to indexing all alt attributes for awhile now, after a period of time during which they apparently only indexed alt attributes related to linked images. What sort of weight they would give these alt attributes, though, I'm not sure.

I suppose it's possible that the combination of title tag and alt attributes would be enough to boost a page for a relatively uncompetitive phrase. Whether the alt attributes alone would be enough would be interesting to test.

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Old 23rd April 2006, 07:16 AM   #3
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When you search google for [allintitle:"your term"] how many other sites have the keyword in the title tag?

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Old 23rd April 2006, 08:38 AM   #4
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Well of course one should always use alt attributes if for usability's sake if nothing else. The common rule is to either use alt attribute text that describes the image if it is not linked and if it is linked, describe the page it is linking to. If you desire to use nothing such as with images spacers, use alt="".

Google has always indexed alt attributes whether used in hyperlinked images or not but when I last checked, they gave little to no relevance to alt attributes behind images that were not linked to another page.

What was the case with yours, Karon? Linked or not linked?

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Old 23rd April 2006, 08:49 AM   #5
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Logan - 911 show up when I do an "allintitle" search.

David - One is linked, two are not linked.

Torka - Good idea! I'll try that as part of the test, too.

Other ideas/thoughts? I love doing stuff like this!

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Old 23rd April 2006, 03:06 PM   #6
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OK, I've taken keyword 1 out of the title tag and replaced it with keyword 2. I do not have keyword 2 in any ALT tags or in the copy anywhere. Right now I'm not ranked anywhere in the top 50 for keyword 2.

It will be interesting to see if:

1. Keyword 1 stays at #17, higher or lower since I've removed it from the title tag but left it in the alt tag.

2. If keyword 2 gets decent rankings just from the title tag since it's a little more competitive than keyword 1.

Let the games begin!

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Old 23rd April 2006, 09:08 PM   #7
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This could be a nice experiment. I don't know of any new knowledge about alt tags... been out of the algo chasing loop for a long time. I'm just going to make a guess...

Number one won't happen and number two will.

Reason I say that is you mentioned G and it's been years since you've made changes. My guess is the age of your site and the authority you have with it will make number two do well with just using it in the title tag.

That's my guess and I'm sticking with it.

Paul

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Old 23rd April 2006, 11:33 PM   #8
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This thread is especially interesting to me because I just spent a couple hours last night removing a bunch of alt content from my site. Back in my newbie days (not that long ago ... LOL), I was slapping alt text everywhere thinking that was a good thing. Then I realized it was probably making my site look spammy to the SEs so I took most of it out, except where it made sense to leave it in, especially if the image was a link.

Anyway, I'll be watching this thread.

And I'm voting for number 2 as well Karon!

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Old 24th April 2006, 06:44 AM   #9
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Yeah, like you, I used to make a big point of writing ALT content for client sites. While I'm not an algo chaser either, I figured every little bit helps. Then I was told (a couple years ago) that every little bit didn't help So I stopped writing ALT content.

If sites are getting another little brownie point or two for having good ALT content (not keyword-stuffed garbage, but legitimate tags) then I'll start writing them again.

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Old 24th April 2006, 11:14 AM   #10
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As David pointed out, there should be some kind of alt attribute on every image tag for accessibility. It's intended to stand in as a text alternative to the image in the event the image isn't available to the visitor. This could be a visually impaired person or someone surfing with images turned off (text-based browser, slow Internet connection, PDA/cellphone, etc.).

Keep in mind that the search engine spiders are also "visually impaired visitors." They can't see any of the pretty pictures, either.

For instance, if the image is a link, I think the alt attribute should describe the destination of the link using words, in the same way that the image itself gives a visual indicator of where the link goes or what it does. The alt attribute takes the place of anchor text that you'd use for a text-based link.

So, just as you would try to have appropriately-keyworded anchor text on internal linking, you could aim for the same thing with the alt attributes of image links. As you say, not repetitious keyword-stuffed crap, but if you can write a relevant and useful alt attribute either using a keyphrase or without, why not write it with the keyphrase?

If the image is simply there as a decorative bit of eye candy, the alt attribute should still be there, but blank (alt=""). This allows speaking browsers to simply skip over the image, which is what you want to have happen for images that don't add to the meaning of the page content.

Of course, I realize from a copywriter's standpoint, that's the same thing as not having any alt attributes, because you generally don't really have to spend all that much time writing blanks.

--Torka

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Last edited by torka; 24th April 2006 at 11:17 AM.
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