In real life, a great picture is easily worth 1,000 words but search engine robots are almost completely blind to the beauty of great Hawaii photography so the photos in most cases need to be supported with text.
Many of the Hawaii photography and photographer websites that I’ve seen rely very heavily on beautiful Hawaii imagery. Some of these websites are beautiful Flash based presentations and galleries where the images speak for themselves but is almost invisible to a search engine robot.
So… What does Google have to say about the matter?
Vanessa Fox from Google participated in a panel at SES Chicago called “Images & Search Engines”.
You can get a recap of the session at the Search Engine Roundtable as well as from Lisa Barone at Bruce Clay, Matt McGee from Small Business SEM and Liana Evens who was on the panel.
Vanessa Fox from Google who was also on the panel actually just posted about this on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog the other day.
You should follow those links to read the entire posts but here is the list of points that Vanessa makes and my own comments below each point.
- Don’t put the bulk of your text in images. It may sound simple, but the best thing you can do is to put your text into well, text. Reserve images for graphical elements. If all of the text on your page is in an image, it becomes inaccessible.
[Me] Don’t use pictures of text. Sometimes you will want a fancy or non-standard font that looks cool or has beveled edges and a drop shadow, etc… but try your best to resist. This can also include menu bars and navigational elements. In most cases a simple text link works better than linking an image or part of an image to the target page.
- Take advantage of alt tags for all of your images. Make sure the alt text is descriptive and unique. For instance, alt text such as “picture1″ or “logo” doesn’t provide much information about the image. “Charting the path of stock x” and “Company Y” give more details.
[Me] I believe the primary word used in this point is the word “Unique”. This can be harder than it looks. If you have a gallery of 20 images of Diamond Head, you will need to say something different every time. Whatever you do, don’t use the same alt text on every picture. Make each one significantly unique. For example you could use: “Diamond Head from Kapiolani Park” and then use “West Side of Diamond Head” for two very similar photos. (Don’t use a minor change like Diamond Head 1, Diamond Head 2, etc…)
I screwed up on this one a few years ago. I used my name in as part of a copyright notice on every single image on my website and quickly went from being #1 for my name to nowhere until I changed the alt text. I wasn’t thinking about SEO, I just didn’t want people to steal my pictures. It was a stupid mistake. The fact that about 20 images on my website had the exact same alt text was enough to penalize the entire website for the words contained in the tags. (Lesson learned)
- Don’t overload your alt text. Be descriptive, but don’t stuff it with extra keywords.
[Me] Don’t stuff an entire paragraph into the alt text. Keep it down to about three to six words. (Don’t repeat the same word six times either)
- It’s important to use alt text for any image on your pages, but if your company name, navigation, or other major elements of your pages are in images, alt text becomes especially important. Consider moving vital details to text to ensure all visitors can view them.
[Me] Here Vanessa talks about the use of alt text on navigational elements. Any time you hyperlink an image, it should have the alt text. The alt text in this situation should not describe the image but the destination page.
The Text Only version of Google Cache shows alt text as if it were the anchor text of a simple text link. Many people believe the alt text of an image link can influence how Google views or ranks the page being linked to. Again… Don’t over do it. If you are using images instead of text links in your primary navigation… You should likely reconsider that strategy, especially if you are using one large image that has several hot spots.
- Look at the image-to-text ratio on your page. How much text do you have? One way of looking at this is to look at your site with images turned off in your browser. What content can you see? Is the intent of your site obvious? Do the pages convey your message effectively?
[Me] Here is a handy text only browser that I like to use called the SEO-Browser.
The SEO-Browser basically turns the images off. Did your best information and primary navigation disappear or is it still easy to navigate the site and use?
Here are two more great links on the subject.
Aaron Wall from the SEO Book blog wrote about the subject of optimizing a page so the images rank highly in Google Image search.
Here is the list of image ranking factors Aaron posted.
- File name
- Image alt text
- Image title
- Text near the image
- Image age
- Click streams
- Trust of site image is on
- Links referencing the image
This post also has some excellent comments. The surrounding text may also contribute significantly to the ranking. (This is why all images should always at least have a caption.) The title of the page may also be a contributing factor.
I’ve saved the best link for last. Tony Hill posted an excellent tutorial on exactly how to design a Gallery Page. I haven’t tried this technique myself but every point he makes is consistent with what I’ve read elsewhere. Tony however turned the best practices into an actionable item that every photographer should read.
Keep checking back. I’ll try to cover more on getting traffic to the website in another post soon.