How to design findable web sites and get ranked with the best
The basics: understanding search engines and spiders
Using robot protocols to prevent unwanted indexing
Use core HTML tags more efficiently
Getting dynamic web pages indexed
The problem of unreadable content
The commercial options for SEO
Using htaccess for efficient redirection
Unreadable content in web pages
Search engine spiders use the text content of a site as the basis for indexing.
Graphic images of text can't be indexed, as they're nothing more than collections of pixels, whatever they look like to the human eye. If you use a graphic 'text' headline and want this to be accounted for, it's essential to make good use of the alt text attribute of the image tag. This data is available for indexing, and is used to varying degrees by most spiders. This means alt text is important for more than just user accessibility. The need for text also applies to sites with large amounts of plug-in content. As media shown using helper software such as the Flash plug-in can't be understood simply by looking at the HTML page, anything that relies on reading that code can't work with that form of media. The following examples show ways of using alt text for graphics and for plug-in media.
Graphic text: Dreamweaver and GoLive can set alt text automatically based on the imported file's name, and Freeway can do this for graphic text produced in the layout as well, but this isn't always ideal. If the imported file's name isn't appropriate, or if the graphic text in the Freeway layout uses fancy punctuation or quirky spacing for visual effect, you'll need to set the alt text data manually instead.
Flash movies are widespread, but their text content can't be read by the mainstream spiders. As such, you'll need to include text in some way in the pages that host the Flash files. There are ways to export text into HTML files, although these need work before they are spider-friendly. It's best to reserve Flash for where it's really necessary and use regular HTML as much as possible.
Use appropriate keywords in the alt text. If you have an image of a camera on the page, don't just set 'camera' as the alt text; consider something longer and more descriptive. This will be more useful if images don't appear in a user's browser, and will provide more content for spiders to index. Be aware that alt text doesn't wrap when too long; Internet Explorer crops it and Safari doesn't show it at all.
Of course, alt text is used for far more than just broken graphics and search engines. It is also essential for people using non-visual browsers such as screen readers, so make sure your alt text is useful and informative - not just tricked out to impress the search engine robots! And finlly, Google uses alt text as part of the index data for its Google Images search engine.
Looking for tips on searching more effectively instead? Read the Search Secrets pages.
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