This post has one essential theme for you to take on board….
People use search engines using words. Search engines find and index relevant content using words. Design and develop your website using words not images.
Put words at the centre of everything you do when designing and building a website and the signs are good that you will develop a website that caters for a wide range of user types, including search engine robots.
If you consider robots just as you would a visitor, using accessibility settings/features and search engine optimisation (SEO) should become an easier concept to get your head around.
A simple concept – use words
A large part of building a search-friendly website involves putting words onto the page. For example, wherever possible design and build a webpage using:
- text for the navigation (even if supplementary to a main, image-based navigation)
- text for the links (not a graphical button of ‘read more’ etc), and
- text for the content (not just big pretty pictures)
There are grounded reasons for images
Of course there are compelling reasons to include images within a website – primarily for the creation of a visually appealing and engaging user experience.
Another common use of images is to display products to the end-user, perhaps in a lifestyle scenario to create interest and desire. Other uses for imagery in a website include its use in the primary navigation: (example: apple.com).
If the navigation’s visual appeal can’t be achieved through CSS (and with an experienced designer it normally can), an image-based navigation might be required.
However, if you go down this image route, ensure that it is backed up with both descriptive alt text (and no, don’t think you can stuff keywords into the ALT text – you’ll be caught for spamming) and secondary navigation that is based on links.
Some may suggest that navigation based on text might not be the most visually appealing, but it does help both the user reliant on (or choosing to use) accessible forms of navigation. And indirectly this helps search engines to crawl and index a website…. to repeat ‘search engines use words and word phrases to index a website.’
Searching the web using images
Of course search engines are getting smarter, and in Chris’s recent post on our blog about using image ALT text in search engine optimisation, Matt Cutts of Google alludes to some of the challenges facing Google with image-based search.
However, currently even the might of Google cannot review and index an image on its visual merits alone. Instead, Google encourage you to name the image filename accurately/descriptively and include some helpful/assistive image alt-text.
Remember – search engines use words because people search using words
Above all else – focus on the words on the page. Deliver great text-based content and only use images to display the product or describe the lifestyle. Moreover, focus on the content on your website before you worry yourself with gaining links to your website.