An introduction to SEO: Part 2
The “alt” attribute
If your answer to this is “what’s the “alt” attribute, then you need to read further.
The “alt” attribute is used in image links it’s there to tell search bots what the image is a picture of, the bots cannot actually see the image, so they need to have it explained to them.
This is then used by search engines, especially google to index those images, and to show them when you select images from your organic searches. It also sets that little pop up when you hover over an image.
Using the “alt” attribute is a small but valuable part of SEO, after all the phrase “Search Engine Optimisation”, means making your site search engine friendly, Google will give you PR juice for using the “alt” attribute for you images.
Do all images need it?
In theory yes, the more that have the attribute the better, that’s fairly easy for a new site being built from scratch, but what if you are using “offf the shelf” software, you have no control over a lot of the images, using the attribute on all of those would be a nightmare.
There is an easy answer, and it’s our bot stopper “robots.txt, we can use that to stop the search engines logging any images we don’t want it to, firstly we need to get hold of some software that can help us find the images.
Software that does this can be quite expensive, but if you know where to look and who to trust, there are some on the net free of charge, I use Microsofts SEO Tool Kit, its limited in it’s free use, but you can use it over again, by creating a new report, and scanning your site repeatedly, what you will build up is a list of errors that are affecting your sites SEO, use it wisely and you can rid your self of 99% of those errors.
Once the report is produced, the next step is fairly easy, export the report to a program that can read CSV files, Excel is good, go through the list of files, deleting non image files, and keeping the image files that are producing the “no “alt” attribute error, you will be surprised how many they are, once you have them, copy and paste the URL’s into your robots.txt file, and then upload it. While you are at it, you can also pick out any files you do not want bots to see, like membership.php, register.php and the forums you do not want to include in searches.
You may not notice things at first, but after a few bot visits, check your Webmaster dashboard, the ratio between searched and indexed pages should over time increase, plus less noticeable is that because the bots are “working” less on your site, they will be using less of your hard earned bandwidth.