One of my friends has never lifted the hood of his car, yet he turns the key every day. He is aware of complex systems under the hood that collectively get him from place to place, but he does not like to think about them. If he stopped there and did not regularly take his car to his mechanic for fine-tuning, eventually he might find it more difficult to get around. With a little instruction and minor effort, he could take care of some things himself if he desired. Your web site and good search engine optimization (SEO) practices are not so different in that regard.
There are a few things that you can do under the hood of your website to help the search engines know that your content is of high quality. Most of us don't think very much about the things we cannot see, but there is often real value to be had just beneath the surface. One feature in content management systems (CMS) that is often underused is the ability to add title and alternate text for images—this SEO gold lies just beneath the surface and is a very simple thing that you can do to help your site.
Photo title and alt text pays on multiple levels.
(1) Web users with visual or certain cognitive disabilities rely on alternate text for an image to understand what the image is about. It may be a small group, but it's worth the effort to describe what's in a photo. There's no law that says websites must be accessible for these users; not only is it the right thing to do to give those users a rich experience with your destination site, but it is also good for the rest of your users. This is because (2) when a search engine is determining the value of your page, the algorithms can use hidden meta data to help identify the relevancy of the page. Don't mistake this for keyword stuffing—alt text should be real content too. (3) Image search: Want to have your relevant image returned in image search? Title and alt text are key to indicating the relevance of your image. Google is pretty good about figuring it out from the rest of the page, but they also know that they get it wrong a lot...so alt text is important to tell Google that they got it right and your image deserves to be in the results set.
A search engine tries to think like a user. So, when you write your content, title and alternate tags, you should also keep your audience in mind. Ask yourself which is better: "picture.jpg" or "Teenagers laughing as they swim beneath Lookout Mountain's 150 foot Lula Lake waterfall during a conservation weekend in Chattanooga Tennessee." Now if a user rolls over that picture, they will get to see the title in most browsers (and the search engines read it too). Again, which is better: " " or "Festivities at Lula Lake"?
As always, your Simpleview Search Engine Marketing (SEM) team is here to answer questions and help you formulate content strategies that will return results.
Daniel Westcott is a Search Engine Marketing Developer for Simpleview. For questions regarding this post, visit our "What We Do' page to learn more about our SEM services.