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RE: Search engine and alt text: [techs] Latest HTML Techniques Draft

From: Wendy A Chisholm <wendy@w3.org>
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2003 15:59:17 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: "Lee Roberts" <leeroberts@roserockdesign.com>, "'WAI-GL'" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

images.google.com uses the alt-text of the image.

search for "photo of"
there are lots of images in the result, but pick one result:
short uri (of one of the resulting images): http://tinyurl.com/ynm3
and long uri: 

The only place that "photo of" appears on this page [1] is in the alt-text 
of the image.
[1] http://www.prairienet.org/upd/phillipsrecreationcenter.html


At 10:59 AM 12/3/2003, Lee Roberts wrote:

>Ok, it's been awhile since I wrote mainly because I'm working with the
>State of Oklahoma on their accessibility issues and the meetings happen
>to coincide with our teleconference.  So, please accept my apologies for
>not making it to the WCAG WG meetings.  I will return as soon as I can.
>Now, onto this particular issue.
>ALL search engines that use spiders/robots index using the ALT text.
>Just because your test fails does not mean that you are correct.  No
>slighting here intended, but it is obvious to those that work in the
>field of search engine optimization that you may not be aware that
>Google has major problems right now.  Any tests you perform on Google
>currently my not work as it may have a few weeks ago nor as it may a few
>weeks from now.  Google has lost 100's of thousands of pages from their
>index as a result of some major issues they are having.
>Now, let's simply put the issue to bed.  In the webmaster help sections
>for each search engine they state that you should use ALT text to
>include additional keywords.  The problem with this broad statement is
>that many of the unethical and rookie SEO companies spam the search
>engines through the medium of ALT and TITLE attributes.
>Of ALL the search engines I optimize for I have yet to find one that
>uses the TITLE attribute, but all use the ALT attribute.
>Now, let's go one step further.  Just because a _jaded_ test fails
>doesn't mean that your test is a good test.  If it is not a word or
>phrase that is normally searched upon, that word or phrase may not be
>indexed as of yet.  So, perhaps you can answer this question.  With all
>the pages in the world available to me to index, why would I waste space
>with something so minor that the only place you put it is in your ALT
>attribute?  If I were a search engine, I wouldn't.  If you think the
>search engines are rolling through billions of pages upon every search
>entered you're mistaken.  Those searches are cached searches that their
>system performs every few days.
>I hope this helps.
>Lee Roberts
>On 3 Dec 2003, at 11:35, Tom Croucher wrote:
> > >>> Question:  Do search engines really  scan alt text given for
> > images  ?
> >
> > Search engines and indexing is something I spent some time studying
> > and as far as I am aware search engines do not use alt text in
> > indexing in practice any longer.
>Lets try a simple test
>One hit (my site as it was the first one to come to mind with
>reasonable alt text). The search text doesn't appear anywhere in the
>document except in the alt text of the image.
>(and no Google, I didn't - I'm English :D )
>David Dorward

wendy a chisholm
world wide web consortium
web accessibility initiative
Received on Wednesday, 10 December 2003 16:03:38 UTC

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