While recently cleaning up an old jewelry website and the jewelry product catalog, we noticed something that dates back to our Daily Golden Nugget #183 (read it here http://bit.ly/erFrbU) and we'd like to tell you about it.
In #183 we said that you should include Alt and Title attributes for all the images on your website. Our feeling is that if you make your website user-friendly it will rank better. In this case, the Alt/Title image attributes are used by screen readers for the visually impaired.
We also mentioned in last Friday's Nugget #230 (read it here http://bit.ly/m1N2D0) that the Alt/Titles also help get your images indexed in Google's Image search.
Just to add some more proof of the importance of the Alt attribute, there is a report from the SEOmoz guys (go here http://bit.ly/j8lS0G and Ctrl+F "On-Page Keyword Usage") in June 2010. They found that the more keywords you put into your image Alt attributes, the more likely you would rank higher in Google and Bing.
Lots of good stuff happening here, and we've tracked it for years. This is not front line, untested SEO; Alt and Title attributes have been part of ranking since the beginning of SEO time.
Now let's jump back to the jewelry website product catalog we recently reviewed. We were running a site:jewelrystore.com search in Google in order to find all the old pages and create a few hundred 301 redirects (http://bit.ly/kfwAer) when we noticed something that seemed rather strange.
Google had indexed all the individual product pages of the old jewelry site and in the SERP there was a 134 character, extremely relevant, Meta Description for all of the product pages. It was the same description, but it was relevant for the website. What was strange about this is that the old site didn't have a Meta Description and there were only 15 words in the body of the page. Actually, there were 44 words in total on the page including the navigation, but only 15 that Google would consider.
In order for Google to index and show this page in the SERP, they had to get the meta description from somewhere. The meta description was "Now you can wear a diamond necklace created just for you made to the same standards we have established over our forty years of jewelry making."
Upon investigating we discovered that the store's logo in the top left corner of their navigation had the Alt and Title attributes set to that exact phrase. Google found it, and with the lack of other real content to rank, they chose the image attributes.
So what's the bottom line of today's Nugget? Google definitely reads those Alt/Title attributes. They help with ranking your page, they help your images to be indexed, and in some very rare cases, Google will even extrapolate them for use on the SERP.
Most website owners really hate the amount of extra time it takes to properly fill in these seemingly trivial bits of SEO minutia. Hopefully we've given you enough reason to spend the extra time.