Ever Asked Yourself “Can Search Engines Read Images”?
Hint: They can’t.
A couple weeks ago I was talking at a networking meeting about essential elements of a website. Someone asked what would be the best way to put testimonials on their website. More specifically, what would be the best way to have testimonials that would lend a lot of credibility.
Someone else suggested taking a picture of a letter they received from a client and putting that on the website. That’s when it hit me: not everyone understands how search engines see images.
The only thing search engines know about your image is what you tell them about it.
They don’t know it’s a picture of a dog unless you tell them. You can tell them what the picture is of by making the title of the image “My Cute Dog”, calling the file dog.jpg, or putting a description in the alt tag saying “This is my dog, Shelby.” Robots don’t have human eyes and can’t “see” images the way people do. So when you’re adding things to your website, you have to make sure to read it with your robot eyes as well as your human eyes.
If this person had taken an image of a testimonial letter, it would definitely help with credibility when a person was reading it. It would not, however, allow search engine bots to know what the heck the letter said. In this case, even using the title, file name and alt tags wouldn’t do the letter justice. You’re not going to put the wonderful praise from your happy client as the title to your image.
This is the reason that Captcha images work to ensure that whoever is submitting a form is actually a human. Any human could read the number 321 in that random photo of someone’s house and type it into the box, but a robot can’t.
This also goes for videos, by the way. (An idea someone else had.) You can help the SEO of your video by using the description area on YouTube or wherever else you’re hosting the video. But that description is on YouTube, not your website.
That isn’t to say not to use videos, though. Video is really compelling and for testimonials; there’s nothing like a video of a happy customer. I suggested that this person could take a great quote or two from the video and use it as a block quote on the website near the video itself. That way she could have the best of both worlds, a great video for her human audience and something to read for her robot audience.
What about you? Do you make sure to read your own website with robot eyes?