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Old 08-05-2005   #1
onedodd
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"Alt" Tags

Does any know or have an idea of how many characters Google reads and indexes of the "Alt" tag?

I have an alt tag with maybe 180 characters in it that I was testing.
I searched different parts of the tag contents in quotations.

I made it up to 125 characters of text that was indexed by Google and after 125 it does this.....


I put the next few whole words after the 125th character in quotations and searched them and they were not indexed. Leads me to believe that anything after 125 characters in an "alt' tag will not be read or indexed.

Does anybody know if there really is a maximum character limit in the alt tags?

Thank You - Joe D
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Old 08-05-2005   #2
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Joe, just a small word of advice, but the alt tag is not for "squeezing" characters into the SE's algorithms. People depend on the alt tag to give a valid description of the image or the image link in order to understand the page if they are not able to see the image. That is the main purpose of the alt attribute.

If an image requires a description that exceeds a typical short alt tag description, you can use the 'longdesc' tag to supplement the information. For the benefit of people that use screen readers or mobile devices, please do not use the alt tag to cram keywords. Just use it to provide a short, concise description of the image, and your users will be very happy.
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Old 08-06-2005   #3
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First of all onedodd, thanks for the interesting research. I agree with Matt B, however, that you may be using the ALT Attribute a little too "liberaly."

It is designed to give a description of a picture, not tell a story. Stuffing ALT attributes sounds like something that needs to be done only if your site is low on content and high on images...why not just add the descriptions below the pictures?
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Old 08-06-2005   #4
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While it changes from time to time, generally the only alt attributes that count toward relevance are the ones that are images that link.

Stuffing regular image alts is pretty much a waste of bandwidth and effort. And the most effective use of linked image alts is to describe the page being linked to, short and sweet.
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Old 08-06-2005   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by onedodd
Does anybody know if there really is a maximum character limit in the alt tags?
onedodd - I'm assuming, as are MattB and Chris, that you're thinking about keyword stuffing your alt tags (more properly, alt attributes) for SEO purposes.

At this point, the engines aren't paying much attention to keywords in alt attributes, except perhaps for Google, on image links only.

However, even if the alt attributes were important for SEO, the idea of squeezing in as many as you can is counterproductive. Optimizing is all about focus... so you'd want to select just two or three well-chosen keywords for any alt attribute. In the long run, you, and your users, are going to be much better off if you use your alt attributes as suggested here... just to provide useful information for people using screen readers... and only on images that need some text explanation.

On many images, the alt attribute isn't going to enhance the user experience, and you might as well just use alt="" with nothing in between the quotes.
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Old 08-06-2005   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert_Charlton
On many images, the alt attribute isn't going to enhance the user experience, and you might as well just use alt="" with nothing in between the quotes.
Totally agree. using alt="" in images like spacer images or images used for formatting will save bandwidth and will also avoid slowing down user agents.
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Old 08-06-2005   #7
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I agree with all of the posts above.

But I also think it's interesting to learn of Onedodd's tests that show only 125 characters get indexed. Always nice to make note of those things as you never know when it may come in handy!
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Old 08-07-2005   #8
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I agree with Robert_Charltons comments above - but just to round this off, from an accessibility perpective.

Alt is used for a 'short' description of an image. Longdesc is used for a long decription.

Quote:
longdesc = uri [CT]
This attribute specifies a link to a long description of the image. This description should supplement the short description provided using the alt attribute. When the image has an associated image map, this attribute should provide information about the image map's contents. This is particularly important for server-side image maps. Since an IMG element may be within the content of an A element, the user agent's mechanism in the user interface for accessing the "longdesc" resource of the former must be different than the mechanism for accessing the href resource of the latter.
http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/stru...f-longdesc-IMG
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Old 08-07-2005   #9
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FYI: I remember someone did some testing recently and it turned out that the longdesc attribute was not indexed.

This is not an issue for usability, but in case someone was thinking that would be a good place to put keywords - it's not

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Old 08-09-2005   #10
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Google will pick up the alt AND title attributes of an image, and I've seen them listed as the SERPs snippet, for a page where my search term only appeared in those attributes, and a couple of spammy filepath/filename references, not in the page text.

Unfortunately, they only used a short phrase, so I can't tell if there would have been "clipping" of alt text or not, it came in well under 125 char.

However, given the performance of the page, I am pretty sure that G ARE indexing the title attribute, as well as the alt.
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Old 08-09-2005   #11
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They also do pick up the alt text in images that are not linked. Whether they carry the same weight as ones that are linked is a different matter, but they do pick them up for sure. They started to last summer.
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Old 08-09-2005   #12
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Alts

Thanks folks

That was some very good constructive criticism. I appreciate all the info - I did have the tendency to stuff a few more keywords than I should have.
I am going to go back and clean my alt tags up, still using a keyword or two but with the readers in mind.
I am sure I have users with disabilities etc that visit the site - I guess a string of meanless words must make their web experience a pain in the you know what. Not that I even understand how the readers work.

Thats why I like this forum - I have yet to get bashed or ridiculed for not knowing. I actually learn a few things here.
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Old 08-09-2005   #13
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Title attribute

Couldn't onedodd use title="whatever" in moderation or is this a link attribute only?

Take care,

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Old 08-09-2005   #14
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>> Couldn't onedodd use title="whatever" in moderation or is this a link attribute only?

Several elements support the title attribute. <a> and <img> are the most logical / common. I believe several <table> related elements support it too.

As with any "invisible to the user" technique, if you are playing the long game, I would be careful how I used it. If you are a slash'n'burn SEO, feel free to abuse it to your hearts content. Just don't be surprised when you get torched
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Old 08-10-2005   #15
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I believe the title tag is always (by default) displayed by the browser and the alt does not always display when the mouse is over the image by default. the smiles use the title tag .
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Old 08-10-2005   #16
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I think IE contains a misimplementation of the HTML spec on this. It displays alt text as a tooltip, not titles. Some other browsers, such as Opera, do display correctly....
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Old 08-12-2005   #17
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Intended use of alt and title attributes

Quote:
As with any "invisible to the user" technique, if you are playing the long game, I would be careful how I used it. If you are a slash'n'burn SEO, feel free to abuse it to your hearts content. Just don't be surprised when you get torched.
Sage advise and I should have pre qualified my statement. When used correctly I think it adds to the disabled users benifit. Having a non SEO filled alt is what the true intention of the alt tag is for people with graphics off or visually impaired users with a "reader". Using title tags help people with non IE browsers. I guess this just reflects what Matt stated in post two on usage.

On links though if it reads good and is not keyword stuffed, intended use, then I think it is a natural navigation tool to help kick end users into realizing more what the link is about. Hopefully this will aid in a higher conversion rate.

Sorry to ramble, I really am loving this board. It has a lot of solid usable advise.

Take care,

Brian
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Old 08-12-2005   #18
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A while back I was doing some optimization in the cd duplication and manufacturing category. At the time it was surprisingly competitive. If I am remembering correctly some of the keywords were going for over $10 a click.
In any case, the reason I bring that up is because my client had a competitor who was ruling google for his #1 keyword: cd duplication
This thread reminded me of this competitor because of what I figure is the most spammy alt tag you will EVER see.
It is so spammy, that I'm not even 100% sure it is an actual alt tag, or some code that just looks like one.
Go to Google and search for cd duplication, you will see him still listed at #1 in the natural results. When you open the site, place your mouse over the "Oasis" to see what I'm talking about.
I'm not saying that this is the only reason he got this ranking, but it is surprising that they haven't been punished for it.
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Old 08-12-2005   #19
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Tags

The more I have researched this - I wouldn't call it "research" really but the more sites I have looked at the more I see with Spammed up "alt" tags.

That Oasis site has a very VERY long Spammy tag but guess what - Only 150 characters are indexed by Google.

So it doesn't matter how much you stuff - if the cutoff is 125 or 150 characters then I think this is Googles way of combatting the spammy ALT tag without having to drop millions of sites from their index for ALT tag abuse.
Right on their own guidelines it says:
"Make sure that your TITLE and ALT tags are descriptive and accurate"
Thats what I am going to do - be descriptive and accurate.

Curious how they address Alts and Title tags in the same sentence.
I know of no one that has been "Torched" for putting a few key words in a title tag. And speaking of torched - there are literally millions of pages with spammy alt tags.
Including sites like the one or two of the US Coast Guard sites and even many parts of NOAA website - I just don't see Google dropping them over some stuffed alt tags.
Instead Google seems to have made stuffing an "alt" tag with more than 150
a waste of time. And also putting a string of words together with more than 5 commas. Like this: Widgett, big widgets, bigger widgetts, biggest widgets, biddest of all widgets, end.
From what I have observed on other sites and my own it seems Google is making a conscience effort to stop the ALT tag from being exploited.

But just to be on the safe side from an SEO standpoint I would rather be safe than sorry so I am going to heed some good advice on this thread and stick to using the ALT for what it was meant for. If I do I still naturally can get a keyword or two in the ALT without taking away from the disabled users web experience.
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Old 08-15-2005   #20
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>> I just don't see Google dropping them over some stuffed alt tags.

Absolutely. But if you collect enough spam flags to merit a manual review by the G engineering team, guess how much they are going to like seeing War & Peace recreated in the alt attribute of a 1x1 spacer gif?

See ya

I think limiting indexed alt content to around 150 char would be an excellent, automated way of limiting the spam potential of alt attributes, without substantially affecting the legitimate use of it, so I could well believe that this is in place. It appeals to Googles ethos
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