With all the excitement over the ‘new technology’ that is supposed to help Google index Flash sites, we need to remember that Google STILL CAN”T READ IMAGES.
Their ability to crawl all the available text has jumped, but we still need to optimize our visual aids for the search engines – perhaps more aggressively than before!
The easiest way to do this is with a simple alt tag – ten words or less, describe that picture! If it is a dog wearing a coat, that is all you really need to say – “A dog, wearing a coat.”
You can get fancier (“My dog, Snookums, wearing his cuddly PetStyles coat!) but much beyond that isn’t really necessary.
Make sure if you use the same photo in different places on the web that you make sure to change the alt tag, or your image (yes, your image!) could be tagged as duplicate content.
Use your alt tags to hit your keywords if necessary, but please don’t stuff them with keywords, says Matt Cutts – this is spam, just like any other spam. Make sure your alt tags are appropriate to your picture, and accurately describe the image, and your job is halfway done.
The other thing to take into consideration is the relevance of the image to the content on the rest of the page. If your page is primarily about cat coats, you don’t want the doggie pic on that page, naturally, since the whole page is more likely to optimized for cats.
Make sure you place your photo in close proximity to a relevant paragraph, with prominent keywords that bear out the relevance of your image to the rest of the page
Google will continue to improve their image crawling techniques, but until they come up with an image scan and match technology that can tell a picture of a cat from one of a dog with any accuracy, the need to optimize your images for search is still there!
An image sitemap can help your site get crawled faster and more effectively if you have strong video or photo content, but keep in mind that you will have to optimize this sitemap for crawling since it is not able to be submitted like a regular sitemap.
Anything you can do to help Google helps you. One day Google may be a know all and see all, but until then it falls in the individual webmaster to make their site as accessible as possible!
A final word – remember that you need to optimize for user traffic, too! Use compressed files and keep them small for the folks with limited bandwidth – pictures stop being worth a thousand words when they load so slowly that people lose interest and move on.
Don’t forget to link to your photos, but make sure you tag them first! Don’t waste the search engine’s time, and you won’t tick the search engine off! Make the most of your images and they will bring the most to your site. Just be smart about it!