How Search Engines Find Images

Search engines cannot look at a picture or understand the graphic content of a photograph. Instead, they rely on the picture file name and the text on the page to explain what the image is about. For a full listing of image search engines, go to Chapter 10.

What You Should Include

You, the webmaster or photoblog author, must include the necessary text information. This information can be included in a number of ways, such as in the title of the page, in the metatags, in the file name, in the alt tag in the link to the image, in the text of the page itself, and in the text of the links within the site that link to a display page.

The Title Tag

The title tag is the most important place for information about your particular page, though often forgotten by webmasters. Search engines look at the title tag first and give it the greatest weight. While this tag is in a sense hidden, it does display at the top of the browser window in the blue area.

You as a Web designer will need to look at the page in HTML and add about sixty characters that describe what is on the page. Put the most important words first, followed by other words that add to its description. This description goes near the top between the following two HTML tags:

<title></title>

For example, a picture of a child's birthday cake might read like this:<title>Birthday cake with candles, girl's birthday party </title>

File Names, Alt Tags, Captions, and Anchor Text

If you give the file an appropriate name that describes the image and also include an alt tag when you link to the image, search engines will have a much better idea of the content of your photo. Additional text helps as well.

  • The file name: Give the file a name that reflects its content. For example, a picture of a birthday cake might be: Birthdaycake_1.jpg

  • The alt tag: The alt tag gives a text description of an image and is part of the code that links to a picture. It is very important for image search engines. When you use HTML to post a picture, insert a description along with the file name. The HTML code looks like this: <IMG SRC=“birthdaycake_1.jpg” ALT=“birthday cake with candles”>

  • Captions: Many photos have a caption. Below the photo you might put a caption explaining what the photo is about.

  • Anchor text: The text that a Web surfer clicks on to go to a page or Web site. Search engines give anchor text more weight because it accurately describes the content of the link. If people link to your pages, be sure they provide accurate anchor text to increase your search engine ranking.

  • Image links: When you link to the page with the birthday cake photo, write a brief description, called anchor text, that you then link to the page that displays the image.

  • Metatags: These hidden tags are positioned directly below the <title> tag. In these tags you can add a description of what is on the page along with keywords. Metatags are less important than they used to be for search engines, but it never hurts to add them.

These HTML components will make search engines more likely to flag your Web site and your images.

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