March 10, 2010

India Site Clinic - Part 2

In our previous post, we wrote about how addressing canonicalization can help search engines to more accurately decide which URLs to present for your site. Now, we'd like to cover two other important aspects that came up during our site clinic which help search engines understand what content is available on your site: the "alt" attribute for describing images and Sitemaps for listing your pages.

Alt attributes for images
In (X)HTML, the "alt" attribute of an <img> tag is the text that is used as alternative text content for an image. For example, it can be dispilayed if the image fails to load. It is one of the signals used by search engines to understand images.

Head over to . The home page is very neat to look at and bound to catch your eye. But if you notice, all content on the main site is within images. While it may look nice to have the text completely in the images, but from a search engine perspective the content becomes unreadable. In order to make your web sites more search engine friendly and to help search engines and the users who can't view the images, we recommend using the "alt" attribute of an <img> tag to describe your images. This makes it easier for search engine crawlers to index the images and also makes your web pages user friendly as the "alt" text shows up in place of the image when it fails to load.

To learn more about the alt attribute, check out this post and video about how to make your images more discoverable.

Essentially, a
Sitemap file is a list of all URLs on your site that you want to be indexed. Sitemaps provide a way for search engines to find URLs on your site that may not be linked to by many other pages. If you'd like to know more about the use of Sitemaps, you may be interested in a study presented by Uri Schonfeld at a WWW'09 conference in Madrid last year.

At , we find a simple XML Sitemap file in place. It's great to see Sitemaps being used here. If you look at it, you can see the amount of information it provides for each URL. An issue with this Sitemap file is that the URLs have a change-frequency that does not match the actual change dates (homepage weekly vs last change in December). While the change frequency is good information to include, one should ensure that it is correct else the purpose is not served and it would be better to just remove these attributes otherwise.

You can learn more about Sitemaps on our Webmaster Help Center or read some additional FAQ's regarding Sitemaps for more information. And if you don’t have a Sitemap yet don’t forget to create one!

Remember, it’s all about making it easy for users to find and understand your content. Hope we helped!

Our last post to this series will be out soon so stay tuned. Let us know your thoughts in our Webmaster Help Group.

Posted by Search Quality Team