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Repetitive Alt Tag
Posted 27 September 2012 - 10:03 AM
The way the website is working is that for each of 10 images in the photo gallery regarding the Alt Tag is that it will automatically use the image caption. For example "Double bedroom with large balcony". Which is great!
However when no caption is added for the image the alt tag remains empty and appears in the code as alt= " ".
As a lot of our clients dont write individual captions for each photograph we end up with thousands of empty to alt tags.
I am guessing this is not good from a user or SEO perspective.
It is not feasable for us to write captions for every photo, many of our clients dont even want a caption.
The only solution i can think of is to set a rule so that when there is no caption the image uses the name of the hotel as the alt tag instead. For example "Hotel B" However this would result in all 10images having the same alt tag in many cases and it is also not particularly useful to users.
Do you think this is better than no alt tag at all?
Thoughts on best solution would be much appreciated.
Posted 27 September 2012 - 10:38 AM
Second, there's nothing wrong with a blank alt attribute. Whether the alt attribute does any good for SEO seems to change periodically. But in any case, the reason the attribute exists is NOT to provide SEO benefit. It's there to provide alternate content for the visually impaired or those who are for whatever reason browsing with images turned off. (There are more people who fall into one or the other of these categories than you might think.)
A blank alt attribute won't hurt you for SEO. It's not seen as a duplicate. The worst that would happen is that IF the "filled in" alt attributes were helping you (which isn't a given, and even when they do provide a boost, it's never been a really big one), the blanks wouldn't provide whatever tiny extra boost you might (or might not) be getting from the "filled in" attributes.
And since the alt attribute is simply repeating what's already in the image caption, it's nothing but duplicate content on the page at this point, so IMO it's unlikely that it would help you even if alt attributes are being considered by the search engines.
From a visitor perspective, multiple duplicated alt attributes are TERRIBLE. Imagine being a visitor using assistive technology to read one of your pages aloud to them, and having to sit there while the machine repeats "Hotel B" "Hotel B" "Hotel B"... over and over and over. And having the same content repeated over and over on a page that's otherwise pretty thin on text (as image galleries usually are) could potentially look a lot like keyword stuffing to a search algorithm.
But then again, let's think about what's happening when your images do have a caption. In that event, I believe the screen reader would read the alt attribute, then it would read the same thing all over again for the caption. So instead, what they hear is "Image: Double bedroom with large balcony... double bedroom with large balcony... image: single nonsmoking room with luxury bath... single nonsmoking room with luxury bath... image: handicapped accessible junior suite... handicapped accessible junior suite..."
If, on the other hand you don't include any alt attribute at all (as in, it isn't present in the code, not that it's there but blank) most screen readers will instead read the image file name, which would probably be the one thing you could do that could be even more annoying for those visitors than what's happening now.
With the blank alt attribute, however, the screen readers will simply skip over the images.
If you're not going to write sensible, individual alt attributes that serve their intended purpose as text alternatives for the images, the best thing is to leave them blank, IMO.
Edited by torka, 27 September 2012 - 10:40 AM.
Posted 29 September 2012 - 01:33 PM
Posted 02 October 2012 - 09:19 AM
Thank you for your reply, it was so informative and useful.
Apologies for the mix up regarding the alt attribute, it is so widely misused its hard not to fall in the same trap.
I agree with everything you said and have decided the best thing to do is just leave the status quo for now.
Posted 03 October 2012 - 08:18 AM
I'm glad you found the answer helpful. I think your decision to leave things the way they are is probably for the best. There are likely lots of other things that would be more productive for you to spend time on than trying to "fix" this.
Posted 03 October 2012 - 02:34 PM
I don't want to make your life difficult, but there are opportunities for you and your clients to use these images to help a lot, but that's going to require some work that will involve giving the images useful alt attributes and much more (e.g. Open Graph meta data, microdata, social sharing buttons...)
IMO, empty alt attributes aren't the answer, and Chris would know this better than me, but since you're in the UK, I think you have certain requirements in regard to accessibility. Torka's right that just repeating the caption text in the image's alt attribute is going to give users of screen reader software headaches. That doesn't mean you should just skip it.
If the owners of the hotels are your clients, all this stuff is something you can offer to help them promote their hotels. Try it out on a few pages, and if you see good results, you can contact your clients and tell them you've just started offering a premium service: if they're willing to pay a small additional fee, you can add all this great stuff to their pages to help them get found, but it's going to require that they provide unique captions and alt attributes for each picture.
Posted 06 December 2012 - 03:18 PM
I've read in a number of places that Google (and I'm sure Bing and Yahoo to some extent) rely on alt attributes for some form of contextual information about what the image is. Consider editing your alt attributes so they are also automatically generated with a prefix of the hotel and city name like "ABC Hotel - Los Angeles - photo description". This would help with duplication worries, helps people who are actually using screen readers, and may also drive traffic from image searches. I would also consider some kind of auto generated alt attribute if there is none available like "Image of ABC Hotel - City Name"
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