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March 24, 2006

Why Your Pages Need Text

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Search Engine Roundtable defines SEO as ‘dealing mostly with improving on-page content in order to “show” search engines that you are worthy of having your page ranked for a particular keyword’, and I think most SEOs would agree with that. Therefore, it goes without saying (or so we thought) that your SEO campaign lives and dies on your ability to produce excellent content. So how do you optimize a site that is made up solely of images and contains absolutely no content whatsoever? Well that’s what one HighRankings forum member asked of his fellow SEO-obsessed members. They all came to one general consensus. Do a complete redesign of the site.

The SEO-novice was trying to help a client who had just wasted spent thousands of dollars rebuilding his site with no consideration for SEO. The site was created using frames, JPG images and absolutely no text. The forum member needed help optimizing the site and offered up four possible solutions for the folks at HighRankings to choose from. Should he: add alt img tags to all of his images, create Meta Description tags, add content under the images or add new pages with text that linked to the image-based pages? If this guy was looking for some easy answers, he sure didn’t get any.

Experienced forum members gave him a mandatory option number five: tell the client to sue the designer who put him here and do a complete redesign of the site. We would have agreed.

There are two key problems with having a site that is 100% image based. First, search engines are blind, dead and typically dumb. You have to (literally) spell out what your site is about. Engines don’t understand images or Flash. They reward sites that they feel are industry experts, basing that determination on the relevancy of the content on your site. If you don’t include strong text your site will simply be overlooked by the engines.

Second, having no content on your site doesn’t help your visitors. Creating unique content is your chance to tell them who you are, what you do and how you’re different from your competition. You should use your content to separate your company from the pack. First make yourself equal, and then establish yourself as better.

So what do you do if you already have a Flash- or image-based site? We honestly believe the best thing you can do is redesign. Don’t cut corners by trying to add content to the bottom of your site. Doing so will not help you to rank well and will just lead to future headaches. And don’t even think about putting text where only search engines can see it. You will be labeled a spammer and immediately booted from the engines.

We believe the best thing you can do is strip your site down. Get rid of the Flash and create a content-rich homepage for your website. Describe who you are, what you do and why you’re special, using at least 250 words of strong, targeted text.

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