Google Gives Blessing To Image Replacement Techniques

Jul 16, 2009 • 8:24 am | comments (4) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

There is only so much CSS can accomplish with making headlines pretty. If you want to give your headlines a pretty font that not all computers support, then you need to go with graphics. But as an SEO, you don't want to lose out on search engines reading those headlines. Yes, search engines cannot always read graphics, even if you use alt text.

This is not a new issue, it is a common issue that many sites struggle with. A work around is to use image replacement techniques with CSS. Either you use CSS to swap out the text for an image replacement alternative or you can use an sIFR replacement technique, if you want the content to be dynamic.

Either way, as long as the content matches the content in the graphic, then you should be fine, according to Googler, JohnMu. John said in a Google Webmaster Help thread:

If you are using image replacement techniques and replacing the text with an image that is equivalent (with the exact same text in approximately the same visibility) then that is generally fine. This provides a nice user experience and still lets those who cannot access the images (eg crawlers or vision-impaired users) use your website normally.

Now this does not give you the okay to stuff keywords in that section. It has to match and it should be relevant to the page. Use your best judgement when using these techniques. In fact, I hope to use the sIFR technique on the new RustyBrick site, when it launches in 4 years from now. ;-)

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: July 15, 2009


Kohan Ikin

07/16/2009 01:49 pm

But what about the Google Webmaster Video that is linked to in that same forum discussion? They explicitly say that (a) search engines can read the ALT text just fine, and (b) CSS hiding *does* matter. Of course, your ALT text should be the same as the text in your images (or be an appropriate description of the photo for accessibility purposes). Rather than using the sIFR technique, it seems the CSS @font-face methods are a good solution. It's restricted to Firefox / Safari / Opera for now, but once IE also has HTML 5 Typography support, it will probably be the best solution.

Barry Schwartz

07/16/2009 02:11 pm

That is different, that is about a logo specifically. This is about using graphics for text. The graphic is simply text. Different than a logo, in some cases.


07/16/2009 03:01 pm

I would still be worried about using css image replacement after reading this:

Jacob Stoops

07/20/2009 08:04 pm

I have been using this technique for awhile, and it's nice to hear that my sites aren't going to get blacklisted for it. I wonder if/when more "web-safe" fonts will be supported. Right now, the list of web-safe fonts seems pretty small.

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