1000 Words

When it comes to search visibility, the old adage that a picture paints a thousand words simply does not apply. A well-placed image can help to grab the attention of your visitors, but it should not be at the expense of search visibility - and for that, plain text is still your best bet.

The fact is that your site needs to have relevant content for the search engines to pick up, and that communicates a clear message to your visitors too. Briefly, your page structure should include:

  • a masthead that doesn't take up two-thirds of the screen

  • clear navigation - whether it's horizontal, sidebar or otherwise

  • a few hundred words of search-optimised text that still reads well

Those are the absolute basics. The masthead is the start of your branding effort. The navigation is self-explanatory. And the text must be evocative for your readers, but visible to the search engines too.

Don't be afraid of repeating themes on one page - repetition in some forms is good, as it helps hammer home your most important points. If you're working in sections, consider placing a call to action at the end of each. Web users know what to expect and a single text CTA is less distracting than a rectangular Google AdSense image, for example.

However, be wary of repeating text word for word - keep quotation to a minimum, even from elsewhere on your own site. Simply paraphrasing will help make each page fresh for your readers and avoid the dreaded 'duplicate content' message appearing when people search for you.

Overall, though, the fact is that non-text content is still not crawled very well by the search engines. Even Google Images relies massively on the filename and alt text of each image on a page, rather than any ingenious analysis of its actual content. With the move towards incorporating social networking into results, rather than multimedia, it's unlikely that any major progress will be seen for some time.

That makes text your shining star for search success - so get in touch if you need a hand getting yours up to scratch.

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