No More Hidden Text in Images

by Matthew Diehl on May 10, 2010

The next SEO myth: Search Engines Can’t Read Text Embedded in Images

A common SEO recommendation that many professionals make is to convert important text that is embedded in images to actual text living in the source code of the page. The reason behind this recommendation is because the search engines cannot read text that is in images. (or can they?)

This recommendation works both ways. If you had a section of text that needed to be displayed on every page of the site but you did not want it to impact the pages (i.e. FDA warnings) then you could easily embed it in an image so it is hidden from the search engine lens.

This is quickly becoming not the case. It is very possible that soon Google and other search engines will be reading your images with embedded text without the slightest hesitation. So, whether you have text in your images intentionally or unintentionally, the SEO fundamental that search engines can not read images will soon be the latest thing added to the myth list.

What is the game changer?Google Goggles

Google Goggles is a mobile app that runs on the Android platform that allows you to take pictures of objects and perform searches in Google based on your image. Pretty cool!

The latest addition to the Google Goggles – Text. All you have to do is take a snapshot of a piece of text and the app will be able to read the text and translate it for you. Yes, it’s a translation tool for the weary traveler but it has to read the text in the image first in order to translate it. Picture of how it works (Google are you getting this?):

Google Goggles Image Reader

Next step – Reading the text in images on your website.

A section of the technology running in the Google Goggles app could easily be extracted and run across the Google Images index to determine images that contain text. Google could easily extract the text and apply it back into the word index for that page.

If you are intentionally hiding text this could potentially cause a large shift in your word index for your site, especially if the hidden text identified is filtered through spam detection and sets off a flag.

This could also make many developers and designers really happy! No more wasting time with sIFR or text overlays with image backgrounds. However, don’t rejoice you still have page speed to contend with and images will always take up more bandwidth than text to transfer.

So, keep you ears peeled and to the ground because in the not so far future Google and other search engines will let us know that a picture is no longer worth a thousand words unless it actually has a thousand words in it.

{ 1 comment }

Remi Turcotte September 23, 2010 at 4:15 pm

unfortunately,
would it be another opportunity to spam ?

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