Google and Yahoo both continue to improve their image search capabilities (see the brief article on SearchEngineLand.com), which will reward Websites that go to the trouble of making sure their images are findable on the Web.
This is a worthwhile undertaking for investment management company sites, in particular. Just about every mutual fund Website offers economic and market commentary chockfull of valuable graphs and charts. Yet if the images are not tagged appropriately, they’ll never do the job they could in drawing search engine users to your site.
Although we could look at just about any money manager site, I’ll use a graph from a Pimco viewpoint as an example. Below is a screenshot of a graph tracking Long Term U.S. Yields from 1900 to August 2008. Interesting data that no doubt would be useful to more than just the readers of this commentary. And yet, because it doesn’t have what’s called an "alt attribute" it’s not findable on the Pimco search engine, let alone Google or Yahoo.
Alt attributes are used in HTML to provide a text alternative for an image. Search engines (which, after all, can’t see) and the visually impaired need the inclusion of alt attributes in order to understand what the image is communicating to the sighted. You can see them in the yellow boxes in this screenshot from Amazon.com (I've used a Firefox browser add-on Web Developer to display the HTML).
We advocate adding alt attributes to only the images that communicate information. They’re not necessary to describe photos or icons that merely decorate a page. But it is extra work and you can expect some pushback. All will be happy when the work produces greater visibility for the content your organization is creating.