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Google still hungry for text, says expert

John Murray

Despite the growing use of images and infographics on the Internet, Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, has reminded webmasters that the search engine still wants text.

Via his Google Webmaster channel, Cutts recently released a YouTube video responding to a question from a UK website owner who had noticed that users have been spending more time on his site since he replaced much of its text with images. As his bounce rate was down and conversion rates were up, the owner wanted to know whether Google would have a problem with the low text-to-images ratio.

Cutts confirmed that having a website consisting almost entirely of images could struggle to attract the attention of Google and suggested that, while an aesthetically pleasing website will make visitors want to stay on it for longer and keep returning to it, it was advisable to try to establish a “middle ground” between a site being rich in content and easy on the eye.

One of Cutts’ recommendations was to use Alt text (the text seen within an image box if it fails to load or if the browser is set to disable images). Although Google can decipher some images through optical character recognition (OCR), it is still a work in progress and Alt text is still the main method used by the search engine to understand a picture.

The other suggestion made by the Google whizz was to consider using the more than 500 fonts available via Google web fonts. This, Cutts says, could be an effective way to keep a site “pretty” without compromising on its search engine optimisation.

In short, it appears that text and content are likely to remain crucial to a site that wants to rank highly via Google, but images, videos and infographics are recommended to keep dwell time high. This reflects the human users of websites who naturally want to see an effective mix of engaging, well-written content combined with an attractive and original layout and design.

John is every inch the wordsmith and loves a game of Scrabble above all else. With experience writing for newspapers, John’s time at university was spent studying Creative Writing – something which comes across in his love of the pun.

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