Shari Thurow, a regular on the search marketing speaking circuit, just published an article in the ClickZ network addressing three SEO Myths and Misconceptions. Although the article is generally pretty decent, I do take some issue with how she addresses one area — the question of replacing images with text.
In fact, my complaint is with what I perceive to be the basic assumption she’s making in this SEO Myth: that web developers and marketers are recommending that web sites replace graphic images with CSS-styled text.
I don’t know anybody in search marketing, usability or accessibility who routinely recommends this as a default method. I can’t honestly say that I’ve even heard this specifically recommended in passing. As an occasional recommendation following testing? Sure. As a matter of routine? No.
I have, however, frequently heard people recommend replacing text images with CSS-styled text. I have routinely recommended this myself. There are certainly cases where a text image with appropriate an appropriate
alt attribute is perfectly suitable or even preferable. However, I will pretty well always recommend styling text instead of producing it in an image.
But I understand the term “graphic image” rather differently. A “graphic” is a creative product: it conveys meaning through more than just text, and absolutely has value in design beyond what can necessarily be made available with pure text. I’m not about to recommend that every image in any site be replaced by text — that’s ridiculous.
There are many, many ways of replacing images with text. The only limitation in the result is the creativity of the developer. If the text is significant, it’s well worth while to make it real text instead of an image. If the image is itself a critical creative, then you can still use image replacement to supply the full text in code while visually providing the image.
But if it’s a picture of your Mom, just use the picture.