SEO for Graphical Pages

Q. My boss has a gigantic head and has spent $50,000 for an all-graphical home page. Will it help if we place keyword phrases in [alt tags] [comments tags] [a hidden layer] [text the same color as the background at the bottom of the page]?

Jill: I'm afraid that using keyword phrases in any of those places won't help get your home page found in the search engines. Alt attributes (alt tags) are ignored on images that are not clickable, so those won't help. Comment tags have nothing to do with search engine optimization, and are not indexed by the spiders, so don't bother with those either.

Hidden layers may actually help, but would most likely be considered spam by the search engines unless the content in them is exactly the same as on the graphical images on the site. If you simply hide keyword phrases in a hidden layer, be sure to look over your shoulder constantly, because your paranoia about one day getting penalized isn't all that paranoid; it could very well happen! If you like to sleep at night, this may not be the best route for you to take.

Your alternatives are to simply use the power of your Title tag and the power of the links pointing to your home page. You could also concentrate more on the inner pages (assuming they are not all graphical) and optimize them for the keyword phrases that are important to you.

Don't forget that you can always just use PPC ads and not worry about the organic/natural results. That is a very real option these days, and for those not willing to compromise a wee bit to gain natural rankings, it's probably the best one.

Switching Server Hosts

Q. I get no respect from my current Web host so I'm switching providers. Will this affect my search engine rankings?

Jill: No, it won't affect your rankings, but it wouldn't hurt to leave your site up on the old host for about a month to ensure that the DNS propagates across the Web and that the search spiders are indexing the pages at the new host. Once you see the spiders in your log files at the new host, it should be safe to take down the site at the old server.

Site Redesign and File Name Changes

Q. I've finally redesigned my circa-1997 Web site, and all the file names have changed. What should I do to ensure that the search engines index my new pages?

Jill: There are technical things you can do at the server level to redirect all the old file names to the new ones, but quite frankly, I would simply wait it out and allow nature to take its course in due time. Unfortunately, there may be a period of a few months where your old pages are still indexed, and your new ones aren't, but things will work themselves out over time.

Do make sure that you have a custom 404-error page in place that will display when people click to one of your old pages from the engines. Also be sure to have some sort of search box and or sitemap on your 404-error page so that the visitor can actively and easily seek out what they came to find. Plus, don't forget to check that the old URLs serve up an actual 404 HTTP header code so that the engines know to purge them from their databases eventually. You can check this using any HTTP header viewer tool.

Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
April 14, 2005

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ,, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

Search Engine Guide > Jill Whalen > Search Marketing FAQ - Graphics, Hosts and Redesigns