When is text not text, when it’s an image!
21st June 2016
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Why having image as text in your website could be bad for business

Unless text has some alternative text on it, you’re losing out on SEO

What these means is text can be displayed in two ways on your website or email marketing. Right now you’re reading text as text (duh) but it can also be displayed in an image file. You can tell the difference if you select text, you can highlight each and every single letter, if it’s an image you will only be able to select the image that the text is in as one big box.

Everything you type on your website is seen by Google, which searches for keywords in the pages of your website. So if you want your food blog to be listed highly for asparagus for example, then you need to write about asparagus, possibly focusing on the best ways to cook it, prepare it and the best accompaniments. Then when Google crawls your website it will find references to asparagus, it will list you accordingly when people search for this term.

This is what you want, it’s good SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to make sure your text is being found.

Using a image files like JPG, GIF or PNG in your website with text is shooting yourself in the foot in terms of SEO.  It’s also bad for people using screen readers, they will have no idea what it says. If you really must use an image (and you usually don’t have to), put something called alternative text. But this shouldn’t be used for masses of text, there really is no need to put large quantities of text into an image.

In the old days us graphic designers used to despair at the scarce choice of typefaces available. Arial, Times (my least favorite other than Comic Sans), Verdana, Trebuchet and Tahoma just wasn’t enough! You could only use fonts that were available on people’s computers so you used the most common fonts to make sure it didn’t show the wrong one (back then people didn’t browse the internet on their phones, that wasn’t invented then). Luckily a few years ago Google made it all okay by creating Google Fonts, which opened up a panacea of typefaces we can use on our websites, this means there are many more fonts available which can be used on your website or emailer.

Captcha and website security

If you have a WordPress website, you may notice that sometimes when you login there is a Captcha, this is an image only humans can read to enter something that confirms that you are not a robot. Some other websites have this too, if you remember MySpace you might remember squinting to read the captcha  then entering the text. Robots are not always metal people, they are also programs released onto the internet (some crawl your site for Google and Bing) some are nasty and are trying to hack into your website to post something horrid, send out masses of spam or just plain break your website. BUT they can’t (at the time of writing this) read text within images! Which is why WordPress and other websites have this built in to prevent attacks. This is probably the only sensible time to have text within an image, and it illustrates the SEO point even more, if the bad robots can’t read text in an image how will the good ones read the type on your website and list your it on search engines?

Scalability and mobile devices

Text remains the same size and therefore stays readable when the width is decreased.

You want your message to be read and not so small as to be illegible. What would be the point of a paragraph of illegible text? This is especially apparent on mobile devices. It’s temping as a graphic designer to take control of how the design works and use images in your email marketing instead of text, I’ve even received emailers which are solely one big image containing the marketing information. Graphic designers, I ask you, do you want your marketing message to get through or not? Provided your developer has done their job and tested your email or website properly on all devices, the smartphone or tablet will make sure text is kept to a readable size. It will however scale down an image which will mean if it contains text that too will be shrunk on the smaller screens of a smartphone for example. Most internet usage is on mobile devices, so you don’t want to waste your money by missing out on these folk. You might have a snazzy logo or advert within the emailer that needs to be there, as long as the type doesn't go too small and is clear enough to read that’s fine. But DO NOT use an image file as text for your main body copy, that’s just asking to be put to the junk mail folder. Use text as text and you can’t go wrong!

So to avoid SEO disappointment and to keep your website accessible and to make sure your emailer gets read NEVER use an image file to display your message, text is the choice of champions!

About the Author

Abbie T

Member since: 31st July 2014

Graphic designer and website developer since 2000.
Specialist in WordPress and Drupal.


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