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Can Web Crawlers Read Text in Images?

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asked Apr 29, 2016 in Search Engine Optimization by Matthew Pomar (860 points)

Can web crawlers read text in images for the purpose of indexing it for searches?

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The short and simplest answer is no. However, while search engines today use advanced algorithms to parse and index images, you should not rely on this for inclusion of text in the engine's index.

Many web sites include text in creative ways, including pictures, art, and video. This can be very useful for making a page more interesting or useful and is great for making a site more attractive or cohesive. Unfortunately, any text you include into these pictures and films will be unreadable to web crawlers. Even if human visitors can easily and coherently understand it, that doesn’t mean software programs can as well.

Usually, web crawlers can only understand text directly inserted into a page. Good ones can comprehend a wide range of fonts, including all those you can find on a word processor, and then some. However, even the best crawlers cannot read a picture. To a robot, pictures are just a collection of pixels, tiny dots of color. The way those pixels are arranged means nothing to crawlers, even if a human’s advanced cognitive abilities can easily figure it out.

Anyone who wants to put words in their videos and art online should feel free to do so. However, they should be aware that these words will not be picked up by search engines. A good solution is to go ahead and include text in images, but then repeat the text elsewhere on the page, or add it to the "alt" attribute of your img attribute.

For more advice about text and images, try http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=114016

answered Apr 29, 2016 by Matthew Pomar (860 points)
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