Here is a toughie regarding ALT text on a multilingual website.
We are currently serving both English and Swedish content on the same URL, using a plugin that allows readers to switch between languages on any page.
An issue that has come up is how do you serve multilingual ALT text?
The solutions I have come up with are:
1. Create two seperate versions of each image, with seperate language versions of filenames and ALT text. This solution would require extensive changes to template files, internal links, etc.
2. Re-write images and ALT text using .htaccess. Not a fan of having this much rewriting going on in the background. Could lead to slower response times, strain on the server, etc.
3. Take advantage of the 16 word limit for ALT text and for each image have the English ALT text with a | seperator followed by the Swedish ALT text. So both versions would be displayed to English and Swedish users.
I`m in favour of 3 personally as it requires the least effort without taxing my website with multiple HTTP requests and excessive loads. However a few problems I can think of:
1. Will Google translate the ALT text on the fly and `realise` that I am repeating the same ALT text twice? Could be a keyword stuffing trigger.
2. If the format is ENGLISH ALT TEXT | SWEDISH ALT TEXT then the Swedish ALT text will be given less weight than the English ALT text that is listed first.
3. Despite the 16 word limit of ALT text it is still advisable to stay below 100 chars. Which may make it difficult to replicate the same ALT text twice.
I personally think offering both language version in the same ALT text is good for user experience. Also, since Google allows for the same content to be displayed on different country TLD`s (within reason) I would imagine it would not penalise me for having the same content duplicated in two languages. However as we all know, we are not Google and we can never know for sure.
What do you guys and girls think?