Is Your Website Text Actually an Image?

Most websites are designed using some form of html, css, and other types of web design code. Text (the wording on the website) must be included in the code as actual text. Sometimes, however, what looks like text is not text at all, but an "image" or "picture" of text.

Why does it matter whether the text on a website is actually text or an image?

Text should actually be "text" rather than an image, for two reasons:

  1. Most importantly, search engines can read text. The text on your website helps search engines determine how to rank your site in their search engine results. If someone searches for text that matches text on your website, your website can come up in search results.
  2. If you need to make changes to text, you just change the text! You cannot change text inside an image unless you have the original file that the image was created with as well as the program that created it. So if the image was created in Photoshop, you would need the original Photoshop file as well as the Photoshop application to change the text.

Why is text inside images bad for search engine optimization (SEO)?

Search engines cannot read text inside an image. If someone searches for text that appears in the image, your website will never appear in their search results. The image itself can only be found in search results by the image file name or the image alt tags on the website, but not the text depicted in the image.

Why would a web designer use images instead of text?

Some web designers build the entire website in an image editing program such as Photoshop. This is because they do not know html or css coding to build the website correctly, and/or they are working with a pre-built template. And if the text is actually an image, the client won't be able to change the text later on and will have to contact the original designer.

A web designer can also be more creative and flexible with the layout of a website by building it in an image editing program and then saving the whole site as an image. This is generally not a good practice, but it can work as long as the text sections are not saved as part of the image, but are added later as actual text.

Sometimes a designer wants certain text to be highly stylized or decorative, say in an interesting typestyle, with shadows or borders, etc. This is often the case with company logos. It's okay to use an image for small amounts of text such as a logo or a quote.

Web designers used to be restricted to using only certain fonts (typestyles) on a website. These had to be fonts that were available by default on most computers, such as Arial, Times, Helvetica, etc. If the font was not available on the computer of the person viewing the site, the browser would render the text in the closest available font that the user had on their system. This would cause the website to not appear the way the designer intended. But there are several ways these days to show text in fonts that are not limited to the "default" fonts. The easiest method is through Google Fonts.

How do I know if the text on my website is text or an image?

Sometimes you can tell just by looking at the text. If it looks blurry or "bitmappy" or "ghosty" around the edges, it's probably an image.

If you can highlight the text the way you would in a program such as Microsoft Word, then it's text. To highlight the text, left-click the mouse button over any word (make sure the word is not a link) and then drag the mouse down or to the right. The background of the text should turn a different color (usually blue). If the text is an image, dragging the mouse across the text may either move the block of text, show a black circle with a line through it, highlight the entire block of text at one time (not as you're dragging the mouse), or do nothing (text will not be highlighted).

You can also right-click the mouse button over the text. Depending on your browser, the context menu (white box) that appears when you right-click the mouse button will show different options when you right-click on an image than if you right-clicked on text. Depending on your browser (whether you're using Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc.), right-clicking on an image will show some options such as "View Image", "Copy Image", "Save Image", etc. (or it may call it a Picture instead of an Image). These image options will not appear when you right-click on text, although you may still see the option "View Background Image".

On your phone, if you select text, you often have the option of copying it. But if you select an image, you'll have an option of saving the image.

In the two samples below, the first one is text and the second one is an image. Use the methods described above to see the difference:

This is text:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Neque enim disputari sine reprehensione nec cum iracundia aut pertinacia recte disputari potest. Sed ad haec, nisi molestum est, habeo quae velim. Quis enim potest ea, quae probabilia videantur ei, non probare? Quis animo aequo videt eum, quem inpure ac flagitiose putet vivere? Diodorus, eius auditor, adiungit ad honestatem vacuitatem doloris.

This is an image:

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