IMAGE HOTLINKING AND GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH

I am mad and puzzled about something and I need to cry out to the world about my frustrations! 😉 Don’t worry, I’m not just going to complain in this post! I have some interesting things to say so you’ll probably learn something unless you are a SEO expert.


My problem is with Image Hotlinking and what Google Image Search does with Image Hotlinking. Anyone running a website or blog featuring pictures or photos should be interested and concerned about this hotlink problem.

What is hotlinking ?

HotLinking is the placing of a linked object, often an image, from one site into a web page belonging to a second site. The second site is said to have a hotlink to the site where the object is located. HotLinking is also known as inline linking, leeching, direct linking or bandwidth theft.

HOTLINKED IMAGE<<– This image is hotlinked

Some people say hotlinks are a good thing but most say the opposite. In my opinion, hot linking is a good thing.


People are worried about their bandwidth and the extra money cost. I say NO! Most web hosting plans today offer enough monthly bandwidth to handle a very large amount of visitors. From the top of my head, i’d say 5 to 10 bucks spent on a monthly hosting plan should allow you to handle 4000 daily visitors with 3GB transfer per day, 90GB monthly. I currently get an average of 1500 unique visitors a day on www.xarj.net and make 15 bucks a day with Google Adsense . So with little advertisement, you can afford a good hosting plan and not be complaining about the maximum monthly bandwidth!

Hotlinking should be a good thing ! It creates links and bonds throughout the internet. Links make the internet a better place! The Internet is all about links! If people didn’t link their websites together it would be harder to navigate through the enormous amount of information. We’d live in a sad sad world! :-)

What is the problem with image hotlinking?

The problem with image hotlinks is that, sometimes, Google Image Search gives more importance to the “thief” site linking to the image instead of the original site who hosts the picture. When a user clicks on the thumbnail picture in Google Image, Google sends this person to the thief page instead of the original. This is absolutely illogical . With regular text links, Google rewards a site if many other sites link to it. With images, Google punishes the original site by sending all the visitors to the thief site! WTF !!!

I’ve chosen two examples to show you. The first is the serps from the google image search query “Paris Hilton”. Have you heard of her? The second example is from the “Jennifer Lopez” google image serps. To prove my point, i need to find images that are very much at risk of being hotlinked. You are at risk when your image ends up on popular serps results. A lot of people search for Paris Hilton photos ! Not so many search for your name! Unless you’re famous? Are you? Leave a feedback if you are! 😉

Paris Hilton Google Image Serps ::
Out of the 18 thumbnails displayed, 6 links are sent to pages with hotlinked content and not the original page. That’s 33% of the images on the page! And i can’t help to notice that 4 out of 6 hotlinked images come from blogs on blogspot owned by Google!

Paris Hilton GOogle Image Serps

Jennifer Lopez Google Image Serps ::
Only two hot linked images in this serp. From my experience, being on that particular JLo page would bring 2000-3000 visitors per day to your site. That’s worth approximately 10 bucks per day with good Google Adsense advertisements. Sweet!

Jennifer Lopez Image serps

How do i know if people are stealing my image links on Google Image Search?

Search in Google : “site:yoursite.com ” . This is a very interesting tool that tells you which content/pages of your site Google has indexed in its search engine. If any page or content isn’t there, then it will not appear in the Google Serps. Now that you see all the indexed pages, click on “Images” to see the pictures Google has indexed from your site. If you don’t see any images, try removing the Google SafeSearch option in Preferences . Google might have censored your images! For those of you with indexed images, check the url that appears under the image. You should see your websites’ url. If you don’t see your own website’s url, then someone else is getting credit for your photo in the google image serps.

My Blog & Podcast has only 60 images indexed in google and 6 of them have been hotlinked! Some of my most popular images too! A nice photo of Christina Aguilera, Fergie and some National Geographics photos. I could be making an extra 5 to 8 bucks per day if Google sent the visitors to my site instead of some other site ! When money is present, it makes the problem a lot more annoying! This is one of the motivations for writing this article.

How can i stop people from hotlinking my images?

There are numerous ways of protecting your site from hotlinking but the truth is they don’t work. YOU CANNOT PROTECT YOUR SITE FROM IMAGE HOTLINKING! People will tell you to add a line of code into your .htaccess file on your web server. With this feature, your visitors will be able to see the images on your web site but if they hotlink the image on their website, the image will not appear. If they cannot see the image on their website, there is a much smaller chance they will want to hotlink to your image. That’s your only protection. If they still put a link to your image from their site, even if it doesn’t appear, the result is exactly the same! They can steal your image link on google image serp . I’ve had htaccess hotlink protection for 6 months now and people are still stealing my image links. Google seems to be promoting hotlinking!

The Solution :

The solution is Google. This hotlinking stuff would not even be an issue if Google sent the visitors to the original site hosting the image. People would stop screaming and complaining if Google changes their Image Search algorithms . I promess to remove the hotlink protection on www.xarj.net as soon as Google fixes the problem! I want people to use my images to show on their sites! But not if I’m loosing money!

Why has Matt Cutts never spoken about this hotlinking problem on his infamous blog? I haven’t found any official documents from Google about image hotlinks. They know about this problem but haven’t done anything about it in the last several years. I really don’t understand why it hasn’t been fixed yet. But I’m 100% certain it will be fixed eventually. It has to!

* Does anyone know if MSN and YAHOO have the same hot link problem?

* Any comments or questions? Thanks for leaving your feedback.

Internal Articles :

My Blog Traffic has Exploded!
Avoid Duplicate Content with WordPress
Monetize your WordPress Blog with Google Adsense

External Articles :

Hotlinkers stealing Google Image Search traffic
July 13, 2004 Smarter Image Hotlinking Prevention by Thomas Scott
Image Search Important? I Think Not!
Optimize your Images for Search Engines
Why You Shouldn’t Hotlink Images

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