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Can hotlinking damage your Google Image Search rankings

 12:06 pm on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hello - I depend a lot on ranking in Google image so I follow this a lot and what has been a problem for a year or more is "Moderate SafeSearch is on" it just filteres 90% of all my images and I have 100% no nude images, I also have a filter on site which deletes bad comments about images, so that point is also ok.

Now what I think is the reason, is the hotlinking to my images, with those hot linking is also "some bad text" on those sites, also the art of sites could play a role.

Those hotlinking images is now in my site:domain.com search results on google image, means a lot of other domains show up, where i have no influence on there content, but they are damaging my Image theme so google think my site is bad, now thats my theory.

Its incredible how many ways another site can hurt your site.



 12:45 pm on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

Others have noticed this pattern too. Unfortunately, Google Image Search does seem to have a problem dealling with hotlinking, and that means your site suffers. I look forward to this being fixed sometime - but when? Until then, the only thing you can do is take steps to break the hotlink chain.


 2:31 pm on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

>> take steps to break the hotlink chain

there are quite a few threads around about it

Hotlink Protection Tutorial [webmasterworld.com]

or just search for it [google.com]


 6:07 pm on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

We've always protected ourselves from hotlinking with a generic banner or "No Hotlinking Allowed" image using the methods described in jatar's link. But what I've always really wanted to do was allow the image, but plaster it with some text or a logo like "Find this and other images at MySite.com".

Does anybody know how to do that?


 6:28 pm on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

.htaccess hotlink protection will discourage hotlinking, but it will not stop Google image search from indexing the hotlinked image. Google image search weighs on-page text quite heavily now, which not only lowers the accuracy of their image search, it can also associate "bad" keywords with your images.


 6:33 pm on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

Unfortunately, Google Image Search does seem to have a problem dealling with hotlinking, and that means your site suffers.

Here comes the flip side, I think your site can also benefit from Hotlinking.

Ranking Images for Web Image Retrieval
USPA 20080097981 awarded to Microsoft on 2008-04-24

That above patent provides some indication that hotlinking may be a benefit for some sites. I would think it could be used to do the exact same opposite as in the OPs example.


 9:25 pm on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think there is once again a problem where we have to wait this out, be cause google are more interested in expanding then fix small bugs.

I do have a hotlink protection, but it does not help much when they are already linking to me, they dont remove those bad links

Receptional Andy

 9:31 pm on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

It's no fun, but you can also pursue legal measures if others are hotlinking your pictures.


 9:36 pm on May 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

No legal stuff as long its only small sites, I also have this view if I want to protect my images i can place them on a https with a login and not on the public net.

I just want google to fix this, but I dont thinks its a priority, updates also only happens every 3 month.


 10:34 am on Jun 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think this issue is now over 2 years, dont google know about this problem or are they all working on uploading our genes.

Once again a way another website can hurt your rankings, also the problem is not a small, I would say 99% dont think its necessary to change "moderate search off" to look at nature images or other normal images.


 1:03 pm on Jun 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

we have the same problem, is there any way to stop hot linking when your using a windows server ?


 8:28 pm on Jun 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

One way to stop hotlinking on a Windows server is with a third party module (paid) called ISAPI Rewrite. Without something like that, hotlinking can very challenging to stop with the native functions in IIS. The company who makes that module also makes a stand-alone hotlink blocker.


 10:00 pm on Jun 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

well I have blocked hotlinkers for years, still nothing, but thats because the link is still there the image not, so I really hope google will also fix this problem, other sites are really hurting us here, that can not be in googles interest.


 9:53 am on Jun 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think I am going to create a new site, thats the best solution, I have been waiting almost 2 years that my images return and nothing.

I also created a new site when google had, maybe still have this 302 redirecting bug, www or non www, hijacking problems, it was the best thing I did it really saved my business, so I think its time to create a new site again, once again be cause google dont focus on there search tool anymore.


 12:32 pm on Jun 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

What would happen if you registered another domain and used that specifically for redirecting hotlinkers?

IE: if the hit has a referrer and it is not from your domain, 301 redirect them to another domain and image in there that says "No hot linking"

Can you guys spot a flaw in this approach?


 1:09 pm on Jun 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

Probably not want you want to do, but could you cloak your images?

Have duplicate images on a different url, and serve a page that references them to Googlebot.


 1:33 pm on Jun 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

Keeping your images in a subdomain is further protection from the hotlink problem.

On a personal note, I really enjoy adding hotlink protection to sites that have been around 5 to 6 years and watching the perpetrators get all mad.


 4:03 pm on Jun 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

McClaw - Im not sure, but could also be a little risky.

I really think thins is a problem which is not noted by Google, be cause it has been a problem for so long.


 5:38 pm on Jun 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

What I've always wondered is if you could create a flash file with an embedded, search engine readable link to your site in it and serve that up in place of hotlinked images and videos.


 6:48 pm on Jun 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

I use an ISAPI filter called WebKnight for IIS. It's free and does a lot more then just hotlink blocking...


 9:14 pm on Jun 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

It's worth noting a discussion we had in April about this same topic:
Safesearch filters all of my images - but they're clean [webmasterworld.com]

bumpski: This may seem hard to believe, but I've found the sites you link to can prevent your images being indexed for the safe search filter.

I spent several months removing links to sites with any remotely unsafe keywords and found after 3 more months that my images were now being indexed by safe search.

Also make sure you don't link to a site whose images do not show up in safe search, even if there is no apparent reason.

tedster: If the site publishes user-provided images, there may accidental occurences of incorrect (and adult) meta data embedded in some or many of the files. Depending on how the user works with their software, incorrect metadata can happen. Enough accidents like this and the entire domain's images might be filtered.

Also, Google recently entered a patent application that offers a lot of clues on how images can be automatically processed for search. Here's the patent application [appft1.uspto.gov]. Notice these possibilities, especially when there is little or no data/metadata directly associated with an image:

  1. Images can be auto-tagged according to shapes, colors, and textures. This may involve breaking down images into smaller tiles and tagging those tiles.

  2. Images can be compared to other indexed images from around the web that have similar extracted features. Then keywords that are semantically related to those other images may be imported and used to tag the image that is being classified.

I can see lots of ways that an image might be incorrectly filtered. When it comes to image search, any search engine might prefer to err on the conservative side.

So while hotlinking may be part of the picture, there are other areas to consider when you run into Image Search troubles.

creative craig

 9:53 pm on Jun 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

This wont help much, but when I catch people hotlinking my images I rename the image and then put up some 'other' image with the old filename... what sort of image? Well it depends on my mood at the time, but it always does the trick!


 10:51 pm on Jun 3, 2008 (gmt 0)

-- then put up some 'other' image with the old filename --

There are ways of serving the same/different image based on the referrer. We have a few that rank really well on Image Search on all 3, but when HOTLINKED :(, serve pixel(16 bits) Clear graphic :)


 1:30 am on Jun 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

However, if hotlinking to your domain is causing a problem in Google Image Search (and we are not 100% sure that is the case) then redirecting, substituting images, denying access -- none of that would change the fact that there's a link out there, pointing to your site that Google can spider.

If such links do generate some kind of "adult by association", then that would be a rather grim flaw in the algorithm. It would allow other webmasters to trash your rankings - at least on image search.


 9:36 am on Jun 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

Tedster just my words.


 11:35 am on Jun 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

However, if hotlinking to your domain is causing a problem in Google Image Search (and we are not 100% sure that is the case) then redirecting, substituting images, denying access -- none of that would change the fact that there's a link out there, pointing to your site that Google can spider.

Cloaking however would I think - have 2 sets of identical images, one for Google and one for everyone else; these are not cloaked and have separate urls. You then have 2 sets of pages, 1 for Google and 1 for everyone else; these are cloaked and you serve whichever to your visitors depending on whether you think they are Google or not.

If you serve Google's spiders pages which reference images that are never shown to human visitors, this would get around the problem as I understand it.

As far as Google is concerned the clean images are only ever referenced from your own domain. Hotlinkers would be referencing images which would exist if Google queried them directly, but would not be the ones that Google sees on your site.

A visitor would see the google image when viewing it on Google Images, but get the human version if they clicked through to the page.

If hotlinking is the problem of course, and assuming that the hotlinkers are getting the image url from your site directly and not using Google Image search themselves.


 5:24 am on Aug 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have the same problem. With safesearch on, google only shows about 30% of my images. These images are totally clean.

So I have painstakingly created another folder and copied all the images into this new folder, leaving the old files in place. Then I re-linked all my images to the pictures in this new folder but I didn't change the file names.

You guys think it'll work?

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