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This 33 message thread spans 2 pages: 33 ( [1] 2 > >     
Does Image Hot Link Protection Ruin Image SERPs?

 11:39 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have had hot link protection for quite some time however since the introduction of Google Instant I have noticed this past week the removal by Google of nearly all my images from their image SERPs.

I was thinking that something else may be at work, a Google glitch etc, however after going through loads of data today it suddenly became evident that my image referrals had fallen dramatically.

Does anyone know if my assumption may be correct and if so am I now faced with the option of either:

1. Accepting this huge reduction in traffic by retaining protection?

2. Allowing all this hotlinking just to get my image traffic and therefore AdSense earnings back?

Or does anyone have any other advice for what may be done?

Or am I barking up totally the wrong tree?



 11:50 pm on Oct 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

This happened on July 20th for me and has not resolved itself. Images is not a big traffic driver for me.

Original thread about the new Google Images interface: [webmasterworld.com...]


 12:06 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm testing my suspicion by removing hotlink protection from several of my smaller sites and see what happens with those images and traffic over the next week or so.

If I am correct this is a huge mistake by Google since it means they are condoning hotlinking, mind you, they scrape my sites!


 1:12 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have the ability to serve an image in various dimensions and have been toying with the idea to serve the bot (and/or hotlinkers) a significantly smaller (say 240x320) image rather than its original.

What has held me back from implementing this is
a) the odd chance that this may be considered cloaking
b) the time and work involved vs the potential benefit

I'd be very interested to hear if removing the protection will fix the issue for you.


I just checked a link for one of the smaller files that is still indexed and apparently my framebuster is not an issue.

While going through the logs, I noticed that most of the time Googlebot-Images has received 304 not modified responses from my server -which is correct because the images have not changed.

It has not attempted to get any of the new large images (the category which is now gone from the index), only the ones without hotlink protection.

Any similarities to this on your end?


 3:15 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

My 2 cents,

I have a image site with hotlink enabled. It was a nightmare.

A. 2 years ago, Google began awarding sites that were leeching my images.
B. I could manage to get some images from my site as #1. 3 weeks ago I noticed that a fan website that stole my image was #1. This week, another fan site replaced that site as #1 on Google Images.

So, hotlink or not hotlink, Google is just juggling with the results on Google Images.

Though, the image WAS the same. The file name on each site (mine, and the 2 fansites) is different, content is different... but Google picks the same image... strange.


 4:28 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

You can add rule in htaccess to allow Google or specific websites to link your images.

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !google. [NC]

 7:40 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I redirect hotlinked images back to the article, and never had a drop in image search traffic.


 8:52 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Report your problem here: [google.com...]


 9:47 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I redirect hotlinked images back to the article


For a few images that would not be a problem for me yet my thousands of images it would be a pain.

Any similarities to this on your end?

All I have used is cpanel's hotlink protection.

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !google. [NC]

Thanks, I'll try that.

So, hotlink or not hotlink, Google is just juggling with the results on Google Images.

After spending most of the weekend looking at this I have also noticed that most of my competitors' images are also missing and I know many of those have hotlink protection as well.

And yes, I am also seeing my copied images all over the SERPs!

I'm not 12 hours into my experiment yet, I have disabled hotlink protection from 10 sites with various country ccTLDs. They're not big sites yet they all ranked extremely well for images and if they bounce back there will be a noticeable statistical jump.

I have also checked Bing and it would seem that they too have removed most of my images!


 9:50 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !google. [NC]

A quick thought about this.

What will happen when someone hotlinks using Google images through a social networking or picture stealing site? Those referrals have always shown me a Google reference or the pic stealers.


 10:20 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've explained it before here: [webmasterworld.com...]

Easiest way is to use the article id in image url, and redirect it to a php script that redirects back to the article...


 10:22 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Thanks for that link. Looks like there's some structural misjudgement going on of image content and labeling taxonomy.

Not sure if that affects me, since only specific directories are being left out.

Will clean the next few lines up a bit and see how it goes...

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.example\.com$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !(example\.|example2\.|facebook\.|favoriteplaces) [NC] # Google Maps Favorite Places
RewriteRule ^/(article|widget|service)\-photos/ - [F,L]

/added: @levo, that looks interesting. Using python instead of php, but see how I could make it work :)


 10:39 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have also checked Bing and it would seem that they too have removed most of my images!

Same here, checked 5 of my sites: 3 w/o protection have all images indexed. Only a handful (logos/site navigation) for the other two sites.


 10:59 am on Oct 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have just written to my hosts explaining the situation and asked if they have had notification of this issue from CPanel themselves.

AdSense earnings were 40% down this weekend compared to the last few therefore I need to do something since this is tens of thousands of Dollars a year.

Am I expected to give away my bandwidth? I know one thing, my metrics will look an absolute mess if the only solution is to allow this!


 1:10 am on Oct 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

HuskyPup, I have hotlink protection on (have done for years) and also a framebuster.

No affect on image search. YMMV


 7:59 am on Oct 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

What is framebuster?


 8:21 am on Oct 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

What is framebuster?

It busts your site from being in a frame. Like Google image search.

Just put the following inside the head tags

<script type="text/javascript">
if (top!= self) top.location.replace(self.location.href);


 10:50 am on Oct 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I have hotlink protection on (have done for years)

This has only happened since Google Instant was introduced.

I've actually been in direct contact with CPanel discussing what has changed since several others in the Search forum have found the same issue.

I've had thousands of images removed by Google and Bing therefore I'm not too sure what's happening however my hosts did perform a CPanel upgrade recently therefore I wonder if that has something to do with it?

Maybe pure coincidence but whatever it is I need to resolve since my PIs are down overall by 20% which obviously means a corresponding reduction in earnings.


 11:00 am on Oct 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I am on an Apache server, so I have cpanel too.

I still have around the same amount of images now, as I did many months ago.

I think it is a local issue rather than the search engines screwing around.

BTW, I didn't use CPanel to set up the hotlink protection.


 1:16 pm on Oct 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi Lame_Wolf, apparently it is a taxonomy issue for some sites. The thread to G's help forums is really enlightening, as to the types of sites that have been inadvertently filtered.


 2:43 pm on Oct 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi caribguy, thanks for the HU. I didn't think it was a global or search engine problem.

Do you have the link to the G Forum thread, perchance ? Thank you.


 3:14 pm on Oct 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

Up in the thread, Suratmedia's post: [google.com...]


 3:37 pm on Oct 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

I didn't use CPanel to set up the hotlink protection.

The strange thing is that the first time I did it I didn't use CPanel either yet when I checked it there was my htaccess coding so I then did everything from CPanel.

After speaking with CPanel last night they advised me to check both the boxes:

Allow direct requests (ie. entering the URL to an image in your browser)

Since they "think" that may be the issue. Anyway, I've enabled hotlink protection again since a couple of days without it and they're linking from all over the place.

One or two images have come back into the image SERPs, one of them straight in at #1 which explains why that site's PIs shot up the past two days.

At the moment all my web SERPs seem fine therefore I'm going leave it as-is for a few days to see what happens. My trade directory has hardly been affected however my main B&M site is still at least 40% down and that is all image referrals.

I can live without all this hotlinking hassle therefore when it all settles down and I have an overall 20% reduction in earnings, well, so be it, it's the principle that counts with me.

whats up skip

 12:09 am on Oct 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

I am having a problem with how the photos for our web site are showing up in Google Image search results.

I previously had code in the “.htaccess” to prevent hotlinking. This had been working ok until Google changed their Image Search system earlier this year. This change by Google resulted in the hotlinking blocking the image showing as the preview image shown in Google Image Search. When I say the preview image, I am not referring to the image shown in the search results with all the other results, but the image shown in the cached/preview web page shown in the background (an image of ours warning that the webmaster didn't have permission to use the image) with the search result image in front of it. As a result of this problem the number of people clicking through to our web site from Google Image Search has dropped significantly.

I changed the “.htaccess” file on the 20th of April to remove all the hotlinking code, so this is more than six months and should have been enough time for the Google Images to be updated. Clearly something else is wrong. Does anyone have any ideas?


 8:27 am on Oct 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

What happens when you go to Google.com and:


This will tell you how many pages they have however then go to images and see how many, if any, images are in there.

Me? 8 domains without a single image, not even the company logo!

According to CPanel themselves it should be ok, I do have some sites displaying a limited amount of images therefore it's not, at the moment, something Google has penalised server-wide yet.

FWIW all my SERPs #1 rankings are still there, soemthing's wrong but don't ask me what!


 4:50 pm on Oct 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

I noticed about a week ago that all of my images had been removed from image search. I was using hotlink protection, but I had explicitly exempted Google from the redirect rules.

I removed the hotlink protection completely, and my images are all back in the image search results.

Looks like I'll just have to eat the bandwidth charges, if I want my images to be in Google Image Search.


 5:31 pm on Oct 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

Lame_Wolf, about the framebuster code you posted, is there any difference from the following which a moderator on a Word Press Board recommended?

<script type="text/javascript">if (parent.frames.length > 0) top.location.replace(document.location);</script>


 7:14 pm on Oct 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

Looks like I'll just have to eat the bandwidth charges

And therein lies the conundrum, not only does this mean that Google are condoning hotlinking and you have to pay the bandwidth for these thieves, in my case it would seriously affect my AdSense CTR and eCPM massively.

It really does depend how many images you have that are hotlinked and regularly used on those sites. If it were just my widget trade using them to display decent brochure images I wouldn't mind but when thousands of social networkers, myspacers, etc decide to use my images for backgrounds, and some of them are getting hundreds and thousands of views per day, well, the bandwidth just goes bananas.

Since my peak bandwidth month in May this year so far this month I have used just over 19% of that bandwidth therefore it looks like it will end up at about 30%!

That's one heck of a saving however bear in mind my bandwidth usage before I clamped down on it was increasing by ~15% per month...as we say in the UK, do the maths:-)

At 5 months bandwidth has doubled.

Another 3 months and bandwidth has doubled again

Another 2 months and bandwidth has doubled again.

In less than a year one's bandwidth has increased 400%!


 8:27 pm on Oct 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi mromero,

I have never used that version, but I know the one I use does not screw with the back button, nor has it affected any image in Google Image Search.


 8:29 pm on Oct 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

Before I had hotlink protection, I was losing over 1gb a day in b/w.

This 33 message thread spans 2 pages: 33 ( [1] 2 > >
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