|Block or allow image hotlinking?|
I now have 20% or more of the "visits" to my site being hotlinks to images on my site. It's about 2500-3000 a day.
I'm torn between continuing to allow the hotlinks because something in my head says the hotlinks contribute somehow to the site's rankings, or preventing hotlinking completely through a rewrite of some sort.
There are certain times of day when the server slows down momentarily because of the load, so blocking hotlinks would help that. If they have any value for SE ranking, though, I'd rather find another solution to the server issues.
My thoughts are that I wouldn't worry about hotlinking until it becomes a load issue. Now that it actually is a load issue for you, I'd clean the problem up pronto, and permanently. Fix it right once and be done.
I've read some pretty interesting things to do with hotlinkers through the years, one that comes to mind is substituing another image.
are these images pictures of your products?
Then you could replace them with ones featuring a text like "Buy the original widget at dickswidgetsite com"
No, they're not my products. They're products from large companies. The difference between my site and most every other site in my niche is that I get high-res image files from the manufacturers whenever possible, and Photoshop them to make them look as good as possible.
So, I have a lot of good-looking large images of products that people want to link to from forums, blogs, etc.
Most people link to the page, but many hotlink the photo.
There's far too many photos now to go through and change the file names and links to all of them. Blocking hotlinking would have to be done with a rewrite of some sort.
I serve to hotlinkers a nice banner that reads:
"For more information visit example.com".
I just wish it were possible to make the image clickable, but I highly doubt that can be achieved.
|If they have any value for SE ranking, though |
Depends how you're serving them. They can have value from various factors. For instance how the person views the external page. Does he allow 3rd party cookies? Does he have a toolbar that monitors his preferences? Is there a mechanism that reports these access to the images so it counts towards you in the search results?
Then how does your server sends the images? Does it use thumbnails or a lower res image so you conserve b/w? Is it a straight image access or it passes through a thumbnailer etc.
And if you decide to block them how do you block them? 403? 301? There is a difference. You can make them count in favor of your site.
Finally how do you detect the hot-linking? Is it referrer based or some other method? I have seen sites bringing up a broken layout because I block the referrer when I browse online. I only see one page then I am out of course.
|Finally how do you detect the hot-linking? |
In looking at SmarterStats, there's a report for page views per visit. It shows 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and then more than 10. I could never figure out how there could be zero page views, so I called SmarterStats and they explained that those would be hotlinked images.
I then checked the logs, and saw that page XYZ.html got 85 views on one particular day, and that XYZ.jpg had 235 views.
As for the server, it gives the full size image.
IMO use thumbnails and pass the image through a script so if it is pulled from external sites you have full control to do whatever you want. In other words to send the headers you want, force the cache, redirect etc. Theoretically it should improve your overall site's rank because of the likelihood these accesses are recorded and utilized by search engines.
Of course you do not want to put a high load on the server, so having thumbnails could help.