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Are there benefits to having your images stolen?

     
4:02 pm on Apr 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I have seen lots of discussions on this forum over the years regarding hotlinking, image theft, and htaccess codes and am wondering if my strategy of dealing with image theft is really helpful? I always use an htaccess file with my sites that prevents the images from being hotlinked but does allow them to be "borrowed". My experience is that the type of people who borrow an image simply cut and paste it from my site into their own and they most often also keep the ULR link I embedded into the photo. This gives me an additional link. Could these free links be harmful in anyway ?

The htaccess code I typically use which includes a 301 rewrite as well as a denial of ability to see the htaccess code is as follows:

Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{http_host} ^yourwebsite.com [nc]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.yourwebsite.com/$1 [r=301,nc]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://(www\.)?yourwebsite.com/.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule \.(gif|jpg|js|css|bmp|png)$ - [F]

<Files .htaccess>
order allow,deny
deny from all
</Files>

[edited by: tedster at 4:47 pm (utc) on Apr 1, 2011]
[edit reason] prevent the automatic collapse of the example [/edit]

6:52 pm on Apr 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Welcome to the forums, bigdog.

I've long suspected that hotlinks to images actually help in organic search - but they can also kill you in image search. Since many sites serve images from another domain or subdomain, the technical challenge to giving the correct assignment to an image is immense.

How do you "embed a URL link in the photo"? Does it create an actual clickable link if someone "borrows" the image?
7:24 pm on Apr 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Been a long time reader and felt I need to give back a little. I have 40+ websites and rely heavily on photos on some of them for both cosmetic as well as SEO purposes. My photos show up very high on Google images and this causes hotlinking issues which I block using the htaccess file. I do hyperlink most photos to either the home page or another page on my site and include ALT tag wording to insure high placement on Google images. What I have found is that many people who "borrow" my photos just copy and paste them into their sites leaving the hyperlink information. I know this by looking at my external links logs. My question if these types of links "add value" from Google's perspective. I assume they do but am uncertain. Sometimes the link is left "clickable" and sometimes I need to look at the properties of the picture on the borrowers site to confirm it still contains my URL informtion.
8:48 pm on Apr 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If there is a true HTML hyperlink, then positively yes, there is some value for your site and for the URL the hyperlink targets.

The situation I suspect may have value is where there is only a src= attribute in an image element. That is not, strictly speaking, and anchor tag or true link. But it does seem like there might be some ranking value for the host site.

At the same time, if a website hosts their images on the cloud, out in a CDN or something like that - and that is the best practice for page speed - then it seems to me the src= attribute couldn't possibly benefit the principle domain.
9:02 pm on Apr 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Thank you for the feedback. My weblogs do seem to indicate a lot of traffic coming from both Google and Bing image searches and because of the content on some of the sites I believe that some people actually use images to determine which sites to visit. Especially personal and consumer services. Believe it is from non-english speaking, poor readers, or the UTube generation used to learning only from images. In any case, my traffic is up from images and that normally provides good algo weight.
9:25 pm on Apr 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I agree with both of you. I make money because of images and I bet many people use them on their site. In fact, one of the two highest traffic getters for me is because of an image.

I have a $5 a month shared account to serve up images for my main website. This makes my pages load quicker - while my main server is serving up the page, the images are coming in from another server.

Not all images are served from the shared account. Images like "find us on facebook" and our logo are on the main server.
10:23 pm on Apr 1, 2011 (gmt 0)

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At the same time, if a website hosts their images on the cloud, out in a CDN or something like that - and that is the best practice for page speed - then it seems to me the src= attribute couldn't possibly benefit the principle (sic) domain.


Could it help to add EXIF data to those images in order to identify the principal domain? Or the originating website in case of hotlinked content?
2:14 am on Apr 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I can't say for sure that it would help, but it's certainly a good idea and it can't hurt to add just a few extra bytes to the image file. We certainly know Google goes digging for any data it can find.
3:21 pm on Apr 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I tag my images with the domain name so if its used surfers will know where it came from.