Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from 35.172.195.49

Forum Moderators: phranque

Message Too Old, No Replies

Hot Linking - What to do?

A specific case

     
2:55 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts:2740
votes: 839


Let me start by saying that I have been pondering the issue of hot linking for a while and have looked into various other threads such as:
[webmasterworld.com...]

I understand the benefits and disadvantages of blocking or allowing hot linking, but I need some help weighing my options in my particular case.

My website features several graphs and maps for each page. This amounts to many images, tens of millions. The images are all SVG and generated on request. I am using Cloudflare for caching to reduce the load on the server.

In recent days I have noticed that when I do a Google search for my domain my site appears first but then thereafter, there are hundreds of spammy sites that are hot linking to my images. Given the recent updates, and my loss of traffic I am concerned (maybe unfounded) that this hot linking is reflecting negatively on my site.

I get only about 3% of my total clicks are from image search. In terms of impressions, image-search impressions account for more than double the number of web-search impressions. This results in a very low CTR from image search, which can be interpreted as showing a lot of images through Google Image Search with very little benefit.

In my previous version of my website I had embedded the SVG in the page and this eliminated hot linking completely but it also prevented Google image search from showing the images. When I created this latest version of my site I intentionally showed my graphs as images in an attempt to capture more clicks from image search, but now I am not sure whether this is in-fact a net gain in traffic or causing more problems than anything else.
3:05 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Preferred Member from CA 

Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Feb 7, 2017
posts:579
votes: 60


Is there a pattern for these spammy sites? I ban most hotlinking. They can take up a huge amount of bandwidth and they are relentless: They will never stop. Once they feel they are tolerated it only gets worse.

Once some newsy-bloggy site hotlinked to one of my images. The traffic it sent me was huge, but these are only hotlinks and not page views. I banned the referrer site, and complained to his host provider.
3:27 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts:2740
votes: 839


Is there a pattern for these spammy sites?

I'm not sure what you mean. But there is no specific pattern that I can tell other than the number of domains is huge, hundreds.

The traffic it sent me was huge,

I don't see any traffic from these sites. I am assuming that this "spam strategy" is largely ineffective in terms of benefit to the hot linking domain. My worry is that it is negatively impacted my site in terms of ranking, that is that there are thousands of spammy links pointing to my site.

I see the domains by Googling my own domain, or in the "Links to your site" report in GSC.

I ban most hotlinking.

What hotlinking do you allow?
3:37 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Administrator from US 

WebmasterWorld Administrator not2easy is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Dec 27, 2006
posts:4562
votes: 364


In my previous version of my website I had embedded the SVG in the page and this eliminated hot linking completely but it also prevented Google image search from showing the images.

This results in a very low CTR from image search, which can be interpreted as showing a lot of images through Google Image Search with very little benefit.

I would say that you were better off before providing resources to be abused. Your intent was good, but the results don't seem to help and may have unwanted side effects.
3:43 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 9, 2011
posts:15937
votes: 889


<tangent>
A popular alternative to blocking is to rewrite to a hotlink graphic. My current one is lurid green and magenta on a black background, is physically painful to look at, and probably uses fewer server resources than a 403. In the--admittedly rare--case where a hotlink appears on a site that is seen by humans on a regular basis, a sufficiently ugly picture will ensure that the hotlink is speedily taken down.

Hotlinking, incidentally, creates a terrible user experience because it takes ages and ages for a site to load up with all those calls to different hosts. (In general, if a page has one hotlinked image, it will have twenty of them.) So it's not likely the hotlinker will get any real benefit.
</tangent>
4:22 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 4, 2001
posts:2297
votes: 100


I am with @lucy24 on this. I have ugly images served up to anyone who hotlinks. Bottom line - no sense letting any site benefit from your hard work.
4:35 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from FR 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Feb 15, 2004
posts:7139
votes: 413


The only exceptions to "block all hotlinkers with extreme prejudice" should be "only allow to images that have your site watermark showing "copyright" prominently right through the centre , side to side, diagonally"..that might get you some "curiosity traffic" ..and will make most of the hotlinkers stop...I don't allow hotlinking..nor do I allow pinterest, nor do I allow Google images..
4:35 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 13, 2016
posts:1194
votes: 288


In my previous version of my website I had embedded the SVG in the page and this eliminated hot linking completely but it also prevented Google image search from showing the images. When I created this latest version of my site I intentionally showed my graphs as images in an attempt to capture more clicks from image search

Another problem is that, Google doesn't mind where an image comes from. It's been years, that I see sites which were outranking me, by simply hot linking images from my sites, and, for some reasons, Google was listing my images, but with a link to these sites. This sucks.

What hotlinking do you allow?

in my case, my own sites, and empty referrer. For others, I simply "do not answer", using nginx this is done by returning "444", which is a special code which makes nginx to simply close the connection, without sending bytes.

But hot linking protection are not preventing Google image to index others sites, with your images.

May be there is a way to tag an image? I don't mean a watermark, but something to add in the server headers ?
5:55 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts:2740
votes: 839


But hot linking protection are not preventing Google image to index others sites, with your images.

Sorry I don't follow. If you prevent the images from being shown by blocking the hot-linking then there will be nothing for those sites to show. Without content those sites will no longer appear in search for the keywords in question (one would hope!).

The issue I am still struggling with is whether to revert back to SVG embeds or keep the SVG as images and block the hotlinking via htaccess.
6:05 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Nov 13, 2016
posts:1194
votes: 288


Sorry I don't follow. If you prevent the images from being shown by blocking the hot-linking then there will be nothing for those sites to show. Without content those sites will no longer appear in search for the keywords in question (one would hope!).

Google image bot is not sending a referer, so, when Google image bot visits a page which is hot linking images, it will see the images, and index them with the page.
7:19 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member keyplyr is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 26, 2001
posts:12913
votes: 893


I gave up the anti-hotlinking effort years ago. Not worth the waste of time. And I concur, all the image searches will still display the infringed images no matter what you do.
7:33 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from FR 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Feb 15, 2004
posts:7139
votes: 413


Not a waste of time if you block all hotlinkers, pinterest, "screen scrapers", "screen captures", search engine ( any, not just Google ) "images" etc from the moment that the images go "live" on the web..
9:46 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts:2740
votes: 839


@keyplyr
all the image searches will still display the infringed images no matter what you do.

I'm not sure why you make this assertion. Are you saying that the offending sites have copied to the images?

I went to see what some of the sites are linking to exactly, and to my surprise when I navigate to the page the image is no longer shown in its place there is message saying "removed at the request of the copyright holder". My guess is that this is a bunch of BS, that they are blocking the images for any referrer that isn't Google, and showing the image to Google. Like this Google continues to index the page while they can tell anyone that complains that the image is removed and it is Google's fault.
10:22 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from FR 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member leosghost is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Feb 15, 2004
posts:7139
votes: 413


@keyplyr

all the image searches will still display the infringed images no matter what you do.


I'm not sure why you make this assertion. Are you saying that the offending sites have copied to the images?

I'm interested in that reply too..

If they had copied the images, then that would not be hotlinking..as hotlinking has always been taken to mean..

What does Google's cache of the site(s) show ?
Sites using "hotlinking" ( hotlinking meaning linking "live" to the resources of another site ) will obviously not continue to show what they were hotlinking to if they are blocked from doing so..they could continue to show the images if they had copied them to elsewhere..at which point DMCA to them, to their hosts and to G..

What does Google's cache of the site(s) show ?

Especially, what does the "source code view" of the G cache show..?
10:48 pm on Aug 27, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member keyplyr is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 26, 2001
posts:12913
votes: 893


Image Searches will cache the image for an (unknown) period of time; after discovering it, they have it. They don't need to link to the site in able to display the image (no matter where the source was.)

Also, since these bots do not use referrers when requesting the images, this will circumvent some of the anti-hotlinking scripting built on referrers.

Google still displays a hotlinked image of mine from a site I had taken down using a C&D about 8 months ago. In addition, I have since renamed & moved the image to a new location.

Not that big of a deal I later decided, or I would file a take-down with Google. I don't like opening that can of beans with Google. It backfired on me when I did it with Bing a few years ago and now Bing Image search won't display *any* images from my site.

The best defense against hot-linking is proactive. Block the scrapers, block the bad neighborhoods & server farms.

Blocking Methods [webmasterworld.com]

- - -
1:20 am on Aug 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 9, 2011
posts:15937
votes: 889


If you prevent the images from being shown by blocking the hot-linking then there will be nothing for those sites to show.
A search engine doesn't know this. All it sees is (a) an <img src> tag in the offending site's html, and (b) an image file found in the specified location. Google (specifically) routinely sends a referer with requests for scripts and stylesheets--but not for images. So any hotlinking protection on your own site is meaningless when it comes to search-engine requests.

Now, why search engines don't give preference to images that live on the same domain as the html that calls them, given the choice ... that's a different matter for a different thread.
1:55 am on Aug 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 1, 2016
posts:2740
votes: 839


@Lucy24
In my case I have the option of replacing <img> with <svg>...</svg> and voila! end of hot-linking.
2:06 am on Aug 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Apr 9, 2011
posts:15937
votes: 889


Tralala :) In some cases, it may also be viable to use dataimage. (I forget the syntax, but you know what I mean.)
3:12 am on Aug 28, 2018 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member keyplyr is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Sept 26, 2001
posts:12913
votes: 893


removed at the request of the copyright holder
@NickMNS, yes that's exactly what those sites are (were) doing. Only allowing Googlebot-Image. In effect hijacking image traffic, using our images as click-bait for ad revenue.

I have about 70k images across several sites and saw a lot of this over the last year or so. All of those sites are now gone from Google's index AFAIK.

I now see only a couple hot-linked image attempts in my logs each week.