When it comes to link building, an image can actually be worth a thousand links despite the adage that a picture speaks a thousand words.
Consider this straightforward xkcd comic as an example:
It has links from more than 7,000 referring domains, according to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer:
There are straightforward ways we can all use photos to develop links, even though it could be difficult to duplicate this degree of astronomical success. And we’ll go through three of the best strategies in today’s tutorial.
But first, let’s cover a few basics.
Why do images attract links?
Images can be included. Additionally, most people link back to the source when they embed them in their work.
Here is an illustration of the password strength comic that was included in a Wired.co.uk article:
The author gives credit to the photographer by referencing the image’s original source underneath the image.
What kinds of images attract links?
Obtaining links from photos requires careful planning. You can’t just post a picture of your cat and anticipate an influx of links. Images that people will truly want to embed are what you need.
Here are a few common image types that tend to attract links:
Infographics are popular for a variety of reasons. This likely explains why “infographic link building” has become popular for well over a decade. Aside from the fact that individuals used them excessively a few years ago, they aren’t as popular as they once were, but fascinating and well-designed ones can still generate a lot of backlinks.
Check out this example from Wine Folly:
Site Explorer by Ahrefs indicates that it has links from 153 different websites (referring domains).
Google claims that 150 pages have highlighted it.
That’s probably in part to blame for the post it comes from being our most popular one:
No, that Instagram picture of your lunch won’t help you establish links like you’d hoped. Images of items that people are searching for, however, can draw links like crazy.
You can bet your bottom dollar that others will use the images you take of well-known products for your online store without your permission.
For instance, FireBox photographed their own product for a kit they sell for making beer:
However, they aren’t the only retailer of this item, and it appears that other retailers have used their images without their consent:
3 ways to build links with images
Let’s get to the nitty-gritty and start building some links.
1. Claim links from improper attributions
People may have already embedded some of the picture kinds indicated above if you’ve already made them.
You can see where they gave us credit by looking below the image. This link, however, goes to the image file itself rather than the original site where it was found. Image links are a dead-end for PageRank, therefore they presumably aren’t boosting our page rank in Google, so this isn’t ideal.
Here’s where to look for and how to credit these kinds of image links:
a) Find improper attributions
Using Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, paste your website, select the Backlinks report, and look for.png or.jpg in the URLs of backlinks:
The report should then be filtered to only display “dofollow” links from distinct domains.
As you can see, 497 websites are connecting directly to picture files on the Ahrefs blog.
Now all that’s left to do is go through the report and make a list of any links we wish to claim in a spreadsheet.
Just be cautious to examine the page’s source code before contacting them because there’s always a chance they’re linking to the image’s original page. In this situation, you won’t want to make contact.
b) Reach out and request proper attribution
Find the email address of a representative of each website, then send a brief email asking for a link change with the following format:
I just saw that one of our graphics was included in your post on [subject].
Would it be possible to link to the original post rather than the image file itself?
It’s that easy. Finding the appropriate contact information is the challenging part, but this video can help you do it more quickly:
c) Automate everything
If you are successful with this method, it makes sense to be vigilant about future false attributions.
To do that, set up a new backlink alert in Ahrefs Alerts, then use the following settings:
Domain or URL: https://yourwebsite.com/wp-content/uploads/
Score: New backlinks
Keep in mind that only WordPress-powered websites will be able to use this. Determine where your images are uploaded if you’re using a different CMS, then use that location’s URL instead. Or, you’ll need to keep an eye on that domain if you’re utilizing a CDN.
In the event that everything is configured properly, you will now get email notifications whenever someone connects directly to an image on your website.
Then you can browse the links and send them an email if you want to claim any.
2. Claim links from unauthorized use
Most users of your photographs will give you credit and a link, but not all of them will.
Here’s an example of one of our images that was used on another website, however the source code shows that there is absolutely no link to us:
Here’s how to locate connections that have been misused and claim them:
a) Find images used without permission
Reverse image search on Google is the quickest and easiest method for doing this. Google will redirect pages where it believes the picture is being utilized if you simply upload the image or paste the URL.
You then just need to sift through the results to make sure:
Your image is actually on the page
They’re not crediting you with a link
You want a link from this website
If all of the above is true, make a note of the page in a spreadsheet.
b) Reach out and request attribution
Find the appropriate email address and send a brief message, such as: Hey John,
I just noticed that you posted about [subject] and used one of our visualizations.
c) Automate the discovery of unauthorized image use
Reverse image searches on Google are completely free, but they take a while if you have a lot of photographs to check. Additionally, if you want to stay on top of unlawful picture use, you need to repeat the process every few months.
Using a costly tool like Image Raider will solve this issue.
This application searches the internet for embeds of up to 10,000 photos for a monthly cost. Simply register, make a list, and then add the pictures you wish to watch.
All of the images on your website can be quickly added to Image Raider. Simply use Ahrefs’ Site Audit to scan your website, then navigate to the Images report, click Crawled Images, Export Picture Resources, then paste the list of image URLs into Image Raider:
On the surface, this could seem like a nice idea, but it’s unlikely that you’ll want to keep an eye on every photograph. The URLs of the photographs you want to watch should be copied into Image Raider rather than sifting through your most visited pages:
In either case, Image Raider will automatically keep an eye out for fresh instances of your photographs. You only need to check for fresh “infringements” once a month by logging in. By filtering the report by “Result found date,” you can do this.
Just be aware that sometimes what Image Raider claims to be infringements isn’t. This is due to the tool’s failure to examine the pages’ links to you. This issue can be fixed by bulk-checking for links on the pages using a custom search in Screaming Frog after exporting the URLs list from Image Raider.
Simply go to Configuration > Custom > Search, choose “Does not contain,” and paste the following regex there:
Be aware that you must substitute yoursite.com with ahrefs.com.
Then, pick the “Does not contain” filter from the drop-down menu under the “Custom” tab. All pages lacking connections to your page will be shown in this way.
Then, using the Ahrefs API connection, you can paste those URLs back into Screaming Frog to retrieve metrics like Domain Rating and URL Rating, among others.
The next step is to sort through the export and decide which sites, if any, you wish to get in touch with.
The aforementioned may seem like a lot of effort, but once you understand it, it should only require 15-20 minutes per month. It’s still not bad if you only receive one or two links from that.
3. Use the TRUST formula
There is a limit to how many backlinks you can claim from current photos. You’ll need to produce more photographs after that in order to generate backlinks. You can accomplish that in a number of ways, but one tried-and-true technique is the TRUST formula.
Here’s the process in a nutshell:
Research and analysis
Unique (unusual, or unexpected) takeaway
Here, David McSweeney details how to use this strategy precisely as well as how he was able to obtain backlinks from reputable websites like Yahoo Sports and FHM. Let’s go through the fundamentals for the time being.
a) Find a trending topic
It will be simpler to propose journalists and bloggers new content about a related issue if they are currently writing about it.
One of the finest places to look for hot topics is Google News. Simply perform a search for the subject of your website, then scan the results for hot subjects.
In David’s example, he saw that there were numerous websites covering Tiger Woods, so he decided to write about that subject.
b) Find interesting data about your topic
Find data, examine it, and glean original insights. (Some starting points can be found here.) David used information from Wikipedia to determine how much Tiger Woods has made in each state throughout the course of his career.
His plan was to use this information to make a map.
c) Write the headline
Your proposal needs a short, one- or two-line takeaway or headlineWe figured out X.
Did you realize that Y?
Here is the goal David pursued:
Tiger Woods’ earnings in each US State were calculated.
Did you realize that in exactly half of them, he has made money?
d) Create your image
You have two major choices: create something original or use a tool like Visme or Easel.ly to produce a straightforward image.
David chose the second choice and came up with the following:
He then published a quick introduction to it on his website:
e) Promote the piece
Email outreach to journalists and bloggers who are currently discussing your topic is the key to this procedure. These can be located in Content Explorer in Ahrefs or Google News.
Search for your topic in Content Explorer, then filter for English pages posted within the last week.
After that, all that’s left to do is sort through the results, choose which websites you want to connect to you, get in touch with them, and make your pitch.
Here is David’s proposal:
Because they can be embedded, images provide a potent method for constructing links. They also make it simpler to communicate complicated concepts due to their visual character. This is why infographics can be so effective.
Just keep in mind that not all concepts translate well into images. To build links, you shouldn’t try to push your material into this format. It will fail. For that reason alone, countless infographics have flopped horribly.