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I saw a variation of this question posed on WebmasterWorld recently, a member asked:
If I don’t want to spend time creating and distributing content as a way to get links, what else can I do?”
The person asking the question didn’t want to guest blog, issue press releases or create any kind of written content, he reasoned good content didn’t have to be about words on a page. Interesting point-of-view given the content hungry world we live in, who isn’t trying to out-do their competitors with attention grabbing written content?
I laughed when I first read the thread and thought “he’s looking for an easy way out ” but after thinking about it, decided there could be something to the question. The person asking made it clear he wasn’t looking for creative suggestions, he wanted to know where he could buy links. But the conversation got me thinking about what you could do if you wanted to find different and creative ways to build links.
People in the thread responded by suggesting he beg, buy, swap and get directory links, all solid tactics but not exactly creative or different. I’m painfully aware of the consequences of laughing off any marketing opportunity so I decided to sit down and think about what I would do to attract links without using written content. When I say without content I mean not using tactics the guy listed as non-grata…articles, blog posts or press releases. Let’s see how many link building ideas/tactics I come up with that don’t use articles, blog posts or press releases and don’t involve begging, buying, swapping and directories as a primary link building tactic.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I agree content doesn’t have to be in written form to attract links. No one buys Playboy for the articles, visits Brooke Burke to hear her rave about her four kids or goes to Art.com to read the artist captions. Those sites are online to sell products and use images to attract attention, links and your loyalty. Even if your site sells inductor coils, someone, some where at some time is going to want a photo of them; make it super easy to find and use your images in exchange for a link. Here a handful of things to consider…
1. Create an onsite image resource center and add all your photos. Include an “image free to use as long as links/caption left in place” statement along with copy and paste instructions. Embed a link and include descriptive keywords(meaning hyperlink a keyword phrase and not your URL) in the photo caption you place under each image. Optimize the page like any other on your site, bookmark the new resource on Delicious, tweet the URL, Facebook, G+1 and add to LinkedIn.
Depending on your niche you can get creative with this new resource, consider adding images and videos from well known experts in your industry as a way to draw attention. Draw on the way Rae and Rand put together their group interviews every year, you can do the same thing with images as a way to augment your resource and attract even more links!
If I was allowed to use a press release I’d issue one announcing the new image resource but since we’re not allowed here, I’ll hit social media hard and encourage my friends to do the same.
TIP: To make an image into a hyperlink, replace the hyperlink text with HTML image code. Images can have a relative path (/images/sample-image.gif), or absolute path http://yoursite.com/images/sample-image.gif)
<a href=”http://www.yoursite.com”><img src=”http://yoursite.com/images/sample-image.gif”></a>
2. When you find people hotlinking your images (use Tineye or Google’s new image search for this) write and ask them to link to you in return for using the image. If they don’t, suggest linking may be preferable to being slapped with a DMCA notice or you tweeting about their theft publicly. If that fails or your image is on a splog/scraper site, consider watermarking your hotlinked image with your Logo and URL. I’m not technically inclined enough to walk you through the “how to do this” so check out the detailed articles here. You won’t get a direct link back but your URL will be visible in the hotlinked image. (Have a little fun with them like I did here)
3. Build out a Flickr account with “how to link in exchange for using an image” instructions, add that account to anything you publish as a way to advertise. You can also add your resource to this monster list of free image directories. Be sure to take advantage of the profiles behind some of the directories, they allow do-follow links and linking opportunities.
4. Include a link to your image center in your email and forum signatures as a passive way to increase exposure. (Especially since we can’t use press releases in this little exercise)
Using Widgets For Links
5. Create a link embedded widget using a service like Widgetbox, visitors can download it from your site or you can do an email campaign and offer it to your user base.
TIP: Find in-service widgets by searching on snippets of their code. Backlink the sites these widgets are sitting on to discover where they are being hosted. Offer your widget to the same sites and similiar sites.
6. Run a contest and ask visitors to submit images of your products in action. Add to your online image resource center. Tweet/add to Facebook/G+1 each new image added.
TIP: Once you have a number of images and the contest is closed, run a caption contest for additional exposure.
7. Create a blog dedicated to displaying your images, content can include:
- Images submitted by contest participants
- Images submitted by employees/vendors/customers
- Images from your site (with descriptions)
- Images from industry experts/gurus/celebrities
Ask the experts/gurus/celebrities you’re showcasing to review your image resource on their blogs, let them write and spread the content!
Two More Things…
8. Always add a descriptive caption or insert link text/alt attributes to the images you add to your site. This will help describe the contents of an image file and assist those using screen readers.
9. If you are sending out press releases to announce image properties, use a social media press release over a traditional one. If you’re not familiar with social media releases, search on the phrase “social media release” (without quotes) and look at services like Pressitt and Pitch Engine.
So, Are Image Links Worth a Thousand Words?
I think they are, especially if you can implement the tactics I’ve outlined here. I did have to resort to some “begging/asking” with the techniques I outlined but overall, I stuck to the rule of not buying, selling, or swapping links. I didn’t write a single article or blog post (got others to do it for me) but I did cave and suggest a directory and press release. Sorry but I live and breathe those things so going cold turkey is probably not in the cards for me.
I don’t think an image link carries as much algorithmic weight as a link embedded in content (doh!) but when used creatively can result in some high powered text links. Using images as attraction points is more work than using content IMO, and depending on what you’re showcasing, they’re probably more expensive too but they will definitely attract attention. Just remember images are appealing but you’ll need a very wide variety to appeal to a broad audience.
There’s a number of good blog posts out there on using images for links, check these out:
Link Title Attribute vs Image Alt Tags, Which is Better/SEOBook
How To Build Links With Images/WolfHowl
Getting Links and Content from Flickr/SEL
Bing Upsets Webmasters By Linking Directly to Image File/SERoundtable
3 Way to Use Google New Image Search To Build Links/SEOMoz
Until next time, good linking!