Using Photos to Build Inbound Links

Filed in Link Building, Social Media by Matt McGee on February 14, 2008 35 Comments

A lot of great photographers are scared to put their photos online because it’s so easy for other people to steal their work. I totally understand that. I’m hardly a great photographer, and I don’t want people stealing my photos, either! But I do want them to use my photos.

In the past year or two, bloggers and other content developers have clued in to Flickr as a great source of usable photography. And that opens up an opportunity for anyone with a camera!

I’ve been sharing photos on Flickr since 2004. I use Creative Commons licensing to tell people, “you can use my photos as long as you give me credit in the process.” That credit typically takes the form of a link to my Flickr stream, or to the individual photo that was used.

I love when I find my photos on other sites. Why? Because it helps increase my exposure and, perhaps, sends a little bit of link juice when the link comes from an Important Site. Consider the three links my Flickr photos received this week:

February 7: Discovery Channel’s Planet Green blog

Planet Green screenshot

February 11: Wired Blog Network’s Epicenter blog

Wired blog screenshot

February 12:

Consumerist screen shot

Those are Important Sites, and those are nice links. Not great, but nice.

Consumerist, one of my favorite blogs, has used my Flickr photos four other times that I know of:

Why Does it Matter?

When these other blogs/sites link directly to an individual photo of mine, I like to go in and edit the photo description to add a link to, or some other blog/site of mine. I’m just trying to take advantage of that inbound link to my Flickr photos however I can.

When they link instead to my photo stream home page, it helps make that page a little stronger. That page is already a PR5, so I’ll gladly take any more links people want to send to it.

Either way … every little bit helps, I say.

Comments (35)

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  1. iamjustinm says:

    Pretty cool. Unfortunately, I’m not one one thousandth of the photographer you are.

    It would be cool though if there was a google trends or keyword research type tool for their image search. That way you can see what images folks are searching for and then go snap some photos.

    Anyone know of anything like that?

  2. Napoli says:

    This is a great idea. I have a large database of office furniture images that can be used for a variety of articles and advertisements. Do you know a good place to publish them. Maybe Flikr would be a good place to start.

  3. Matt McGee says:

    Hi Napoli – I would be careful about just bulk uploading bunches of product photos like that. Flickr frowns upon using their service for that kind of purpose; they want you joining groups and contributing to the community. You might want to look at sharing your photos via iStockPhoto and other stock photo services.

    Hope this helps, and thanks for leaving your first comment on SBS!

  4. PinkCakeBox says:


    You’ve nailed it on the head. Great strategy.

    We’ve also used this strategy for our bakery and have been very successful.

    Invariably you’ll have to deal with people will end up using your photo without credit. In our case, we had a bakery in Chile, take one of our photos and print it out on their truck! A fan of ours sent us pictures – really unbelievable. You can see the pictures here –



  5. Matt McGee says:

    Hey Jesse – thanks for the comment. That’s crazy to see your cake on the back of the truck….

    I checked out your blog — very cool. Great example of a small business blog. But I didn’t find any links to your Flickr account. ??

  6. PinkCakeBox says:

    Thanks Matt – our success is in no small part due to small business blogs like your own. Keep up the good work.

    We actually interface with the flickr API to display our most “interesting photos” as defined by flickr. You can see the cake gallery here along with a link to our flickr account.

  7. Forrest says:

    I don’t think a hyperlink ( from Flickr or virtually anywhere else ) is a fair price to use a photo. I realize it helps introduce a person to new audiences (s)he would never have reached before, but … on the other hand, the site is benefiting from using them a lot more than you benefit from the link. At least that’s my estimation.

  8. PinkCakeBox says:

    Forrest – I think it depends on your line of business. We are in the business of selling cakes and putting our photos on Flickr has been extremely valuable. It has introduced us to new customers, attention from other bloggers, and helped lead to a feature spot on CNN.

    Sure yahoo is benefiting as well, but we only include a small portion of our photos on Flickr. We encourage users to visit our site to get the full experience.

  9. Miles says:

    Have been using Flickr myself to build inbound links for quite a while and I think it’s slowly been paying off. Rather than marketing to the community of people who are on Flickr, I’m using my flickr account to attract some extra attention from google image searches.

    I’m kind of going against their terms of service, and was warned about a year ago, but so far haven’t been thrown off yet. I’m auto uploading about 300 photos per day to my account and going through my referer stats looking for photos that attract google image search referals. When something clicks with image search, I spend some more time optimizing the specific pages by adding them to groups, writing comments, adding tags and adjusting titles / descriptions.

  10. Matt McGee says:

    Miles – do you still have the warning you got a year ago? I’d love to see it. You can email me if you prefer.

  11. Matt says:

    How do you keep track of when people link to your photos on flickr? If you have like a thousand photos, I imagine this could be difficult?

  12. Matt McGee says:

    I monitor RSS search feeds (Technorati, Google Blog Search, news search, etc.) for my name, my Flickr username, etc. It doesn’t catch them all, but catches a lot.

  13. George says:

    Does this technique still work?I think that flickr added the no follow tag to all image descriptions thus killing that beautiful seo tip

    Please confirm

  14. Matt McGee says:

    Traffic is one of the main benefits. If a group of people click from Consumerist to my photo, and see a link below the photo that interests them, that’s new traffic I probably have had otherwise.

    If all you’re concerned about is the link juice aspect, there are other places where Flickr is not no-following outbound links.

  15. TJ says:

    Hey Matt,

    My name is TJ and I’m a web manager and admin for It’s a site for models and photographers but with a very limited budget. The site offers plenty of features but is having hard times in reaching wider audience. It’s a free site and as of now it doesn’t have any advertisements on it, so budget is the main issue.

    Can you give me some tips on how I can use a similar to your approach to build a little popularity for it? We don’t have the right to distribute (and we won’t) any of our members’ work, but is there anything else that we could do, that is cost-effective?

    Thanks a bunch in advance!


  16. Shailendra says:

    Great technique Matt, but how are you tracking who is using your photos and where. Some people might use your photo without linking you.

  17. Matt McGee says:

    Shailendra – if you scroll up a few comments, you’ll see my reply to that question.

  18. That is a really creative idea. I will have to start taking better and more pictures and getting them loaded. Thanks for the tip.

  19. Denise says:

    Hi Matt

    Just found your site. Very helpful. Just working with small businesses myself in the North of the UK. Like the information on Flickr and learned a few things


  20. Great post Matt! I found this on sphinn, good ideas.

  21. While it is cool to get your images on high ranked blogs, I don’t think the link back is payment enough – at least for a professional photographer. I do, however, wonder if actual paying clients, such as magazines are using Flickr in much the same way – searching Flickr for appropriate images with creative commons licenses. Guess I have some investigating to do.

  22. Matt McGee says:

    Hey Nicholas – the thing is, you can specify how you want to be credited when someone uses one of your Creative Commons photos. So, you can require that the user link to your main photography site. And hopefully, they’ll follow your request and do it.

    In that case, I’d say a link from super-authoritative blogs like Consumerist, Wired, etc., is a pretty substantial payment.

  23. leon says:

    this is one nice idea to get some good links

    and your shots are great !

  24. Daiva says:

    I placed a photo on my website with back links on it someone stole it to write an artical on gizmodo gave me 500 hits in 3 days still gives small amount of traffic from gizmodo and ranks #1 on google Images. If you want to see lookup surround sound on google Images Anyway this makes me believe its better to place photo on website if possible

  25. Ajay says:

    Nice post. However there are people who will still steal your photos and don’t give credit.

    • Matt McGee says:

      Yes, unfortunately that’s true, Ajay. If I were a pro photographer making my living that way, I’d probably take steps to prevent or limit it. But I’m not. Too many other things in the world to concentrate on, at least for me. 🙂

  26. Thomas says:

    HEy MAtt great post….you just inspired me to lead up all my car show images so that others may use them! Hopefully I can get some good links.

  27. Mikael Rieck says:

    Hey Matt. I know this is an old post but was searching for how to build links to a website using pictures. Now the process you describe is great and the links from sites to your Flickr account (and then to your site) is nice.

    But as you mention the Flickr links to your site is nofollowed (as you mention above). You talk about other image sites where you can get do-follow links when uploading picture to it. Would you care to share some of those sites with us?


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