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Does image hotlinking help your rankings in Google?

Some webmaster use a new search engine optimization practice to get high rankings on Google. They hotlink images from other web servers to rank highly in Google's image search results.

How does this work?

Google's image search doesn't just return web pages from where a picture originates. For example, the first result for "Darth Vader" returns a BlogSpot web page although the original image is stored on a .hu domain.

Search for any term on Google Images and you'll always find web pages in the results that are just linking to an image from another website.

Why does this help your rankings in the normal Google results?

Google's new Universal Search system now returns images and movies at the top at the search results for some search terms. For example, if you search for "Darth Vader", image results will be the first results in the list.

A click on these images redirects web surfers to the web page on which the image is displayed. If your website has a good ranking in Google Image search then these top rankings might also be displayed in Google's regular results for that search term:

Hotlinking images: good for SEO?

Should you use this new method to improve your search engine rankings?

We do not recommend this new method. It is risky in several ways. If you don't have the copyright for an image, you are not allowed to use it on your own web site.

Hotlinking an image without asking the owner also exposes your site to the risk of defacement. The webmaster of the website that hosts the original image just needs to replace the original image with something rude and it will be displayed on your web site.

Hotlinking images is not long term strategy for high rankings on Google. If you want lasting results, you should optimize your web pages so that they can be found for your keywords. Also make sure that the right pages link to your website.

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July 2007 search engine articles