Flickr Axing Business Use of Photos for SEO

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One of the tools of the SEO trade has apparently been axed by Flickr. It seems like every SEO conference I have attended since Flickr went live included recommendations that Flickr photo submissions be treated much like HTML pages. The title of the photo, description, tags and any links in the description text work just like a standard web page and can show up in the search engine results. Here’s how I described it in my post SEO 101 – Image Optimization:

Post images to Flickr. Open a Flickr account and put unique photos in your account. Basically, each photo you put up is its own web page with a title, description and tags. You can include a link back to your site and share the photos with other Flickr users and social sites.

I went further by giving a demonstration of how this could work for SEO in an article I wrote called The Importance of Diversity in SEO where a given search result page could dish out your web pages, YouTube videos and Flickr photos in the results, giving you multiple opportunities to rank.

Well, looks like that’s going away for those of us who have listened to this sage advice at the various search engine conferences over the years. Apparently Flickr has decided to crack down on the use of their accounts by businesses. I noticed that the Flickr images were not showing up on the Facebook Fan Page for, the company I do SEO work for and who I used in the example image above. I tried to log into Flickr and couldn’t so I contacted them and asked what happened to the account. Here’s the response:


Flickr account “framesdirect” was deleted by Flickr staff for violating our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines.

# Don’t use Flickr for commercial purposes.

Flickr is for personal use only. If we find you selling products, services, or yourself through your photostream, we will terminate your account.


Granted, their Terms of Service gives them the right to cancel any account they deem self promoting, but until now, apparently they have turned the other way.

So, if you are using Flickr to promote products, services or sell anything, including yourself, don’t be surprised to find your account gone in the not too distant future.

Flickr just wants “Polaroid moments.”

And, any SEO conference speakers who have been using Flickr as an SEO tactic for business rankings can pull that slide from their Powerpoint.

As I’ve said many times, no one likes change except a baby with a dirty diaper.


Richard Burckhardt
Richard V. Burckhardt, also known as The Web Optimist, is an SEO trainer based in Palm Springs, CA with over 10 years experience in search... Read Full Bio
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  • and they still do not provide a backup method for a paying customer to download all his pictures easily. third party applications are alright but flickr server conks off randomly resulting in problems using them.

  • That’s ridiculous- Like Cannon coming and taking away your camera(along with your memory card full of your pictures) because they don’t like you taking pictures of bald Eskimo midgets in bar fights.

    Shame on you Flickr

    *Searches for Flickr’s twitter account to voice his displeasure

  • Good to see Flickr taking themselves seriously.

  • So were you using flickr because you wanted to share something with the community, and maybe get a little side benefit yourself … or were you using flickr to parasite SEO off a strong domain and drive traffic to your website.

    Did the majority of your pictures have links back to your site or the minority?

    no need to answer just rhetorical questions

  • As I mentioned over at Sphinn, most were right off of the site’s blog. Yes, some were product images, but many were celebrity photos, screen captures from YouTube videos, pictures of people wearing glasses and so forth. And most linked back to the blog article they came from.

  • As a Flickr user and an SEO, all I’ve got to say is “oh puh-leeze”… let’s call a spade a spade and this what it was… abuse.

    There’s using solid SEO principles to get the most out of your Flickr participation and then there’s the photo equivalent of comment spam.

    I’ve been on Flickr a while, and having accounts banned for blatant ToS violations — not just obscenity issues but using it for obvious commercial purposes — actually isn’t new at all. I’ve seen it plenty of times.

    Jeremy – your analogy is way off. Flickr doesn’t belong to you to do with as you please. Flickr is a community, not a piece of hardware.

  • Patrick Tse

    Richard: Flickr just wants “Polaroid moments”?
    That’s a shallow statement, showing the world that you still don’t know what Flickr is about. In case you are still interested:

    And Jeremy, your analogy is way off, I don’t even know where to start. Bruised bald Eskimo midgets coming to sue you for emotional distraught for your comment makes better sense than what you wrote.

  • Ouch Patrick, that stings

    I DID want to find out more about Flickr, and followed your link and read this in bold #1:
    “We want to help people make their content available to the people who matter to them.”

    So businesses aren’t people who want to make their content available to people who matter to them?

    My analogy was more related to Sushubh’s comment about not allowing retrieval of information. I feel they should have given the account owner the opportunity to retrieve their images.

    Good Point Melanie, about this being a online community, and not hardware:

    I honestly don’t know if this account really was violating TOS- “If we find you selling products, services, or yourself through your photostream, we will terminate your account.”
    If they had posted products, prices and contact info for all their items and was using it like Craigslist, then sure it was right to take it down for TOS violations. However, if it was pictures of celebrities with the glasses, and seminars related to them, then why doesn’t that get to be posted?
    Can’t a company have a “Kodak Moment”?
    …wait a minute..isn’t Kodak a company?

  • Thats a shame that a good thing can be totally advantage of like that. It’s probably the people who bend the rules to the max that get the boot.

  • Actually, commercial use of Flickr accounts has always resulted in deletion. It’s just that we members are getting better at finding and reporting them.

  • Jack

    Oh wow. Of course, Flickr has been adding rel=nofollow to image descriptions for years, so you’ve been giving bad advice anyway. I think the SEO advice– pollute Flickr’s photo service to marginally improve your pagerank– is both unethical and ineffective. Is there a list of SEO companies that support ethical optimization that I could use?

  • Jack

    You guys are worse than Flickr– you try to pollute other services, but are so careful to add “nofollow” to all of the links on your comments. Hypocrisy, thy name is SEO.

  • I have noticed this as well. Its a gray area because there are some brands like clothing lines that use models for photography and it could be a great place to show great modeling photos without spamming the website.

  • Hmmm, Maybe you could have your photographer post the photos to his / her flickr stream, then talk about how he lit the photo, his client, etc…..

    Then they could link to YOU and it would no longer be “self promotion”… 🙂

    Adam in Phoenix.

  • Mia B

    Isn’t this an opportunity for Flickr? Is there some reason they’re not just creating a premium service for commercial use? It seems to me that it’d be logical to monetize the trend rather than fight it.

    But perhaps I misunderstand completely?


    This is nice post.You have done brilliant peace of work.But there should be option to downland the pictures.Thanks for Google statistics updates.

  • Hi,

    I can understand why Flickr would want to prevent blatant explotation of their service
    by businesses.

    My company has a situation where we create new, professional photography for our product lines
    (gift bags, boxes, ribbons, tissues, etc) every few years. We’re sitting on these, old beautiful photos without intention of ever using them again.

    I was considering providing these to the community via an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License. But now I’m not sure I should, if Flickr is only going to delete my account.

  • I find alot of businesses using social networking to promote their services or products that they sell. Its good for small businesses like mine who don’t have large advertising budgets. I do it myself where its allowed. But I also write about other things that are pet related not just 100% self promotion.

    I agree with Mia B that they (Flickr) could offer a premium service for commercial businesses.

  • It is sad to think that flickr needs these businesses. If a businesses sees this as a revenue stream then they might be willing to pay for a premium account. Isn’t this just part of doing business too.

    I read about how Flickr and YouTube are loosing millions of dollars each quarter. Probably, because of their free accounts instead of paid accounts.

    Businesses might find it worthwhile to pay a premium for certain benefits that regular accounts are not willing to pay.

  • Funny that they shun the business model so vehemently. It seems that businesses would gladly go the paid route as Ryan mentioned, and perhaps branch off the business in a new direction.

    When social media platforms try to handcuff certain aspects of their business (see recent Facebook fiasco) it pisses off those who help make it what it is.

    Are there any good alternatives to Flickr for businesses?

  • Hi Seo People and keen flickr enthusiasts. I have opened a premium account in flickr and paid. I thought I had purchased it so I can promote my business it appears that I am wrong and the question is should I remove all links to my business website? Would appreciate your comments. Unforunately I don’t have huge advertising budget and cant afford to buy the “spam” offered by google called adword.

  • Comments from one of us scamming SEO’s… I have been advising clients for a long time to use Flickr to store images. We even install Flickr photo galleries on their websites and the Flickr WP plugins just for ease of use. Of course they have nofollowed long ago, but the images themselves get indexed nicely and Yahoo has made all the tools to make “sharing” easy.

    If anyone from Yahoo! happens by this post, I would like to tell them I will do my best to back out the commercial interests I have spread – BUT I would much rather have the ability to purchase a commercial account – maybe in the $300/yr range like the directory – high enough to keep the quick-buck guys out. Just my $0.02 worth.

    • Sounds like a good compromise to a pressing problem.

      • alexm666

        Well, there are lots of people selling actions, textures and the like on Flickr. Granted, you must go to another site to make the purchase but they are clearly using Flickr to show off the results of their products, and to make the sales pitch.

        I do believe they still allow these kinds of links, as my digital infrared photography program is linked in Flickr and I have had no complaints.

        But I guess they can change their minds at any time 🙂

  • Flickr upload as such doesn’t help u with seo.. thinking that u put links in ur description.. coz they spoil the tags with rel=nofollow..a sureshot way to throw away their customers

  • good information about Flickr, so webmasters do not waste their time with that service and find hours wasted by a deleted account. Thank you.

  • This is nice post.You have done brilliant peace of work.But there should be option to downland the pictures.Thanks for Google statistics updates.

  • This is nice post.You have done brilliant peace of work.But there should be option to downland the pictures.Thanks for Google statistics updates.