Many people will tell you that using external (free) image hosting to host your website images is the same as using free hosting overall: unsafe, unreliable and generally unadvisable…. Well, this is not exactly like that. So before we go any further, let’s discuss the pros and cons.
Why using a free external image hosting service might be a good idea?
(1) It’s a good way to save on hosting and bandwidth (especially if you publish multiple images regularly);
(2) It can be one of steps to take to speed up your site.
Of course, there are some cons:
(1) Less control over your images (the service can decide to cancel your account, delete your images, etc);
(2) Less reliable: the service may once just close down, etc.
Am I using them? – Yes, for those sites where there are many images.
Note: Of course, I do optimize the image size before publishing it, but if I have multiple images per page, the page load time will still leave much to be desired (even with a fairly good hosting package) – unlike when those images are hosted on Flickr for example: the page loads pretty fast even with like 50 images on it.
Main (Most Reliable) Image Hosting Services: Overview
|Free account limitations||One image max size||Speed||URL structure|
|Blogger and Picasa||1Gb||20MB max.||Fast||dynamic|
|ImageShack||–||1.5MB max.||Moderately fast||…/imagename.jpg|
|TinyPic||–||1600 pixels max.||Moderately fast||dynamic|
Note: The table lists only those services I’ve had some serious experience with.
The table is pretty clear but it does require a few comments. While the second and the third columns are more about general features, the last two are aimed to evaluate the SEO-relevant features of the service: load speed and search referral traffic:
1. “Speed” column reflects my personal opinion. I didn’t do any serious tests, this is from my experience of the load time when a page contains numerous images hosted on one of these services.
2. The last column was included there for a reason: “readable” file names in the file paths boost the Google image search referral traffic (if you care about it). I managed to have great results with image search rankings with sites like Photobucket that build the image file path based on the image name.
More posts on the topic to check: