Image Hotlinking and SEO : Are There Any Benefits?

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An SEJ reader sent us the following SEO Question, which we would like to open for readers to contribute their thoughts.

  • Are there any benefits of other sites hotlinking your site (is that worth as much as a regular link)?

Hotlinking refers to the process of using images of one site on the pages of another site. Hotlinking is infamous on the web due to the following reasons:

  • Hotlinking is treated as a way of stealing bandwidth from the host site [the site where the image is originally hosted]
  • Besides that hotlinking can also result in copyright infringement violations which can land you in a legal conflict with the owner of the host site.


But the main question here is, keeping all the copyright issues aside for a moment, if we look into hotlinking from an SEO perspective, are there any benefits in getting your images hotlinked by another website? Would hotlinking be worth as much as regular links?

When this question was asked in the Google Groups Webmaster Help Discussions recently, Aaron Pratt, a member of the group, responded by saying:

“anything linked to including images shows that people out there might like what you have, google then has to determine is the linking is real or make believe. :)”

However, the point to notice in the above statement is “anything linked to”, so:

  • If the hotlinked image has a link to your website URL, then that would be treated as a proper image link and will pass due link credits to your website.
  • Also if the hotlinked image is linked to the image URL itself, then that would increase the chance of your images appearing in Google Image searches.

Last year, Patrick Altoft wrote an exceptional piece and script to benefit from sites which hotlink to images, embedding an alt attribute and image title in the linking code, making this hotlinking even more powerful.

But what if the image is neither linked to your site nor to the image URL? Do you think such a hotlinking would still be beneficial to your site? What do you think?

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Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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