What’s Image Link Building (& Why You Should Consider It)


  • Image link building is a link building strategy that involves earning or soliciting links to your website from external sites that use an owned image.
  • Image link building is very straightforward, assuming you already have images you think are valuable. 
  • If you own or are able to create high-quality images for your own site, you’re sitting on linkable assets that can be used on other sites. 
  • High quality images and graphics are some of the most consistent and valuable tools to attract organic links from authoritative websites.

When you’re doing search engine optimization, it’s pretty much impossible to succeed without link building. Defined as the process of creating or attracting hyperlinks from other authoritative websites, link building contributes to SEO success in several significant ways. 

Links are signals of trust and authority. When one website links to another, they are effectively saying that the linked webpage or website is worthy of attention, traffic, consideration, or that the linked website contains more information relevant to what’s being discussed. For this reason, links are generally treated by search engines as citations, not unlike sources in academic documents. A simple way of putting it would be to say that links from one website to another pass not only potential traffic, but “authority.” This authority is thought to accumulate, leading to a higher likelihood that a linked website will rank higher on the search engine results page (SERP). It’s for these reasons – traffic, authority, relevance – that link building is considered to be one of the most crucial and effective ways of optimizing a website for search engines.

The term “link building” refers to a variety of different practices, all designed to earn traffic (clicks) and authority (relevance) to a site. Popular link building strategies include fresh mention link building, guest blogging, broken link building, link reclamation, link baiting, and image link building, to name just a few. All of these should be taken into consideration by SEO professionals looking to move the needle and increase the overall number and quality of a site’s rankings. In this blog, we’re going to discuss image link building and link baiting specifically.

What is Image Link Building?

Image link building is a link building strategy that involves earning or soliciting links to your website from external sites that use an owned image. An owned image is any image file created or owned by a website or its webmaster. A lot of link builders tend to prioritize link building strategies that primarily utilize text content because the keywords they’re targeting for rankings are obviously going to be text, ultimately. This is why guest blogging is such a common, and occasionally problematic, link building strategy. 

While these text-based strategies are important and should be a part of every link building campaign, this attitude is also somewhat myopic. As we know, authority, relevance, and traffic will pass through a hyperlink whether it’s an image or text. Thankfully, search engine crawlers are more sophisticated and intelligent today than they were when link building came to be established as a discipline. Leaving potential links on the table just because they don’t seem to directly contribute to an individual keyword goal is a mistake. 

How to Do Image Link Building?

Image link building is very straightforward, assuming you already have images you think are valuable. The first step is to take stock of all of the images owned and hosted by your site. You’ll want to do this on an ongoing basis. Once that’s done, conduct a reverse image search using Google Images or a service like TinEye to see where on the web your image shows up. Start with any larger sites you might recognize and check to see if the image links to your site. If it doesn’t, add that site to a list of contacts that you’ll reach out to. Once you’ve made your first pass with the larger sites, check out the remaining sites using a service like SEMRush or Majestic to identify which sites are authoritative and valuable from a link perspective.

Once you’ve captured all of the sites that are already using your images, start to compile a list of sites that you think might be interested in your images. Create another list of prospects that you can alert when you create new images or assets. Even though you want to steadily increase the number of individual domains that link to you, the opportunity for new traffic should also be prioritized as a secondary benefit. 

Why is Image Link Building a Valuable Link Building Strategy?

The reason it’s smart to include image link building among your link building strategies is that images offer a great deal of opportunity. Every site online is interested in making their experiences more visual, but most are unable to create enough visual assets to keep their visitors engaged. 

Additionally, images help to make a point in an article or blog given that their worth is popularly estimated to be around a thousand words. Writing about a particular breed of dog? Of course, you want to show one. Talking about your favorite meal at a local restaurant? Again, it would not be much of an article without a picture! Regardless of the theme of your site, there’s opportunity with images. 

High-quality images are simply a more valuable and broadly desirable type of online content. If you own or are able to create high-quality images for your own site, you’re sitting on linkable assets that can be used on other sites. After that, a link back to you as the image’s owner can be a relatively simple process. 

Using images without permission and attribution is not only a breach of online etiquette, it can be illegal. If you allow images to be used, as long as they are attributed back to the creator or owner of the image in the form of a link, you’ll not only be expanding your audience by exposing your work, you’ll be earning authority to your site.

Can Image Link Building Target Specific Keywords?

Another reason why focusing only on text-based link building is a mistake is that image links can actually help you capture specific keywords. Images online should contain alt text, which gives a text description for the contents of an image. Similar to the way anchor text works for text links, image alt text provides users who may be using a screen reading device as well as search engine crawlers which cannot really see an image the context needed to understand the image. Put simply, alt text describes an image. When that image is a link, the alt text can help users and crawlers understand how the image is relevant. 

The trick here is that you as an image owner can’t really control what another site owner is going to put as alt text on an image link. While you can make suggestions, they’re not really enforceable and webmasters or site owners may not appreciate feeling micromanaged. You might try to include in your outreach to a site you see using one of your images some information about the benefits of alt text that includes what you think it should be, but again, it’s only a suggestion. As long as alt text is present and accurately describes the image, it should be relevant and acceptable. 

Images as Link Bait

Another great benefit about images as a link building strategy is that images can take many different forms. Locations, people, infographics, webcomics, and charts and graphs are just some examples of images that can easily attract links, or act as link bait. 

Link bait is any piece of content that’s designed to attract links to your website. Often, you’ll see popular charts, graphs, infographics, and other informative pieces of content on many websites, all linking back to the original creator. These are most image links. If they’re not image links, they often are presented with attribution in the form of a link. Either way, the image has earned your site some authority. 

Link bait can be easy to create and can yield huge benefits both immediately and over time. Some of the most authoritative websites in the world, from news websites to content curators like Buzzfeed, use interesting and informative pieces of content cultivated from around the web. If your image goes viral on social media, the likelihood is high that valuable links will follow. 

Have Questions? We Can Help

High quality images and graphics are some of the most consistent and valuable tools to attract organic links from authoritative websites. Although it may seem somewhat indirect, an investment in the quality of your images will typically yield considerable SEO benefits. If you have a ton of images and are curious about what an image link building strategy would look like, contact us for more information

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason is a Cal Poly Pomona Alum, an extreme fan of marketing, and social media advocate. As a Marketing Coordinator at Redefine Marketing Group, he is responsible for the development and execution of strategy for both off-page SEO and social media marketing.
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