Building Links With Images: Where To Start And How To Automate It?

Benjamin Beck
Benjamin Beck is a growth marketer and the creator of the Link Building Class. In the class you get 15 link building lessons from industry experts directly to your email inbox for free.

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  • Referring domains 18
Data: Ahrefs' Content Explorer

    A picture can be worth a thousand words, they say.

    Well, when it comes to online marketing, a single image can be worth a thousand links!

    Take a look at this image by comic blogger xkcd that gives tips on how to create strong and easy to remember passwords:

    Any guess on how many links that this image has gotten?

    Seriously, I want you to pause, take a good hard look and shout out a wild guess of how many links you think this image has gotten.  

    I’ll wait...

    When I plug in this URL into Ahrefs Site Explorer I see that it has gotten over 4,100 referring domains!

    referring-domains

    How did you do on your guess? Close?

    Put your guess down in the comments. I’d love to see how many links people think the image got.

    As for me (in the famous words of Dumb & Dumber) - “I was way off!”.

    It’s crazy to think that this single image has gotten 9X’s more referring domains than the blog you are reading right now! ( Sorry Ahrefs )

    Aside from links, this image has received social shares getting into the hundreds of thousands.

    Will you be able to replicate this kind of success with one of your own images?

    Hardly.

    But even if you only get 0.1% the results (which is totally doable) - that is still 40 links.

    So here's how you build links with images...

    How To Create Images That Attract Links

    Gregory Ciotti  has a great post about creating visual assets that I recommend everyone reads.

    Aside from the huge list of great examples of visual assets I like this quote:

    Great visual assets do more than just put words to images, they must offer creativity, clarity, or new insights on a popular topic.

    And there's a perfect visual that Gregory uses to illustrate his point:

    Here's how you illustrate the "features VS benefits" concept.

    Here's how you illustrate the "features VS benefits" concept.

    The article where this image was featured is only 100 words long. But the way they've illustrated the "features VS benefits" concept is so amazing, that it generated 142 links from 75 domains(and almost 5k tweets).

    Now this visual doesn't seem to be too hard to put together - a few images of Mario (that can easily be found in Google) and a few phrases of supporting text.

    But if you are not a designer, like me, you'll have a hard time putting the whole thing together anyways.

    So I usually prefer to leverage cheap services like Fiverr whenever I need to design a simple image like that!

    Actually, you can find a lot of different design gigs on Fiverr.

    Take a look at this recent post at Ahrefs blog: "How To Sell SEO Services: Getting Your SEO Business Off The Ground With Freelance Gigs".

    For as low as $5 they were able to visualize the main idea behind that article in a cool simple comic:

    ahrefs-comic

    (It's too early to say if that image attracted any links, but it surely helps to comprehend the idea behind the article.)

    The main downside of Fiverr is that you need to give a lot of direction, and since it starts at $5 you get what you pay for.

    If you are looking to get a lot of input and help from a designer, I suggest using 99 Designs or Dribbble.

    Audit Images That Build You Links

    I can hear a lot of you saying right now:

    But Ben I don’t have any image ideas OR I can't afford Fiverr OR I’m lazy OR _____________.

    Don’t worry, the truth is that every website has images that they can leverage for link building.

    In fact, most of the time your images are being used and you don’t even realize it!

    I call this Link Harvesting, where we use the assets you already have to build links. This saves a lot of time and doesn’t cost any additional resources.

    Start by doing an image audit to find all of the images that could be used to build links.

    These can be:

    • Logos - This includes all old logos. You can find who is using outdated ones and let them know about the newest version.
    • Brand Mascots - Some famous examples are Ronald Mc Donald and Google Android.
    • Infographics
    • Product Photos
    • Badges / Awards
    • Employee Photos

    Note down all the images that you think have the potential to attract some links and proceed to the next step.

    Find Who Is Using Your Images

    Alright, now that you have a list of images, it is time to see if the images are being used online.

    For if someone is using your images you can simply request that they link to you as the source.

    Handy Image Search Tools

    Just upload your image into any of these tools and you'll get a list of pages where your (or similar) image was used:

    Google Image Search

    I recommend you to use both tools, because quite often they will give you different search results.

    How To Automate Image Link Building

    Using TinEye and Google Image Search is great to see if an image has been used online ever. But if you want to check back monthly to see if anyone new has picked up your image (which I highly recommend doing) those tools are really difficult to use.

    Instead, I use a tool called Image Raider.

    This tool gives you a ton of free credits to start and allows you to automate checking your images as often as you would like.

    It’s simple

    1. Add images to Image Raider
    2. Set frequency of how often to check (once, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly)
    3. Get emailed when they find new occurrences
    4. Email them asking for a link to your image

    This simple process has allowed me to find links on major publications who were linking to the wrong place as the source!

    Below is an example of how I have it set up to monitor the infographics that SolarWinds creates:

    Setting Up Image Raider

    SolarWinds Infographics in Image Raider

    Always Check Pages For Links

    Image Raider lets me know where the images are being used, but not if they are linking back to my site. Before reaching out to these websites, you need to make sure that they are not already linking to you.

    You can use the Moz bar to check if a given page has any links pointing to your domain.

    But in case you get too many alerts from Image Raider, maybe it would be more convenient to create some automatic script that will check all these pages on autopilot.

    Create Email Templates

    Now that we’ve automated finding image opportunities with Image Raider, it’s time to email webmasters and request that they link to us as the source.

    To help speed this up, you should use some kind of template.

    I personally use BuzzStream because of their auto fill template feature, but a simple canned response in Gmail also works.

    Here is a quick generic example:

    Hi,

    First off, thank you so much for including us in your article on [Domain Name].

    [URL of Article]

    I noticed that you included our image and was wondering if you could link to us as the source.

    Thank you again for including us.

    Ben

    Take Action

    We covered a lot, so let’s summarize an action plan so you can start growing your backlink profile with images:

    1. Create awesome images!
    2. Keep a list of all the images you own for your website (Ex: Logo, Infographics, etc)
    3. See if images are being used online (TinEye)
    4. Automate image discovery (Image Raider)
    5. Check to pages to see if they are already linking (Moz Bar)
    6. Email those who are not linking and request they link to you as the source (Buzzstream)

    If you follow these 6 steps I’m confident that you will find and create new link opportunities each month.

    It has worked well for me in my own consulting and I know other marketers who do it time and time again with fantastic results!

    Best of luck, my friend!

    Questions or feedback? Let's talk it out in the comments!

    Benjamin Beck
    Benjamin Beck is a growth marketer and the creator of the Link Building Class. In the class you get 15 link building lessons from industry experts directly to your email inbox for free.

    Article stats

    • Referring domains 18
    Data: Ahrefs' Content Explorer

    Shows how many different websites are linking to this piece of content. As a general rule, the more websites link to you, the higher you rank in Google.

    This is not the actual number from Google Analytics. It is an estimation, pulled from Ahrefs' Site Explorer tool.

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    • Thank you for the awesome post, Benjamin! 

      I didn’t know about the “Image Raider” tool. Makes me want to try them out and see how good is their index and how good are they at finding similar images.

      By the way… 

      That’s also a great tool to spy on your competitors and see which sites pick up their images 🙂

      • My pleasure Tim!

        As for looking at who links to my competitors images I usually just use Ahrefs for that!

        Image Raider is to find all the places who are not linking to my images.

    • Dale

      Benjamin, when you send emails requesting for a link (for using your image), what kind of success rate do you get?

      I would’ve thought that most of those sites are either scrapers or don’t care. Could be a useful strategy though.

      I’d be interested in a more comprehensive post on coming up with ideas for comics/simple infographics. Also promotion (I know these kill it on Reddit).

      • Hey Dale.. I think I can pretty much answer your questions :))

        1. Success rate for “image outreach” should be traditionally pretty low, but I guess it should be a lot higher than “broken link building” for example. Because people are kind of “stealing” your image and it’s not ethical to say “no”, when you’re asking them for a link.

        2. True.. many of the sites are just scraping content. But you can pretty much threaten them with reporting their site to Google for duplicate content and send DMCA notice to their registrar and hosting company. So they will either stop using your content or link back to you… But at the end of the day.. most of these scraper sites don’t have strong domains.. do you really need links from them?

        3. That could be an awesome post! 🙂 Do you have any experience with that? 🙂

      • Great question Dale,

        I’ve found that successful outreach for this depends on a couple of things:

        1) Timing — if the post is a week old they are much more likely to update it. If it’s older than a year they almost never change it.

        2) Being Thankful — I’ve noticed that letting them know how thankful you are first before asking for a source link can make a big difference. 

        Lastly depending on the industry you are in can drastically change their response rate.

    • Wow. Mind blown thanks so much for this Benjamin, easy to implement and super impactful. You are the man!

      • Sure thing Luiz! 

        Let me know how it goes. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter if you have any questions.

    • Octavian Ambrosa

      Nice article Benjamin, but I was wondering, besides the quality of that picture, how do you get people to use it?
      I mean, something must act like a middle-man in this whole process — we have answered only the WHY should we use this picture, but we haven’t the HOW do they find your image? Only though Google Image Search or are you promoting the images separately with a different method, third party websites etc.?

      • Hi Octavian,

        Great question and that can be an article completely on its own!

        Whenever I create an image I make sure to have a plan to promote it. I use the Ahrefs Content Explorer to find opportunities around a topic and then start promoting it to those places.

        https://ahrefs.com/content-explorer

        • Octavian Ambrosa

          Well we’re looking forward for the new article Ben.

          Thanks for your great advices.

          • Sure thing Octavian! Feel free to hit me up on Twitter if you have any questions.

        • Jean StClair

          I make sure to have a plan to promote it”
          That’s what I need, a promotion plan…

          • Not having a promotion plan is where I see a lot of companies lacking so their great content doesn’t get noticed.

    • Really excellent article! I’ve got a new tab open while I’m writing this comment to try out some of the image search techniques.

      • Awesome Charlotte! Let me know how it goes. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter if you have any questions.

        • I would like to ask if there are any simple image creation tools that you have used in the past that you thought were worthwhile. The only one I’ve come across that I can get my head around is PicMonkey

          • Dale

            For the design-challenged (referring to myself), Canva is freaking amazing. Blows away all other free image tools imo.

    • @beckjamin:disqus That’s a pretty neat idea Thank you for introducing me to ImageRaider. 🙂

    • seek android

      Really an awesome article, someone recommended me for quality back linking. its really useful and doable thing. but my question is same as Dale asked. i ask in other way
      “if some body don’t want to give me a backlink for my image (as mostly did) what would i can do. as i read your conversation, i am totally depends on luck for getting back link for my image. any proper way for requesting a back link to site owner. coz mostly site owners i guess 99% dont read thier inbox unless you advertise on their sites. 😛

    • Hey, Ben and you guys..

      Any idea why 99% of photos and even most comics aren’t branded with URLS?

    • its really a awesome post, but its always not happened.

    • Does it work now?

    • Benjamin Beck That’s a pretty neat idea Thank you for introducing me to ImageRaider. 🙂

    • Fun Trunk

      That idea you introduce is really amazing

    • Great idea about images, good work

    • The idea of sending emails asking them to link to us does its work. The best way.

    • its really a awesome post