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.
When I plug in this URL into Ahrefs Site Explorer I see that it has gotten over 4,100 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?
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:
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:
(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.
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.
- 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:
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.
- Add images to Image Raider
- Set frequency of how often to check (once, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly)
- Get emailed when they find new occurrences
- 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:
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:
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.
We covered a lot, so let’s summarize an action plan so you can start growing your backlink profile with images:
- Create awesome images!
- Keep a list of all the images you own for your website (Ex: Logo, Infographics, etc)
- See if images are being used online (TinEye)
- Automate image discovery (Image Raider)
- Check to pages to see if they are already linking (Moz Bar)
- 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!