What is hotlinking? How to find and protect hotlinks…

Hotlinking - definition and protection

Hotlinking - definition and protection

First of all: one year ago hotlinking was a big problem. But Google learns a lot from spammers. Today I don’t see hotlinking as an actual problem. Ok, what is hotlinking? Lets say you have a website. On your websites are images. Your photos – you make them and you are the copyright-holder. After some time Google indexes your images. So they can be found in Googles image search. Your photo is nice and well-optimized, and you get some traffic with the link from the google image search. But some day you lost the complete traffic…

When you check the Google resultpage, where you image was included, you can still see it. But if you click on the image you get to an completey unknown site. Could be that yout didn’t see the picture. So what happened?

The other site just hotlinked your image. That means the webmaster set a link directly to the image. Here is a graphic of the process:

What is Hotlinking? Problem with hotlinked images

What is Hotlinking? Problem with hotlinked images

As you see: its very easy to hotlink a picture. Just link it – example. Today Google is much better in assigning an image to the correct source. All pictures and galleries that I observe have actually no problems with hotlinking.

How to find out hotlinks?

Use the following query in Google’s imagesearch:

inurl:tagseoblog.de -site:tagseoblog.de

Of course you have to change the domain-name. The concept: find every picture with the domain in the url, but not those that are located on that domain. May be this query didn’t find all hotlinked images, but usually some – if there are any.

How can I protect hotlinking? Should I do this?

It is easy to protect your images: just insert some little code into the .htacces-file in the root-folder of your domain. To create your own hotlink-protection you can use this generator. But you have to think of the consequences.

Usually a hotlinked image is a signal that this image must be good. It is a ranking factor for the google-images-search. You should decide if you protect hotlinking for principle.

I would recommend to block only those sites that are really spammy. My .htaccess contains the following code:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} -f
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !/images/alternative-image.jpg$
RewriteRule \.(jpg|gif|png)$ - [NC,C]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} bilderr\.com [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} pictures-images\.com [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} freeimages-de\.bloggum\.com [NC,OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} zaggla\.com [NC]
RewriteRule . /images/alternative-image.jpg [T=image/jpg,L]
</IfModule>

(Thanks to Ingo)

Brötchen (example)

Brötchen (example)

Ok, whats happens? First you have to start the „mod-rewrite“-module on your server. Then the script checks if the images exists. In the following line one image is excluded from the following script (because we want to show it instead of the hotlinked images). In the next line the filetypes are defined. And then follows a list of domains that uses spammy hotlinking for „made-for-adsense“-websites. I think there are much more. If one of theses sites try to catch an image they get in the last line another images back.

What should I do if somebody hotlinks my pictures?

I would recommend to write the webmaster an email. Often people haven’t any idea of copyrights. They think they can do and link what they want. So write them that the should link to your page or domain. I have made good experience with this way.

Hotlinking - definition and protection

Hotlinking - definition and protection

Category: Google imageSearch | Author: Martin Missfeldt   8 Kommentare

8 Comments zu "What is hotlinking? How to find and protect hotlinks…"

  1. Mike

    I was getting hotlinked up the wazoo and your google image search script really helped me out. I know you said I should contact the websites, but I figured it was just better to replace all the photos with pictures of Goatse.

    It’s hillarious! :D

  2. russell

    great idea with the google search sequence. perfect way to find hotlinked images!

  3. haberler

    Very good hotlink protection article. Thank you very much!

  4. ByREV

    Latest modifications from google images already put the world on fire … google hotlink full-size images without any embarrassment, and if hotlinking is theft, so Google is the biggest thief in the world :)

    Anyway, for those using wordpress, WP-PICShield can be helpful, do almost everything you want, and more: watermark, redirection to contextual page, cache, cdn tools and help, social site compatible, allow translators, …

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Martin Mißfeldt

Author: Martin Missfeldt, Berlin based german artist, about creative image optimization and youTube video-optimization. This is the english version of tagSeoBlog.de. More

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