Stock Photo Libraries for Link Building.

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Link building is one of the most difficult areas of SEO, and link building on autopilot is nearly impossible if you’re not a big brand.
So when an opportunity arises that allows you to do so, it is the opportunity you should never miss out.

This is the experience I had when we found linking with photo libraries.

It combined two of the biggest challenges we face; create links and find good photos for the blog content that we write. As an agency that focuses on working with small travel companies, we knew these were major issues that our clients and businesses similar to those were also facing. Not to mention bloggers.

The idea is simple. There are many photo sites out there, but trying to find niche specific images for free on these types of sites is very difficult. Do you want a random beach photo? There is no problem. Want a quality image for something? It is not so easy.

As experts in their field, our clients have a lot of images from their specialized sites, so it made sense that they could become the source of images for people who needed these types of images. All we ask in return is a link to the source of the image. The result: we help people find better images to use in their content, and in return we get links to our site on autopilot.

However, there is a little more than that, so here is the exact breakdown of the process we follow.

1. Do people need your images?

The first thing to check is if there is demand for stock images in your niche.

When traveling, we know people are looking for pictures, and you can usually switch countries or locations and find people who are still looking for pictures of those places. In other niches, however, it may not be as clear-cut, so it’s definitely worth doing some research to make sure this tactic is worth the time and effort. To do this, simply go to your favorite keyword tool and do some research on “THEME Photos”.

Ideally, you will find interesting research around that phrase and some variations of it. If “free TOPIC photos” are one of them, even better, because this is your ideal audience. Don’t worry too much if the volumes are low, the intention is so strong behind these phrases that you only need a small number of people to research it each month to pay the dividends during the months and years when your library is active.

2. Check the SERPs

Another good test is to look at the search results for those queries, click on the website’s ranking (which will usually be Pixabay, Shutterstock, etc.) and see how good your image is ranking. If you’re of a similar quality to the type of library you might be creating, this can be a warning sign that this tactic may not be worth the time and effort. However, in most cases, you would expect to find a much better selection than the usual stock sites. Through your experience in your own industry, you will know what kind of images you are looking for on a regular basis and be able to meet that need.

3. Source images

Once you’ve identified that this approach is worth pursuing, your next job is to make sure that you have images that you can use to build your photo library. Because our clients are from the travel industry and many are destination specialists, they have easy access and usually already have images. However, if you don’t have the images yet, it may be worth investing in a photographer or traveling for quality images. Long term ROI will likely continue to work for you, as not only will you get images to use in a link building tactic, but you will also get images for yourself that you would have to pay.

4. Create your library

Depending on how your website is built, this is one area that could stop this tactic in its tracks. If you have a custom website and you need the developers to spend a lot of time building something from scratch, the implementation might be too expensive. However, if you are on a platform like WordPress, there are plenty of easy plugin options to create a gallery page that has everything you need.
The most important features of the page are:

People can download the high quality image on the spot.
You can write a blurb on the page explaining that people should link back if they use any of your images.
You can add a caption to the images.

5. Get the page ranking

This is crucial! This is the element that will make or break if you get links on autopilot. You need to make sure that your page ranks for the phrases you identified in step 1 above so that people will find your gallery alongside other storage sites. It can be scary to look at the domain rating of these sites and think it’s impossible to compete, but we’ve found that with a smaller niche site, a niche gallery on a well-optimized page can rank on page 1 without a high domain rating. The key here is to make sure that all of your elements on the page are set up perfectly, as well as having a good variety of quality images. If you do, you have a great chance of getting to page 1.

Once the dust settles, if you’re not on page 1, it may be worthwhile to actively link to your gallery to try and give yourself an extra boost to your rankings. Another alternative is to use PPC to bid on these phrases and gain visibility for your gallery. These will be cheap clicks, and if you track your ad spend closely, you can find out if it’s worth it for the cost per link rate.

  1. Obtain the classification of images

Naturally, people will search for images on Google Images as well, so it’s important to make sure that they’re image-optimized as well.

To do this, make sure to:

URLs use keywords to describe the content of the image, not just the camera filename (for example, st-peters-basilica-dome.jpg and not IMG_0123.JPG).
Includes alt text that describes in more detail what is in the image.
Use illustrated site maps.
You optimize the thumbnails.

  1. Don’t forget the video!

All of the above references were to images, but there is naturally a lot of scope for applying this to video as well.

The same challenges apply to expensive archival videos. So if you can create and deliver good quality video clips, it will also increase your chances of getting more links with this approach.

  1. Keep a register

In most cases, I like to think positively about human nature and have a strong belief that people will always do as they are asked and bond with you when they use your image. However, there may be times when users forget your request or “forget” to include the attribution. To make sure you get what you deserve by donating your images for free, you can track where your images appear online, and if you find any examples without attribution, you can contact those people and ask them to kindly add a link. You can do it manually one by one using Google reverse image search, or you can invest in software like this that allows you to do it in bulk.

In summary

Don’t expect a flood of links. However, over time, a photo library can help you develop a strong link profile and get sitelinks that would not be possible otherwise. And don’t limit yourself to just one gallery! If the tactic works for you, identify other research that people do when looking for stock images and use that to create lots of niche image directories that will help you evolve this approach. This isn’t a tactic that will work for everyone, so I highly recommend that you do a keyword research in your niche to see if there are people out there looking for images to use. If so, there may be a perfect void waiting for you to fill it, resulting in lots of juicy ties.

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