Deepak Shukla

Reverse Image Search — SEO Link Building Technique

High-quality backlinks are characteristic of websites that are not only good to look at but provide exceptional user experience along with quality content.

Images are a big part of the Internet and SEO; in 2014, an average of 1.8 billion photos were uploaded and shared every day. Unfortunately, they can be very easily used without permission. With Reverse Image Search, you can combat this in the safest and most convenient way and capture those unclaimed backlinks! 

Why You Need High-Quality Backlinks

Simply put – because they’re very hard to get.

Think about it this way- would you be willing to link to someone’s website, allowing them to access your organic website traffic unless they are worth it? Probably not, since the promotion of poor or even spam websites (without you knowing) could drive your traffic away and do you more harm than good. 

Moreover, Google considers the number (and more importantly quality) of backlinks as one of its top three search ranking factors

Therefore, the process of creating quality backlinks that provide valuable returns through impressions can be a lengthy process that requires a lot of experimenting, depending on your niche and sub-niche.

Since backlinks are the currency of SEO, it’s imperative that you cultivate them whenever from wherever possible, especially the ones that provide you with the first-mover advantage. 

While conventional backlinks can be gathered through excellent PR strategies, everyday new methods are coming up to help you achieve your goal of a fortune in links. 

Reverse Image Search is one such white hat SEO backlinking technique which is largely unexplored because it’s the industry secret, no longer well-kept.  

Google Reverse Image Search Tool

Reverse Image Search is an underrated technique for gathering backlinks that results in high-quality backlinking opportunities. 

It is completely legitimate — Google doesn’t ban or penalise you for using this method and is completely safe for you to use! While there are a lot of Reverse Image Search tools, it can be done entirely in Google Search.

So… what is Reverse Image Search?

Let’s begin with exploring the conventional method of looking up resources on Google.

Ideally, you turn to the Google search bar and type in a word or phrase: 

Google reverse image search
Google search

and click on the Image tab to find related images:

The Reverse Image Search flips that process on its head; instead of searching using a word or phrase, you search with an image. 

So, how does that work? 

The first step involves going to Google Images and clicking on the camera icon as shown below:

Search by image
Search by image

Once you’ve clicked on it, expect the following window to pop up: 

 Paste URL or Upload an Image
Paste URL or Upload an Image

As you can see, you have two options presented to you- one where you can simply paste the image link by right-clicking on it and clicking on Copy Image Address: 

Google reverse image search
Copy image address

Or upload an image from your desktop which would appear as follows: 

Google reverse image search
Reverse Photo Lookup Search Results

Moments after you hit send, Google will tell you everything it knows about the image. That usually includes:

  • File type
  • Image size
  • Other sizes of the same image
  • Pages the image appears on
  • Similar images
  • Pages with matching images
  • Image source

To get the best results out of this page, make sure you click on the “All sizes” option. It fetches all possible outcomes for the image you’ve provided, regardless of the size or quality.

As can be seen in the image above, the “All sizes” option wasn’t displayed due to the limited availability of image variations. However, if you do see one, make sure you click on it:
Visually Similar Images

Now that we know how Reverse Image Search works, let’s move on to exploring how this tool can be used to get you those unharvested backlinks.

Using Reverse Image Search To Claim Backlinks

The essence of this strategy is to make sure that any image that you have created is credited through backlinks to your desired website/webpage. 

There have been many instances where a piece of content has gone unrecognized either by 

  • Lack of information about the original source,
  •  Improper format (adding the source name but not redirecting the reader to the source through a link)
  • or adding the desired link to an undesired webpage (cases where an image from an article has not been redirected to the article itself, but the website homepage on which the article has been published) 

Using reverse Image Search allows you to find out if your images appear on any other sites and claim your rightful backlinks wherever it’s due. In this way, no one gets to use your media without proper credit, and you get high-quality backlinks to your website.  

To begin with, identify the pages which have received the maximum traffic and pool all the images that have been used on those pages. Ideally, prioritise the images that have a graphical representation of data or facts (infographics) or graphs and charts, and any fact-based original content. They’re the ones that get shared the most. 

Use either the image upload option or the pasting the image address option on the Google Image search box, and voila!  You can now look for any website that has used your image without your permission or doesn’t adhere to the Noble Blogger Outlines. 

Essentially, there are three ways content is cited online:

  1. Through a block of text under the picture added as a link to the relevant source:
reverse image search photo footer url
Photo Footer URL
  1. Through text hyperlinks: instead of showing the content on the article directly, the URL redirects the reader to the article: 
reverse image search text url
Text URL
  1. The image itself; hover your cursor over the image and you expect the browser to link you to the source:
reverse image search Image URL
Image URL

In an age where content gets shared every second, it’s hard to keep track of the source from where the content originated but by using this white hat SEO strategy, you will reserve the right to identify your content across websites and ensure backlinks to yours. 

Prioritising Websites With SEO Tools

However, if you have a very popular site with heavy impressions, you will likely need to be smart and efficient with the websites you choose to go after. While every backlink counts, a website with a domain authority of over 80 is likely to be at the top of your list instead of the one below 50. 

Typically, as a rule of thumb, anything over 50 is solid. 60 and higher is even better. If you’re in the 70-80 range, you’re killing it!

Popular SEO tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush are very effective reverse image search tools. They help you to analyse websites and determine how effective a backlink from them will be on your SERP ranking. By learning more about the websites that have used your content and finding out their domain authority or the number of backlinks any given page of the website has, you can narrow down your plan of action in the most effective way possible. 

Ahrefs
Ahrefs

A strategically devised reverse image backlinking process like this will definitely be rewarding in terms of acquiring high-quality backlinks that will contribute towards your own domain authority. 

Whilst it is important for you to keep a lookout for websites that will improve your visibility on the SERPs, it is equally important, if not more, to watch out for spam sites that will trick you into asking for backlinks that will hinder your online performance. 

In fact, in such situations, it is recommended that you send out an amicable email asking them to take down your content.

What about websites with lesser impressions and more manageable images? The advantage you have here is the ability to spend more time on research- researching which websites are using your images through the reverse image search strategy.  

Using Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider you can export all the images on your website and run them through the reverse image search. This tool grabs every image, as well as their respective URLs.

Claiming Backlinks

Now that you have a plan of action, i.e., a list of websites to approach for backlinks, you need to send out friendly outreach emails to the owner that will actually get the job done. 

Use a verified email address to avoid the junk mailbox. As I said, most people on the Internet don’t intentionally try to steal your media. Oftentimes they lack the resources to find the original source, so make sure you’re at your best behaviour!  

Here’s an example:

Hey [name]! 

Kudos to you on the [name or link of the content or article your image was featured] article, such an awesome read! 

However, I noticed that you used one of my [type of image used such as infographic] in it and as much as I am happy that it is being used for such stunning content, I would really appreciate a credit line and link back to the source: [link source on your website].

Thank you in advance, cheers! 

Sincerely,

[your name]

What about outreach emails asking the owner to take down your content because you’ve discovered that they’ve been recognised as spam by Google and is harming your SEO?

Try this: 

Hey [name]! 

I noticed that you used one of my [type of image used such as infographic] in one of your articles [insert link of the article here] and was wondering if you could kindly take it down? I was hoping to give exclusive access to all my content to my subscribed audience ONLY and your backlink to my site serves the opposite.  

I hope you understand and thank you in advance! 

Sincerely,

[your name]

Creating Opportunities For More Backlinks 

Since the reverse photo search tactic is based on other websites using your media, some of you may be wondering how to ensure that your images get out there so that you can claim those high-quality backlinks. 

Apart from producing images like infographics (which form the main bulk of the type of images which are shared and used), there are some SEO recommendations that work well in getting your image higher up the SERPs for Google Images:

The Image Filename

The image file name should be relevant to the image itself; avoid any special characters too.

The ALT Attribute On The Image 

Apart from accessibility reasons, using the ALT attribute to describe your image by using keywords (preferably long-tailed to avoid heavy competition) will work wonders for your Reverse Image Search link building. 

The Image Caption

Adding a short caption adds context to the image you’ve published, but more importantly, helps with the Image Search rankings since the search engine considers this as an example of providing great user experience. 

Surrounding Text Content 

Since Google checks the text above, below and around the images to see if it has relevance, make sure you have a keyword optimised surrounding text content. 

Add Content On Less Image-Crowded Pages 

Big, gallery-style layouts don’t work well for SEO since Google is looking for just a couple that is hyper-relevant to the particular topic. So, avoid dumping images on a single page and consider spreading them around so that each page is recognised by the premier image.

Using Page Engagement And Popularity To Rank Your Images

If there are certain pages on your website that receive a lot of traffic, you can choose to publish some of your best images on those pages. This is because, if a page ranks high on Google, it’s likely that the images on those pages are going to as well. Identify such pages and start posting! 

The Image Dimensions 

If you run a quick Google check right now, you’re likely to notice that images with unusual dimensions i.e., images which are very vertical or horizontal aren’t at the top of the SERPs. Use this information to your advantage and stick to conventional sizes for horizontal and vertical image dimensions. 

Other Reverse Image Search Tools

Apart from Google, Bing and Yandex also offer Reverse Photo Search. There are also some private applications. If you need some more variety in your reverse image search results, you might want to consider using these tools:

TinEye
This reverse image lookup tool is one of the most popular ones out there. It works on the same basis as the other engines — simply upload a picture, and the app will do the work. TinEye also has a Chrome extension.

Picsearch
Picsearch works a bit differently than the other applications — you type in what could be the image’s description or title, and the engine spews out the pictures for you.

Bing Visual Search and Yandex Image Search work almost exactly like Google. You can either drag files straight to the search bar or search using uploaded pictures. The results can vary, as these are different search engines. Richer variety of similar images equals more possibility of finding what you’re looking for.

According to the State of Inbound report, generating leads and traffic for their website are the biggest challenges marketing companies face. Due to the sheer number of boxes you need to check in order to receive backlinks, Google values them as the most significant determinant for SERP ranking and using reverse picture search is one such white hat technique of achieving it. 

So, here you go! 

I cannot recommend this strategy enough, especially if you’re looking for backlinks that will help you build authority, and climb the SEO ladder relatively quicker.

Deepak Shukla

Deepak Shukla

Deepak Shukla is an SEO expert and influencer. He has featured in Forbes, TEDx, SEMrush, Woorank, The BBC, Markedu, Chelsea FC and more! When he’s not working, he’s running marathons, completing Ironmen, getting inked or playing with his cat Jenny.

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