How to Use Images in Your Link Building Campaigns

It’s no secret that content that includes images attracts more attention. I’ve seen statistics that say that content with images can get well over 90 percent more total views than content without images and that paid social posts with images generate more engagement.

Also, I prefer content that includes images. It breaks up the tedium of reading an article, sometimes provides a laugh, and helps make the content stick in my mind.

However, too few people actively seem to market their images in their link building campaigns. It’s been awhile since we’ve been asked to build image links and that’s a shame. And I’ve also noticed that the pages we’re building links to, for the most part, also don’t really make good use of images.

7 Easy Ways to Use Images in Link Campaigns

Let’s look at a few easy ways that images can be used in your link campaigns.

  1. Use them to link back to your site from another site. We’ve had site owners say they don’t do text links, but would happily do an image link.
  2. Use them in your content to naturally attract more links. Anything that makes users happier makes them more likely to share, and that ups the odds for more links.
  3. Use them in your content to increase user engagement. Maybe you’ve used an image that is just too hysterical not to comment on, whereas a visitor wouldn’t have commented on your text? Yes, it happens.
  4. Gain traffic from them when they’re found in an image search. Maybe a person finds your site for the first time through an image search, and that leads to a new customer, a new email subscriber, some social love, or a new link.
  5. Use them to promote your site on social media (not just Pinterest.) Build links to those social sites, too. According to a Buffer blog post, “tweets with image links get 2x the engagement rate of those without.” More engagement equals the potential for more links.
  6. Create infographics and comics.
  7. Use them to help promote your seasonal content. If you’re having a company-wide donation program for the holidays, a photo of all the donations you’ve gathered will be much more interesting than just saying “yeah, we have a lot of donations.”

What Makes a good image:

(Note: all are copied from Creative Commons or were used on this site.

  • It’s funny or satirical. (Please excuse the blurriness here, as it seems to add to the humor in my opinion.)

Funny Cat

  • It’s educational.


  • It helps make your point.

SEW Hashtag

  • It’s clear and not fuzzy.

Clear not fuzzy

  • It’s memorable.


  • (and it’s used for just one link.)

What Makes a Bad Image

  • It’s unnecessarily crude, rude, or offensive. If you’re The Onion, a humor or satire site, or even a big news site, you can get away with this more than if you’re a small company selling toddler outfits.
  • It serves no purpose other than to provide an image where one is needed. I’d rather read tons of text without any images than spend 10 minutes wondering why in the world a certain image has been used when it seems to make absolutely no sense.
  • It’s fuzzy and any text present isn’t easily read. Coming across small images that don’t magnify easily is extremely frustrating. If you’re posting a screenshot with data that proves your point, we should be able to actually read the data.
  • It’s one that’s been seen everywhere else. It’s still amusing to me to see some of “The Lord of the Rings” images that keep popping up, but after seeing about 100 of them over the past year, I can’t remember what any of them said, where they were, etc.
  • It contains multiple links. Yes, cramming in tons of links in an image map back in 2001 was fun but it’s a really, really bad idea. If you’re legitimately using an image map, then that’s one thing, but for the purposes of what I’m talking about in this post, your typical image should be used for one link target.

Publishing & Optimization Guidelines

A few things to make sure are done:

  • The alt text is present and makes sense. Don’t use this to stuff keywords into the image, either, and use it thinking about its original purpose, which was to aid screen readers. If the image is a green cow, then use “green cow” as your alt text. Don’t use “best and most greatest green cow buy now cheap low price poker.”
  • Read Google’s image publishing guidelines, and follow them as best you can in order to maximize the odds of getting found there.
  • The quality of the image is high. If it makes your visitors think they need new contact lenses, it’s not great quality.
  • Width and height of the image are specified.
  • Image is properly displayed and doesn’t cause the entire site to be shifted inches to one side and down about 5 feet.
  • Anchor text used for your link is relevant and descriptive, not misleading.

For more tips, see “Image Optimization: How to Rank on Image Search“.

Where to Get Images & How to Use Them Legally and Responsibly

The Creative Commons is my go-to site for finding images that I can use online, if I’m not creating my own.

If you do use an image from somewhere else, you need to properly credit the source, but still check to make sure that the image is usable. Some people don’t want their images used elsewhere even if you credit them.

If an image isn’t listed in Creative Commons or as being available for reproduction, you should have permission to use an image. Even if you cite the source, you need to include information saying that you’ve been given permission to use it.

Google’s has added an image mismatch manual action penalty so be careful with images!

1 Must-Have Tool & 2 Cool Image Programs

Tin Eye is a reverse image search engine that lets you either upload a file or enter in a URL in order to find copies of your image that are elsewhere and probably not sanctioned by you. If you’ve ever seen an unlinked brand mention and turned that into a link, use that same technique with unlinked images if you want to.

Tin Eye also have browser plugins. You can also use this to find out where an image came from, if you want to use something, and tells you if there are modified or higher resolution versions of it online somewhere.

Here are a couple of cool programs to help you do your own images:

  • Adobe Ideas: I use this on my iPad and it’s fantastic for illustrating screenshots.
  • Skitch: I’m a big Evernote freak so Skitch is a daily tool for me. It’s also fantastic for illustrating screenshots.

Note: A good article on this site provides information on Pinterest images that had the most user engagement. Give that article a read as you can apply this information to anything else you do with images.

Analyzing Your Profile for Image Links

I like Majestic SEO for this because of (get ready for it) the way they portray the percentages of types of links in an image!

Majestic SEO Image Links

You can mouse over each block and get the actual number of image links as well. If you don’t like that visual representation you can click off the Chart type and onto the Data type and see proper numbers:

Majestic SEO Image Links Data

Analyze your site and a few of your competitors so you can get an idea of what’s typical. If you have 4 image links and 9,000 text links, while your competitors all have 1,000 image links and 9,000 text links, I’d say you need more image links.


Now, to give you a real-life example, I spoke to Chris Gilchrist, owner of who gave me the following insight into how well their new comic strip series has performed:

  • Images/comics done so far: 20
  • Costs involved for production: $500
  • Time involved on ideas and site uploads: 30 hours
  • Time spent on promotions: 2 hours
  • Pageviews received: 7,000 unique
  • Email subscribers for comic: 100
  • Social shares: 1,000+
  • Links generated: Picked up from industry leaders and more

About the time spent on promotions, which is very interesting since it is so low, I find it fascinating that they’ve come up with a cool idea and have nailed it down to just putting them on Pinterest, Google+, and Twitter. That’s very little time for people who think they have no free time to do anything, and they’re easier to quickly push than a lot of other types of content.

Their comics are amusing, relevant to the industry, and not anything controversial enough to make the owners spend their time defending their work or arguing about the content. As anyone who’s written publicly knows, you can get very caught up in responding to comments about your content.

The Most Important Thing to Remember

You increase the odds for links when you share the images you use! I’m not advising you to share each small image in a post of course, but if you put some time into creating a great image, do share it socially. Maybe it will draw attention to your content in a way that otherwise wouldn’t work.

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