A Brand Marketer’s Guide to Image Link Reclamation

imagesYou may well hold the opinion that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the fact that someone likes your work to such an extent that they end up using it on their own site, is a compliment.

That warm glow of satisfaction and professional pride doesn’t last long when you establish that your product photos, infographics and images end up somewhere else on the internet without proper attribution.

It is possible that you adopt a community-minded spirit and decide that the oxygen of publicity is useful and if they are correctly attributing your work, then there is little harm in letting these friendly incidents of plagiarism take place.

The problem is that in many instances, your visual content is being used to enhance another website without even citing you as the source and not linking to you either, so you derive absolutely no benefit from the unauthorised arrangement and are missing out on a substantial amount of link equity as well as many thousands of potential visitors who won’t find you if you are not citing or linking to you.

Facing up to the problem

Having established that there is value and estimated the perceived level of this value in equity links, you will then want to be able to develop a strategy that not only protects your visual content from unauthorised use, but you will also need to claim the right amount of credit and the traffic value it has, by ensuring every image and element of visual content is cited as it should be.

Link Equity is a Valuable Currency – Don’t Lose Out On It

Skyrocket looked at some infographic promotion campaigns that ran from January to June 2014 and found that 20% of the coverage for the producer of the infographic did not have the correct link or citation.

This is just one area where you are potentially losing out on valuable link equity and when you apply this sort of percentage to all of your images out there on the internet, you can see that it is a problem that is well worth fixing, especially when you factor in the many thousands of potential visitors who could be visiting your site if the links were as they should be.

Image link reclamation

There are numerous logistical and practical challenges facing you when you decide to work on reclaiming your image link and this is why the problem sometimes get pushed to one side as a project.

You can definitely find the resources and tools to be able to perform a reverse image search and set up a monitoring system to see how and where your images are being used, but this takes a lot of time and money away from projects and work that you could be doing elsewhere.

The fact that it takes many hours of organisation and outreach to actually get in touch with the websites identified as using your images and infographics without the correct citation or any sort of credit, is often the reason why the problem is overlooked when it clearly shouldn’t be.

Components of image link reclamation and making sharing easier

Writing usage guidelines

Encouraging users of your images to cite the original web resource and providing guidance on your website on how to do this, will not eliminate the problem of missing out on link equity but it can help and does make a user aware that you are proactively protecting your work online.

It is recommended that you provide written guidelines on your site as to how to include URL’s as a component of a citation. A URL is required when the reader would not be able to locate the resource without this information, which covers most image use. Providing written instructions about how you want an image cited and also consider making readers aware that you monitor usage of your images on a regular basis.

Example template

“We would kindly request that you cite this image, and use the following link to our website so that your audience have access to the source. Include this additional information in the following format: Title of website. Publisher of image or website. <URL > ”

Making sharing easy

Consider using an embed code generator so that you can provide details of how to present your image in a box with a suitable description underneath the image, that provides information about the source of the image. If you provide the required link information at this point, this will help to improve the number of citations.

Monitoring usage

No matter how assertive that you try to be with providing information and warnings about use of your images and requesting correct citation, there will still be many examples that you will need to find and correct, where you are not benefiting from the link equity due to you.

Resources to consider

ImageRaider is one way that you can perform an automated reverse image search and SEO agencies as well as digital marketers, uses this tool frequently as a way of targeting websites that are using their images, so that they can gain image credit links.

It works by telling ImageRaider where to find your images on your computer, a list of URLs, websites and any other sources for your original images. Once you provide this data, the automated reverse image search process will monitor and report to you with their results.

TinEye aims to connect images to their authors and facilitate correct attribution. The reverse image search service already has over 2 billion images indexed and provides beta support for imagemap files as well as receiving image collections by hard drive.

Google Image Search allows you to perform your own search using this Firefox extension or via Chrome as well. Simply download the extension to your browser and once you have done this, you can right-click any image and retrieve the relevant results of your search.

You can also manually upload an image to Google Image Search in any browser.

Being able to track this usage across the internet in order to ensure that you are managing your brand more effectively online, is a potentially onerous task and one that can use up a lot of your internal resources.

The scale and size of the problem can prevent some organizations from tackling the issue as effectively as they could do, which is why outsourcing to a service that identifies and helps to reclaim links can prove to be an attractive option.

Prospect list building

Identifying a list of unauthorised users and sites that are not providing citation is just one part of the process of reclaiming valuable link equity.

The list building and cleansing process will be a series of steps as you will initially likely have a very raw list that will first need to be checked to see if the image has been cited correctly already.

This is because most of the tools mentioned and the manual searches that you can perform yourself will just yield the image and only subsequent checks will confirm if the citation or link are as they should be and in place.

Another important aspect to consider when working your way through the prospect list, is to assess the quality of the site that you have identified and make a decision as to whether you would benefit or actually want them attributing to your site, if they don’t appear to be of an acceptable standard or suitable fit.

Outreach

Having collated a prospect list, the next step is to make contact with these site owners and make them aware of your requirements for image link citation. As you will obviously know from working through any prospect list, you are unlikely to gain a response first time on all the contacts and you will have to folllow up and re-engage with anyone on the list who either did not respond or has not taken the action they promised to do.

You can add an extra layer of credibility and legitimacy to your efforts by considering the use of a standard outreach email that covers your objectives and actions required.

A typical email will probably look something like this-

Hi [NAME],

Thank you for including one of our visuals in your recent blog post [INCLUDE LINK TO THE BLOG POST WHICH DOESN’T HAVE ATTRIBUTION].

We always appreciate people enjoying and using our work but as far as I can see there isn’t any attribution to us as the source for the image. Would it be possible for you to update that post citing [INCLUDE LINK TO RELEVANT PAGE] as the source please?

Thanks in advance.

Regards,

[Your name]

Outreach has the ability to seek successful redress, influence future behaviour and educate online users of your images in a positive way, so that you gain the immediate benefit of the link equity now and improve your prospects for future credit at the same time.

Inbox Management

Another aspect of link reclamation and image monitoring that can prove to be very labour-intensive and a drain on your internal resources, is monitoring responses to your contact efforts.

Managing your inbox and resolving any queries or dealing with the numerous responses to your outreach efforts is an administrative task that can prove to be very time-consuming.

Using an outsourced image reclamation service can help to eliminate this administrative burden and will also potentially improve the response time, as they will be focused on this particular task rather than dealing with queries and replies as part of managing your inbox in general.

The faster you can resolve link queries and provide any information required, the faster you will be able to benefit from having the citation in place.

Protecting your images online – Developing a protection strategy

The first point to make is that the only 100% guaranteed way to prevent your images being stolen or not properly accredited is to not put them on the internet in the first place.

That is of course a complete non-starter as a protection strategy so you have to find a way of making image theft much harder to accomplish for the site operator who is intent on acquiring these images from you.

Spending on image link reclamation

The tools and resources that you need to reach out and claim broken or missing links are all out there and many of these are actually free.

That is the point, your biggest investment in image link reclamation is likely to be time, especially if you already have the knowledge and expertise to make use of the data and resources that are available on the internet.

What you have to decide is how valuable your time is and how much of your internal budget you want to allocate to someone fixing the problems with some internal housekeeping and external chasing to reclaim the link equity that is due to you.

Skyrocket have a deep understanding of the value of link equity and also understand why and how the task of identifying and recovering the value of that link can seem daunting and very time-consuming, even if you have the resources available to you.

This is why we have launched an image link reclamation service.

Keeping a lid on costs

There are a number of key benefits to outsourcing this work and as we are able to quote a fixed price per link, you have a degree of certainty on costing and a real selling point, is the fact that we only charge that fee when we are successful in getting you the due attribution.

This no-win no-fee scenario makes outsourcing an attractive proposition in our opinion, as you are only spending money when you get a positive result, which is not always going to be the case if you try to do the work yourself in-house.

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