Flickr for SEO Value: A Short Example

From the archives…

[2015 update: the Flickr photo in question now ranks #1 for the example query. Of course, this query isn’t very competitive, but

For the recent webinar I did on link building, I was researching how use of social networks can help with SEO. Businesses can gain all kinds of value from social networking: build brand recognition, increase customer loyalty, help them be responsive to customer issues and better understand the audience, get more links and exposure… Er, etc.

But one value that is sometimes overlooked is increased opportunity to rank. Your can leverage this for reputation management, but it can also work for any search query you want to rank for. You can capture more positions in the SERPs if in addition to having content from your site rank, you can get content from social networks that point to your content to rank.

You can easily see this with Flickr.

  1. Host images for your content on Flickr.
  2. Use keyword-rich titles for the images.
  3. In the image descriptions, link to the article using keyword-rich anchor text.
  4. Er… profit!

Take, for instance, this article I wrote for Search Engine Land about Hakia’s Meet Others feature. Here’s an image, hosted on Flickr, that I used in the article:
Using Flickr For SEO

And here’s that image at position #13 (and #14) for a Google search for Hakia Meet Others:
Using Flickr For SEO

So, sure. Hosting the image on Flickr is great just for storage and organization. It helps me share what I’m doing with anyone who’s interested and who’s added me as a Flickr contact. I can get traffic from the link. But it’s also giving me another opportunity (in addition to the article itself, which is ranked #3 for the query) to rank. Sounds good to me.

[Additional 2015 update: The Flickr image ranks #1 and the Search Engine Land article ranks #2. And for better click through rate, I could make the image description on Flickr more compelling.]

2015 Google search results:

Flickr for SEO

16 thoughts on “Flickr for SEO Value: A Short Example

  • Bob Gladstein

    Have you found Flickr to be better for this purpose than Picasa? You’d think that, considering who owns Picasa, images hosted there would be more likely to come up on a Google SERP.

  • Chris Silver Smith

    The subject of this post caught my eye, since I’ve been interested in the worth of optimizing images thru Flickr and other photo sharing services for a while now.

    You’re dead-on right, of course — using Flickr as you demonstrated with the Hakia piece can be really valuable over time.

    Quite a bit of my blog’s traffic is now referred from Flickr. It’s likely that a good number of those visitors find the Flickr pages in Google or Yahoo before clicking through to visit my blog page.

    You can add a caption below your images, linking back to your blog posts on any given subject, too, which helps.

    One thing to note is that Flickr has an anti-commercial use policy embedded in their T’s & C’s. While they’ve historically not applied this anti-commercial-use rule very consistently, I have seen accounts deleted because their content appeared too blatantly commercial in nature.

    I’d previously thought that the anti-commercial term was mainly intended for use on people who purposefully mislabeled images or who started trying to re-sell image hosting services by using Flickr on the backend. But, in some cases, they’ve deleted accounts for images that merely link off to catalog sales sites.

    It’s odd, really, because you can easily find tons of pics from photographers, artists, models, real estate agents, etc — all blatently using Flickr for commercial purposes. So, it’s not really clear what their criteria is for commercial acceptability.

    Still very useful service for improving referral traffic and making your content more findable!

  • Martin R, Bowling

    We are starting a recruiting campaign for a school and this is one of the very first things I mentioned. Keyword rich images hosted on image sharing sites to use in articles. We personally have had great success.

  • Vanessa

    Bob, that shouldn’t make any difference. The Google crawling/indexing process doesn’t differentiate between Google-owned and non-Google owned properties.

  • Michael D

    Nice reminder to use flickr more often, and on Friday too. Looks like this will become one of my weekend projects.


  • Mani Karthik

    Vanessa, glad to hear that. In fact, I’ve been trying this technique for quite some time. It helps you get a decent amount of traffic.

    I’ve found that the same strategy can be deployed with twitter (like you said in your previous article). And the advantage is that we might be able to rank high for competent keywords as well.


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  • Wayne Liew

    I have been using Flickr to host my images but turned to host the images myself last month. The reason is because if we are hosting our images on Flickr, you will never get any direct traffic to your blog via Google Image Search.

  • J.P.

    Great idea.

    I was looking to host the images for my blog on Flickr and this is an incentive. And benefits everybody:

    Flickr gets more free content.

    The user in Flickr will find a image that suits his needs.

    My blog 🙂

    Can I ask you something? How do you paste the flickr images in your blog? Do you use a plugin?

  • Big Oak

    Yes, this technique is nice, provided that you don’t lose your account for violating the TOS. This is really a gray area as far as that goes. An even more effective technique is to use link laundering on Flickr. I discussed this technique as it applies to Flickr in this blog entry in the second paragraph,

  • Vanessa

    J.P. – I don’t use a plugin. I just go to the image in Flickr, then click “all sizes”, then grab the HTML code below the image and paste it into my blog post.

    As far as violating the TOS, they provide the code to paste the image into a web page and the the guidelines say the images just has to link back to the photo page on Flickr, so I’d never considered using images this way a gray area in SEO. Using keyword-rich titles for the image and linking to the story that includes it seems like it would benefit Flickr as well (after all, it’s helping the Flickr pages rank and making the images more useful to visitors).

    I’m not sure what they mean by commercial use either. I guess I always assumed it was something like using Flickr to host professional Getty-style images and charging for them.

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  • Big Oak

    The gray area I was talking about was posting a link to a website in the image caption as you do, and we all do. The TOS says the link in the caption can’t go to a commercial site, yet people are getting away with this, and the definition of “commercial” is a gray area in itself. So the TOS leaves much open to interpretation. Nonetheless, there are cases of people having their accounts terminated for doing this. That’s what I was talking about in terms of TOS violations.

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  • Mark Barrera

    Do be aware of the T’s & C’s like Chris Silver Smith mentioned because they do crack down on people as can be seen here:


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