Optimise your Images for Search Engines #6 – Social Media and Copyright

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Social Media

Image Source: Cultura RF

Social media is a massively underused tool by Photographers. Alex Jordan explains the benefits of being a social butterfly and how to negotiate that tricky balance of self-promotion vs copyright concerns

Social media is an essential tool in developing reputation and gaining exposure. Unfortunately, for many of the photographers I’ve spoken to, social media is not a high priority and is even, for some, the subject of much concern.

There have been many passionate debates in the photographer community surrounding image sharing, crediting and income generated by others through social sharing – this much read article on A Photo Editor around Pinterest is one such example. But despite these concerns, there are clear SEO benefits to social sharing.

I appreciate that managing social media profiles isn’t for everyone, so instead of encouraging you to open Facebook and twitter accounts (by the way, you should), I’m going to talk about how you can encourage social sharing from your website or blog and how you can address copyright concerns.

Why should photographers encourage sharing

Most of the photographers I speak to understand the benefits of allowing their photos to be shared. For starters, encouraging sharing is a great way to build backlinks which will positively impact search engine rankings. Increased links and people talking about content will also increase traffic to the website where the content is featured.

Search engines will monitor social signals and if they see a lot of activity on a particular website they will assume the content is relevant and appealing, thus giving it weight over others in search results. Sharing also presents the opportunity for your content to go viral, reaching potentially thousands and even millions of people in a short space of time.

How to make your website social

If there’s one thing photographers have in their favour it’s that they have access to stunning content and have great stories to tell. This is perfect because people love sharing great images and interesting or unusual stories. I’m not going to go into too much detail about what content you should produce, but as a general rule if it is unique, interesting and informative, with a need-to-know quality, then people will likely want to share it.

As a photographer, or anyone wanting to share content, you should ensure you have the tools installed to enable sharing. By far the most popular independent provider is AddThis, but individual social networks will offer their own share buttons too.

I recommend you add AddThis to your site and enable sharing through Facebook, twitter and Google+. For images, I also recommend encouraging sharing through Pinterest. This can be achieved by selecting the relevant social networks in AddThis, or by downloading the individual sharing tools from each social network.

Here at Image Source we encourage sharing through social media because of the SEO benefits sharing brings. This is also the case for many of the other leading image libraries. If you check out any of our product pages on you’ll see sharing options for each of these social networks, with AddThis installed at the top of every blog post on IMSO.

Copyright concerns

One issue that keeps coming up again and again is the issue of copyright. Some photographers are reluctant to encourage sharing because they see it as unlicensed replication, or stealing. The reality is that most of the people who share content do not feel that they are stealing it. Most will share to talk about it because they find it interesting; they wouldn’t otherwise have any use for it and probably wouldn’t seek to benefit financially from it.

When I talk about the benefits of sharing, I do appreciate the negative effects of copying too. I therefore suggest that photographers should also take measures to protect their work. For example, something I mentioned in an earlier tutorial, make sure your web images are of a low resolution. This means that you’ll never have to worry about high quality images being copied. By encouraging the sharing of lower resolution images, you’ll likely gain exposure which could lead to demand for higher resolutions.

Another thing you can do is to add watermarks. Watermarks do discourage sharing, but when correctly implemented in a way that is not too intrusive they will provide a good reference and will ensure that end users are not publishing unlicensed work as their own.

The fact is that any images you put on your website can be copied, that’s just the way it is. You can stop search engines indexing images (for example by disallowing indexing through a robots.txt file), you can publish copyright notices on your website and you can install JavaScript that prevents ‘copy and paste’, but the fact is that if there is an image on a website and someone wants to copy it then it can be copied. So in short, if you don’t want your images copied don’t put them on your website. My feeling is that if people can copy your images anyway, why not protect yourself with low resolution images and watermarks, and embrace sharing so that you turn something negative into something that is very positive?

This is obviously a contentious issue so why not share your thoughts and feelings? What are your experiences with social sharing?

I hope this series has helped you make changes to optimise your web images and increase exposure. If it has, why not share it? I could go into so much more detail and talk about much more, but I wanted to keep this series basic so that the foundations could be set. If you have any questions about any of my posts or about SEO in general, feel free to comment or contact me directly.

This session is part of my image optimisation series. For more information about the series please see my introduction.

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About Author

Alex has worked in website development and SEO since 2006. With a keen interest in photography, he has been part of the Image Source team since early 2012 offering support and advice to photographers.

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