Optimizing for Creative Commons Images

The following post is part of a series on image optimization. In this post we’re going to look at optimization techniques for creative commons images.

Creative Commons (or CC) images that have been labeled ok for commercial reuse can be an exceptionally powerful tool in the hands of every website publisher. I’m surprised more people aren’t using them. A brief recap: creative commons images labeled for commercial reuse are images that the copyright owner allows to be reused for commercial purposes as long as the image is credited back to the source. If you are going to use these images, do the right thing and credit the creator by showing some link love.

The number one mistake I see people making when reusing CC images is they hotlink (ie use the file from the source like Wikipedia or Flickr). IMHO this a huge mistake. What you should do is download the image and host it yourself on your own website. After all, a lot of images get taken offline, which could leave you with a broken image and a page that just looks stupid. I’ve lost access to hundreds of images before I wised up and started downloading and hosting the images myself.

Once you start thinking about hosting the images yourself, hopefully you anticipated the next step and realize you have to revert back to image optimization techniques. If you aren’t familiar with what I’m talking about, check out How to Optimize Your Images For Search Engine Traffic. So here’s what happens. When people come back home from vacation or just taking pictures, chances are good that they will bulk upload all the pictures and won’t take the time to name, title, and tag each individual picture–because, really, who has the time for that? Now if you cherry pick the best creative commons picture of something and do some basic image optimization techniques, chances are very good that you will outrank the source picture. I’ve been using this technique for years and I have websites that get thousands of user views, ad impressions, and revenue from creative commons images that other people took.

So right now I’m sure my photography-minded friends and readers are hating on me pretty hard, cause I’m just taking…but give me a chance. If you do use these tactics, I strongly recommend that you give back and try to find some karmic balance with the world and what you are doing. You should strive to contribute your own photos back into creative commons with creative licensing. Let others do to you and your pictures exactly what you are doing to theirs. I can tell you that I have contributed over 5,000 pictures from Disney parks across the country, and these are not just pictures of my kids with Mickey Mouse. These are pictures people would want to reuse.

So what are the takeaways from this post:

  • Look for good unique creative commons pictures with commercial licensing to use on your website.
  • Download the files directly to your website–don’t hotlink.
  • Employ best practices for image optimization.
  • Don’t be a taker. Contribute your own photos back into creative commons commercial pool.
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