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How To Use Google Image Search To Build BackLinks

How I turn copyright violations into backlinks.

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Around six months ago I found on of my images in some random Google image search, but the site that it was published on wasn’t one of my own. No big deal, when you publish tens of thousands of images on the internet they are going to be ripped off all the time — you can’t fret about this.

But out of curiosity I clicked on the “other sizes” link on this image result and found that not one, but literally dozens of other sites had stolen and republished this photo without permission. They didn’t even use an image editor. I then began looking through the image search results for www.VagabondJourney.com and found that my photos were being republished without permission way more than I’d previously imagined.

I didn’t get upset. I didn’t start filing endless amounts of DMCA take down notices. I got an idea:

Why don’t I write to these webmaster who’ve republished my photos and politely ask for attribution links?

It seemed like this could be a very easy, not very time intensive, and genuine form of building backlinks.

In point, it is my impression that if a webmaster utilizes content from another site they should attribute and link back to the source. This is just standard web publishing practice. So I thought I’d just give these webmasters a polite nudge and request they comply with this well worn convention.

It worked.

How I use Google image search to build links

First, I do an image search for my site. In this case, the site I’m interested in is Vagabond Journey, so I do a site search for its url:

Site: www.vagabondjourney.com

This will bring up all of the photos in Google’s image index for this site.

Now it’s time to go shopping. I start looking for photos that were republished without permission on other sites.

I then click on the “more sizes” link

The way that I do this is simple: I click on a photo and then click on the “More sizes” link.

If this photo has been republished elsewhere on the internet and it’s in Google’s index, I will now be able to view thumbnails of it here.

I can now see examples of the various other places this photo has been published

I now click on these thumbnails and go to the pages that my photo was republished on.

This is where some desecration comes in, as I only want to invest my time into contacting webmasters who seem to care about the sites they’re running, those who have a higher probability of being willing to comply with my request. I want to filter out the “churn and burn” type sites, the spam sites, as well as the mass content aggregators that have DMCA take down forms readily available on their sites.

I then click over to the pages that the image was supposed to have been republished on

A webmaster’s time is perhaps his/ her most valuable commodity, there is almost always more work to be done on our sites than we have time to do, so I don’t want to waste my time contacting some spam site in India that I am 99.9% sure won’t give a shit about my request even if my emails does get through to an actual person.

From my experience, the more curated and high quality a site appears, the more the webmaster seems prone to comply with my attribution requests. So I’m looking for sites here that someone obviously put some elbow grease into. I’m looking for webmasters who may just be unknowledgeable about copyright parameters (yeah right), those who seemed to think that I would never find the infraction, or even those who just made an honest error (this happens).

When I determine that a site is actually being tended to by an actual human who may care enough to make good on their copyright violation, I then ask myself, “Do I want a link from this site?”

As has become the buzz recently, links from poor quality sites can hurt your site more than it helps. So I evaluate the sites that have taken my photos for quality. Generally, I feel that any site that was obviously made by an actual person that’s not on a mass user-submitted content platform is okay to get a backlink from.

Once I decide that a site is good enough to send my request to I begin looking for some way to contact the webmaster. I’m looking first for email addresses and links to social media accounts, but if I can’t find any of these I use a comment or feedback form.

I then look for ways to contact the webmaster to report the infraction and to request attribution If I can’t find an email address or social media account for the webmaster I will use a comment or feedback form

Again, I don’t want to invest too much time into this, so if a way to contact the webmaster is not readily apparent I will close the page and forget about that particular copyright infringement.

If I do find a way to easily contact the webmaster I will send him/ her a nice sounding email/ social media message stating that I noticed that they used my photo and request attribution.

Here’s a sample:


I noticed that you published my photo of a rattlesnake on your site at . It’s the picture of the copperhead buried in the sand.

While I appreciate the fact that you thought my photograph was good enough to republish, I would very much like it if you could attribute and link to the image’s original source.

The photograph was originally published at https://www.vagabondjourney.com/how-to-walk-in-the-desert-travel-tip/. Could you please link to this page or our homepage www.VagabondJourney.com, and attribute Vagabond Journey Travel as the source?

Sample attribution:

Photo used courtesy of < a href=”https://www.vagabondjourney.com”>Vagabond Journey Travel


Photo originally published at < a href=”https://www.vagabondjourney.com/how-to-walk-in-the-desert-travel-tip/”>How to Walk In The Desert Travel Tip


It’s as simple as that. I don’t make any DMCA take down threats or berate them for violating my copyright. I’m looking to make a connection here. I want the other webmaster to sympathize with my request (hey, we’re all in the same boat here) and to bother putting in the few moments of time that it takes for them to add the attribution link for my benefit.

I am asking for favors here, not hurling threats.

Sometimes the webmaster writes back and apologizes and adds the link. Sometimes I never hear from them but notice that they silently complied with my request. While other times they write back and say that they just decided to take the image down altogether.

While a take down is not my goal, it does lead to less competition in image search results — for whatever this is worth anymore.

Though often, the webmaster never replies, nothing ever happens, and I just forget about the infraction. If I filed DMCA notices for all the sites that have violated my copyright I would seriously have time to do little else.


While Google image search is an excellent tool for finding photos to republish and steal, it can also be an excellent tool for finding copyright infractions and building attribution links from them.

This is a very simple method that really doesn’t take much time. I put in around an hour or two per month doing this, and the result is usually always a few extra backlinks pointing my way.

Filed under: Blogging, Digital Nomad, SEO, Traveling Webmaster

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3703 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

3 comments… add one

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  • Catherine November 8, 2013, 2:48 am

    That sounds great but what do you do now that the “more sizes” option is gone?
    I’m so tired of Google changing things to make it better or faster when in fact they are just ruining a perfectly good function. When they update things it would be good if they could retain the same functionality but in so many cases they don’t.
    Have you discovered another way to search for “more sizes”?

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    • Wade Shepard November 8, 2013, 6:14 am

      Now you click on the “Search by image” link and on the next page select “all sizes.”

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  • Catherine November 8, 2013, 11:55 am

    Oh………..Thanks Wade, so simple!

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