One of the facts of life on the internet is that if you put something online, publicly, that is in the least bit interesting, someone is eventually going to link to it. This rule applies to everything, including photographs. [If that bothers you, well, you have one option: don’t put your photos online in a public location.] It would be nice if everyone who linked to one of your photographs told you about it, but that doesn’t happen too often. So, how do you know when someone links to one of your photos? Read on to find out.
The internet is an immense, tangly mess. Some counts put the number of web pages on the internet in the billions. Finding a few links to your photos seems like a daunting task, but fortunately there are some automated tools available that make the process a snap.
Before you begin, you just need to know one thing: the URL to the photo that you want to check for. The URL is the web address you see in the address bar of your web browser. Typically, it starts with “http://” and goes on from there. Let’s take Photodoto as an example. The URL for Photodoto is http://photodoto.com/. And there are images here with their own URLs like http://photodoto.com/wp-content/2006/04/image.jpg. If you have a Flickr account, you have a URL to your photostream. Mine looks like this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/john/. And each individual photo page in my Flickr account has its own address. For example: http://www.flickr.com/photos/john/134714517/.
Now that you have your URLs in hand, you’re ready to begin searching for people who are linking to them.
Google. Google is the most popular search engine on the planet and with good reason. It is comprehensive, accurate, and fast. Google offers up a ton of neat search features but the one we’re interested in right now is their “link” search. Google will tell you if any pages link to a specific URL by typing as your search query:
For example, link:http://www.yoursite.com/ will show all web pages that link to the www.yoursite.com home page. link:http://photodoto.com/wp-content/2006/04/image.jpg will show all pages that link directly to image.jpg.
Google Blog Search. Google also has a version of their search engine that only searches through blogs. Just enter the URL you are looking for. At the bottom of the page you can subscribe to the search with your feed reader to be notified when new results are available.
Technorati. Technorati is the blog index. It maintains a continuously updated index of virtually every blog in existence, over 38 million sites as of this writing. Searching on Technorati is easy. Just type the URL you are interested in into the search box. For example, to find out if anyone is linking to any photo in my Flickr photo stream, I’d just enter: www.flickr.com/photos/john. Technorati also lets you subscribe to results through their “Watchlists” feature.
And there are many others:
All of the services work similarly, taking a URL as a search parameter, and several offer RSS feeds for updates. But not all searches are created equal! Some of these return higher quality results than others and a service that works well for one person may not work as well for another because they index sites differently. For example, Technorati works great for me but Ice Rocket doesn’t work as well because my Flickr username isn’t unique enough (it matches anyone whose username starts with “john”).
I’d wager that Google and Technorati will turn up 95% of sites that link to you. Each search service may return slightly different results though, so subscribe to several and your feed reader will let you know whenever someone new links to your photos.