Although I previously installed the Break Dance plugin as a way of getting searchers to visit my blog from Google’s new image search, I have now replaced this with another, more sophisticated plugin that aims to achieve the same result.

The new plugin, Imaguard, doesn’t require any fiddling with the .htaccess file as it makes necessary changes for you. It also offers more options, including a “non-aggressive” and “aggressive” approach. (Note: Please see Update at foot of this post).

I tried the aggressive option briefly.

This is what happened: click on thumbnail in search results and the hot-linked image appears within the results as normal, but after a moment it blacks out with a “Click Here” link right in the middle. This should be sufficient incentive to make the searcher click, which takes them through to the actual page on which the image appears (i.e. your site).

However, if the searcher clicks instead on “View original image”, they will see the same, blacked-out image, but at full size. I think this could irritate searchers and there’s nothing further to induce them to your site.

So I switched to the non-aggressive approach, simply because I believe it provides more avenues for the searcher to get to your site.

Here’s how I have it working:

1. In image search, click on thumbnail and, as per normal, a larger version of the image opens within the results. However, the picture is slightly fuzzy – it’s an enlargement of the thumbnail because the plugin prevents Google from hot-linking to the original image.

If you now click on the image, you’ll be taken to the blog/web page as normal. However, because the image is a bit fuzzy, the searcher is quite likely to click on “View original image” (highlighted in yellow below).

Imaguard plugin stops hotlinking

2. Now, however, when you click on “View original image”, instead of your original image being displayed full size in a blank window, the image appears (at a size you can select) within your blog. All the menus, display ads and links are visible and clickable. So the searcher is at least now seeing your blog and has more incentive to browse around (below).

Imaguard plugin at work in image search

3. Should someone still want to view the full-size image, they can click on the image within your blog (the text above the pic is customizable) and will then see it full-size in a window floating above your blog, like in a photo gallery (below).

Imaguard plugin showing full size image

While this plugin will not stop image theft, it’s clever because the first image someone sees when clicking on a thumbnail is a slightly fuzzy version. They’ll either move on, click on the image and get taken to the relevant web page, or click to view the original, in which case they’ll see your blog. They’ll have to click again to view the full-size image and once they close it or click on it, they’re taken back to your blog.

The Imaguard developer is quick to answer questions and help solve issues in the Support thread, so I’d definitely recommend this plugin for anyone wanting to drive visitors back to your blog via image search.

UPDATE 19 FEB 2013: There are unfortunately some issues resulting from use of the plugin. Main concern voiced by web publishers is that Googe is not indexing new images that have been added since they installed the plugin, while some older images are falling out of the index. You can read more about this on the Imaguard Support Thread.

As a result of this, I am going to deactivate the plugin for the time being and see what transpires. I would recommend that anyone considering using Imaguard bide their time until some of the problems have been sorted out.

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