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Photography Archives

Imaguard Plugin Guides Searchers to your Blog

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.

WordPress Plugin for New Google Image Search

In my previous post, I wrote about Google’s new image search and the impact this is having on photographers and artists. Since the changes, web publishers with image-rich sites are seeing a substantial drop in traffic and are understandably furious.

Not only are they seeing a fall in visitors and revenue, but they’re also concerned about increased image theft. Publishers who buy images from stock photo sites are subject to strict usage conditions and are understandably worried that Google can display the full-sized image in a new window with no copyright notice or links to the originating website.

As a result, many publishers are taking the drastic step of blocking Google from indexing images. Others are looking for less drastic, alternative solutions that will encourage visitors to visit their websites. One such site that’s creating plenty of discussion is fansshare.com.

While I’m not endorsing this site, I mention it as they have somehow thwarted Google so that anyone clicking on a fansshare thumbnail while in Image Search initially sees the hotlinked image that Google displays within the results, but a moment later the image is grayed out with a prominent link to the actual web page (below).

fansshare image search

For a brief moment you see what Google wants you to see after clicking on a thumbnail in image search

fansshare and new google image search

Moments later the image is grayed out, replaced with a link to the page on the fansshare site

This sort of solution usually requires some fancy programming and changes to files on the server, which is beyond the capabilities of most publishers. However, I have found a partial solution for WordPress blogs, so that searchers are taken to my original blog post, rather than an image in a blank window, when they click on “View original image”.

It’s a plug-in called Google Break Dance. It’s simple to install, but does require that you add some code to the .htaccess file. Here’s the gist of the English translation that describes the plugin:

“When the visitor clicks the link ‘View original image’ on the Google search page, then the URL will be redirected immediately to the post where the image is located. Before installing this plugin do not forget the following input text lines to the very top of the .htaccess file:”

My blog resides in a sub-folder on the server and there was already an .htaccess file in that folder (same where wp-admin, wp-content etc are located). It had some lines of code related to my blog, so I added the additional code that the plugin requires. I had to put in the exact URL of the blog to get it working.

So here’s what I added to the .htaccess, below the existing lines:

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} wp-content/uploads/.*\.(gif|jpg|jpeg|png)$ [NC]
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http://blog.wildlife-pictures-online.com/.*$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ /get_image?$1 [R=302,L]
# END WordPress

So far this seems to be working fine with my blog images. You can test it by going to Google image search, then typing in “site:blog.wildlife-pictures-online.com” (without quotes).

This will show thumbnails of images from my blog. Click on any one, then click on “View original image” and you should be taken to the blog post on which the image appeared. (In a few instances it doesn’t work, where the original image is from a category page rather than an actual post).

I get very few visitors to this blog and certainly no revenue, so the plugin is hardly going to make a difference. However, it’s more a matter of principle as I firmly believe what Google is doing with its new image search is unethical, unfair on publishers, and totally against its motto of “Don’t Be Evil”.

UPDATE WED FEB 13: Looks like there could be potential problems with the Break Dance plugin redirecting to the original blog post. There are reports on the Web of people seeing a drop in rankings of their images since using the plugin.

However, there is an alternative, the Imaguard plugin, that I’ve installed instead. (Thanks Charles). Hope to add a post about how this works in the next day or two.

google images search with ads

Could this be the future of Google Image search, where Google places ads next to the image in search results, so adding to its bottom line, but with no benefit to the photographer or copyright holder? Yes, it’s a mock-up, but not beyond the realms of possibility!

On January 23 Google announced changes to image search. Web publishers, particularly photographers and artists, are angry and disillusioned as they believe the changes are diverting traffic from their websites and encouraging image theft.

Says Google: “Based on feedback from both users and webmasters, we redesigned Google Images to provide a better search experience.” This means image results are “displayed in an inline panel so it’s faster, more beautiful, and more reliable”.

“The domain name is now clickable, and we also added a new button to visit the page the image is hosted on. This means that there are now four clickable targets to the source page instead of just two. In our tests, we’ve seen a net increase in the average click-through rate to the hosting website.”

It’s Google’s claim – “we’ve seen a net increase in the average click-through rate to the hosting website” – that’s hotly disputed by publishers, whose traffic stats are indicating the exact oppposite – a substantial drop in visitors from image search.

While there may well be more links to the hosting website, the new layout certainly doesn’t encourage searchers to click on any of them.

After you click on a thumbnail, a larger images opens within the search results against a full-width black background with the rest of the thumbnails showing above and below. To the right of the image, there’s some related text, including original image size, plus the URL of the website.

But – and more importantly – below that you can click on links to “Visit page”, “View original image”, and “Image details”. If you click on “View original image”, the full size image opens on its own in a new window, with no link to the originating page.

This means that searchers can view the full size image and copy it without ever visiting your site.

Google also makes negligible effort to dissuade visitors from copying images. After clicking on a thumbnaiI, I had to look really hard to find a tiny proviso, in nearly invisible text at the foot of the black background where the image is displayed, saying: “Image may be subject to copyright”. When viewing the full size image, there’s nothing at all about copyright.

The net result is that if the original image on your site is 1600 x 1200 pixels, the searcher can see and copy the full-size image without ever needing to visit your website.

As usual, Google claims these changes are for the benefit of users. While it may make image search quicker for a casual browser, power users who do research online say it’s slower with more clicks required, while publishers in general are furious.

Or, as one disgruntled publisher explains, “When clicking on a thumbnail, the original image is hotlinked and embedded into Google’s result page. This costs bandwidth and the user has less incentive to visit the webpage of the original creator.”

There’s already speculation on various forums that this is a first step by Google to monetize image search, possibly including ads within the search results, as in the mock-up image above.

A petition against the new image search has been launched, as has a site dedicated to the issue – see Protect Your Image

Meanwhile Mia PcPherson, on her blog On the Wing Photography, questions the legality of the new set-up, asking “Is Google’s New Image Search Violating Their Own Policies? The Law?”. Other disgruntled publishers are suggesting a class-action lawsuit could be justified.

Programmers and website publishers are working on ways to thwart Google. I’ve found one WordPress plugin that directs users to my original blog page instead of just the image on a black screen when they click on “View original”. I’ll discuss this in my next blog post.

Are you a photographer or artist? I’d love to know how you feel about Google’s new image search and whether this has had any impact on your traffic and revenue.

Kruger Park Winter Photos

Kruger National Park Winter Photos The above photos are from our visit to the Kruger National Park in July this year, which is mid-winter in the Southern Hemisphere.

At this time of year the colors are predominantly warm, ranging from golden brown to ochre. This, together with the dust, often gives photos a more muted, pastel look that, certainly for many, typifies the African bush.

The animals’ natural camoflage is also more apparent, which makes sense as there’s less cover for both predators and prey than there is during summer.

For the full selection of images from this trip, please see Kruger National Park Photos, Winter 2012.

Canon EOS 5D Mk III Named Camera of the Year

The Canon EOS 5D Mk III has been named Camera of the Year for 2012 by Popular Photography Magazine.

The Canon beat out the two other finalists, the Nikon D800 and Sony Alpha 99, in what the magazine’s editors describe as “one of the toughest decisions in recent memory”. All three cameras are full-frame digital SLRs.

One of the 5D Mk III’s winning attributes was its “superb low light performance”. While the Nikon D800 with its mammoth 36.3MP sensor (compared to the Canon’s 22.3MP) wins the resolution battle hands down, its low light capabilities are less stellar, with the Pop Photography’s tests finding an ISO of 12,800 “unacceptable” on the Nikon.

Nikon shooters will point out correctly that low light is not an issue in the studio, where the Nikon performs almost on a par with medium format cameras. But choosing a winner in an open category is always difficult so it’s ultimately the all-round capabilities that count.

The Canon’s other winning attributes are listed as:

    Excellent balance in image quality
    Advanced video, including direct feed
    Control layout designed for the enthusiast
    Built for the long haul, but not too heavy
    Canon’s huge lens and accessory system.

In addition to the three finalists, the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 and Olympus OM-D EM-5 were awarded Honorable Mentions.

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