Hotlinking: What It Is And How To Avoid It

Just a warning, this post is gonna be wordy (don't worry, I'll add pictures ;) ), and more serious than anything I've ever posted, but I think it's very important that everyone is aware of this. I'll try and make it as concise as possible (that is hard for me :S).

Why am I writing this post? Because this is what my blog looked like if you happened upon it last Friday evening/ Saturday morning:

click to enlarge all photos with Lightbox (finally figured out how it works!)

Alright, now that I have your attention, I'll start from the beginning.

I've been blogging for 6 months now. I started not really knowing what I was doing. Sure I understood what a blog was, how to write a post, the basics. I also learned HTML several years ago when I opened my LiveJournal, so I felt I knew what I was doing. I didn't read a how to start your own blog, I just did it and knew I'd learn along the way.

Well a big learning experience came my way on Friday.

I went to link up to a linky party and when I went to choose the image and crop it, I couldn't see any of them. Instead I saw the photobucket image saying my bandwidth had exceeded. I quickly went to my blog and was greated with what I showed you earlier (at least my header and background are hosted on a different sire, or else it would've been totally image-less).

Naturally, I freaked out. This meant anyone coming to see my blog would not be able to view my content, and they'd get annoyed (I imagine) and leave right away. For a little blog like me who's trying to get off the ground, every new visitor is gold to me.

After a little digging, I saw that a particular picture was responsible for the problem. Remember my Magnetic Pin Dish? It's being featured a lot. More than I could ever dream possible, and I AM incredibly grateful.

But the problem came when these blogs copy pasted my image source to put it directly on their blog. That is hotlinking, and it's stealing bandwidth. I'm not trying to accuse anyone, no one would know they are doing this wrong unless they were told (I learned about it on LiveJournal). So I'm telling you.

Here's the definition off of wiki:
Hot-linking is a term used on the Internet. Hot-linking is when someone uses a link to an image that is saved on another website instead of saving a copy of the image on the website that the picture will be shown on. For example, instead of saving picture.gif and loading it on to their own website, the person uses a link to the picture as Hot-linking uses the bandwidth of the person who owns the website where the picture is stored. This costs that person money.

This happens because I host my images (or save my images) with a free Photobucket account. I get 10GB of bandwidth per month. Everytime my photos load on your or my computer, that is bandwidth being used. 10GB is plenty for me and my now 39 followers viewing my website (or so I thought, more on that later). But when someone copy pastes my image to their website, and they have 4000+ followers, then all the people viewing THEIR blog (and hence MY photo) are making my bandwidth go up. And then exceed it and then my images are no longer viewable.

How do you go around that, and fix it? Well, it might take you a little more time when you do a featured post, but you should save the picture to your computer, and upload it yourself to wherever you host your own images (be it blogger or flickr or picasa or photobucket or wherever). You can also upload directly to your host site (it's called upload from web; see below for Photobucket). For picasa web albums, you need to go to the picasa site (as opposed to uploading directly in the post editor) and when you click upload from computer, you can paste the image url from the other website. This will then re-upload it and give it a new url, and you won't be taking someone else's bandwidth.

It's the right thing to do, just like giving proper credit for someone else's image. And will prevent this from happening to anyone else who is just starting out and is not sure what they are doing; I'm sure you all remember when you started to get featured and how proud you were, now imagine how discouraging it would be for this to happen.

I've since come to realize I could be doing things more efficiently as well. I've learned that blogger/picasa web albums hosts pictures with unlimited bandwidth and 1GB of free storage. Sure that isn't much, but any picture smaller than 2048x2048 pixels don't count towards that limit. I dunno about you, but my pictures are all smaller than that, so I don't even think I'll have to get paid storage, and this will fix my problem. Only thing is, they don't have subfolders so organizing your pictures is next to impossible. Just saying, I like being organized!

I'm rather surprised that this is a common occurance in blogland. Like I said, I've known about hotlinking for a while so have been careful not to do it. It also makes me reevaluate how I'm handling my blog (and anyway, my blog is getting more traffic now so I don't think I would've been able to stay with Photobucket for very much longer with the free account, so this was bound to happen). But anyway, you still shouldn't do it. You should host all the images on your blog yourself, it's the proper thing to do.

After a bit of digging, I found this article from 2010 at CROQzine talking about how to use other bloggers' photos on your blog, and do not hotlink is the first thing that comes up, so it's not just me saying this.

Thank you for hearing me out.

Thanks to Ginger @ Ginger Snap Craft who is helping spreading the word.

Also found that Addicted 2 Decorating did a post all about this, too, because it also happened to her.

I party at these partiesIf you would like to invite me to your linky party, please do so on my linkies page, thank you!


  1. I'm sure I've probably been guilty of this. Good to know. Does pinterest do this?

    1. Good question. Just checked and no, they upload a copy of the original image. Like-wise, when hosting link parties, the thumbnail is a new picture and saved on the linky tools site.

    2. Photobucket is bad for this your much better off using Flickr, I hotlink a lot of my photo's from Flickr but then I do have a pro account. Read your problem on Geograph.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing. There is so much linking going on which is basically networking. This is a good thing....a great thing, as long as every plays fair. Your post is awesome..thanks again!

  3. Great job on your post! Lots of good info. Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. Oh my GOODNESS! YES!! This happened to me a while ago and I just thought I was doing something wrong and didn't post for a few days.
    How did you follow the paper trail to see which image was getting hot linked? I started getting all these pervy followers on Twitter and wondered why a Mom scrapbook blogger was suddenly attracting all this attention. Now I know a scrapbook page with an image of my sister and her funny tattoo was the culprit- it was totally innocent but the image itself is really "edgy" so I think someone hotlinked my page onto another site that got lots of traffic.
    I upload directly from my desktop so it's never happened again but this is MAJOR food for thought! I don't think hotlinkers are regular scrap bloggers- it's people who are hosting robo sites just to pick up affiliate link sales.
    Thank you so much for sharing this! I will come back to it because I need to read and learn. If you don't mind I would like to pin this to my "awesome blogs" board- if that isn't ok please feel feel free to email me.
    I recently wrote a post like this about Pinterest so BRAVO to you- it's good to talk about the more serious technological issues our hobby traverses.


  5. It totally didn't know that. I save my images when I feature and stuff, but this is so good to know. Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. I'm a pretty new blogger and I had not heard the term hotlink. Thanks for the heads up. I'll be sure not to do that myself! ~ Terrie

  7. I've heard the term but had no clue what hotlinking was. Thanks for the great explanation. Luckily I think I have been dealing with my pictures the correct way. Btw, congrats on 1 year blogging :)

  8. Holy Cow Gen! I haven't been blogging very long either, but I consider myself pretty tech-savvy and I've never heard about this. I am so guilty of this, but I thought I was doing the other bloggers a favor by leaving the photo on their blog instead of saving it to my own. Crazy, huh? But you explained it perfectly and now I understand. I don't have a ton of external pictures, but I'll go back and fix them. Thanks so much for explaining it!



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