Back in March, Getty Images revealed its generosity to users by making more than 35 million images free and legal to use. This bold effort to combat image piracy resulted in a flood of blogs, tweets and social media posts attempting to delve deep into the reasoning behind Getty's shocking news and to uncover a definitive answer to the age-old question: "What's in it for them?" Barely a month after Getty's unexpected announcement, the real reason has finally been revealed.
Getty Vies for Top Spot on Google
Most people (myself included) speculated Getty planned to gather a richer set of user data, keep image credits intact and perhaps make a few bucks with advertising. While all three are probable, the true benefit to the mega-brand thus far is the astounding amount of external links they now receive. Thanks to the recent availability of cost-free embedded code, Getty has every blogger, publisher and social media manager turning to the brand for quality images. In what almost seems an accidental benefit, Getty's epic link building campaign landed the company Google's #3 spot for the keyword "stock images."
Epic Link Building: Accident or Strategy?
As a result, Getty Images soared above other brands in the link building competition, sparking curiosity and astonishment into the minds of SEOs everywhere - much like a talented Olympic newcomer can leave spectators in awe. Though their SEO strategies remain behind closed doors, Getty must have seen an influx of backlinks on the horizon. Whether accident or strategy, one fact is clear: Getty is giving iStockphoto and Shutterstock a run for their money.
SEOs, Start Your Engines!
When sharing a free Getty image via embedded code, users are creating dofollow links for Getty. As an April analysis of all three companies reveals, Getty is quickly rising to the top after unlocking free embedded image code.
- Shutterstock. According to Ahrefs, Shutterstock has a domain rank of 77 and receives just over 6 million backlinks. On a month-to-month basis, Shutterstock has been struggling to surpass the 100,000 mark for dofollow links.
- iStockphoto. In what seems to be the biggest industry blow since Getty's announcements, iStockphoto actually lost approximately 40 million dofollow links, with a small amount of new dofollow links trickling in. With 20 million backlinks, according to Ahrefs, iStockphoto's team of SEO analysts is likely still in recovery mode as you read this.
- Getty. Then there's Getty. With an Ahrefs domain rank of 76 and more than 44 million backlinks, Getty Images is rising to the SEO challenge. Between October 2013 and February 2014, the company was barely receiving a million backlinks per month. Since its launch of free embedded images, Getty's number of backlinks shot to more than 15 million.
Does Getty Deserve a Guinness?
It just may be that Getty Images deserves a Guinness World Record for its link building campaign, which equates to an impressive feat of strength in today's highly competitive virtual environment. Though not yet proven to be the best link building campaign in history, making images available for free was a smart move for the company. While holding onto the top three position in Google's SERPs, Getty is primed to surpass the competition. My guess is that Getty will take the top position by the end of May 2014.
What's your guess? Go ahead and post it in the comment area below.