add watermarks to images on website

Posted on 2015-01-29
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2015-01-29
Client wants to add watermarks to ALL her images on her website.  They have a house for rent for family gatherings, etc.

I think it will look tacky.  My programmer felt said this, "As far as SEO, adding a watermark on images will do exactly nothing.  Image SEO consists of file naming (no crazy 8921919383828282.jpg file names), alt text (relevant alt text, which can easily be done through WordPress), and contextual content around the image (the content around the image should have keywords that have to do with the contents of the image).  This is how Google crawls a site, grabs and image, and indexes it for certain keywords. Adding a watermark to an image would more than likely DECREASE click-through-rates than actually increase it. "

Client has a "friend" in social media.  This is his retort.  
"If someone wants to add a photo of the exterior of your house to their "Weekend Getaway" pinboard on Pinterest, you are now left hoping that they will take the time to change the description to let people know (or remind themselves) where this photo was taken and how they can get more information about it. Even if they do that, if someone else pins the image onto their pinboard, they may change that description and the connection is lost. Piinterest tries to help by linking images pinned from websites back to those sites, but with single-digit click-through rates, many viewers who see an image won't take that step. A simple watermark with the url across the bottom of the image always leaves a trail back to your site and it costs only the few seconds it takes to bulk edit a folder of images. A branded logo can help do the same thing.I don't think adding a watermark would decrease CTR (click-through-rates). Watermarks cost only the time it takes to add them and will only help."

I would appreciate others inputs as well as I am trying to determine who is right.
Question by:nsitedesigns
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LVL 14

Assisted Solution

by:Leslie Bloom
Leslie Bloom earned 668 total points
ID: 40578178
It sounds like the concern here is not getting traffic directed to their site from people who choose to share the photos.

You're right, SEO will not be improved with a watermark. Oftentimes if you just add a url to the bottom of an image (hoping that people will take the extra step to visit your website) they can easily be cropped out. While this might seem like a reasonable workaround, it likely won't generate much traffic.

I realize that this doesn't present a super effective mediation of the problem, but In reality there is not really a super effective way to ever prevent someone from taking an image and sharing it on social media channels with no credit.

If they are hoping to gain traction from Pinterest specifically, they could post the images on there themselves with proper link attribution and hope it gets repinned by many users. This might be the best resolution for everyone.
LVL 70

Assisted Solution

by:Jason C. Levine
Jason C. Levine earned 664 total points
ID: 40578187
A simple watermark with the url across the bottom of the image always leaves a trail back to your site and it costs only the few seconds it takes to bulk edit a folder of images.

This is the way I would go.  It can be done in ways that don't look terrible and done in bulk.

The programmer is right that watermarking won't affect SEO but this isn't an SEO issue as much as a "what happens to the image when it isn't on my site" issue.  If someone socially shares the image, having the site address as a watermark is helpful in the way the second person described.  Watermarking is really meant to slow down an image thief, though...

The counter to that position is if someone is sharing the image from your site and not the photo they took (more realistic scenario), then that person is kinda crazy.
LVL 18

Accepted Solution

Lucas Bishop earned 668 total points
ID: 40578243
Personally, I find watermarks annoying and they decrease my likelihood of sharing/pinning/etc an image. The watermark would need to be extremely subtle to get a pass from me.

In regards to the opinions of the two people presented, both are correct, as they are concerned with two different subjects. From an SEO perspective, yes a watermark may reduce click-through and thus reduce the ranking of the image in Google image search results ranking. From a social sharing perspective, yes a watermark is the only fool-proof way to attribute the source of an image.

A solid middle ground for both of these is optimizing the 'alt text' on the image.

For SEO purposes, alt text is used by Google to help in identifying the contents of the image.
For Pinterest purposes, alt text is used by the Pinterest bookmarklet tool as the description of the pinned image. Most people don't take the time to change the description, so if you are very concerned with Pinterest as your marketing channel, you could go so far as to include your @pinterest name or website url in the alt text.

If you do a good enough job of authoring the alt-text, even someone who usually changes the description may be swayed to leave it as is. For example:

A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in. ~ Weekend getaway riverfront house overlooking the Kennebec River -- clientwebsite.com & @clientpinterest

Author Closing Comment

ID: 40578252
thanks for sharing.

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