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Opinions on Spidering Image Files?

bushybushy Member
in General edited May 2008
Just wondering what some of the other FC users think about the pros and cons of letting spiders crawl your ecommerce site's image files. Pros are it gives potential customers another way to find your site. Cons are most of the people that find your site via image searches aren't interested in your products but will happily lift or hotlink to your images, not to mention skew your traffic data in the process. Whadaya think? Generally a good idea or a bad idea to let bots spider your images?
  • I've purchased online from product images I found via Google image search.

    That said...well, the cons don't seem to be worth lost sales for me. (You could always do hotlink prevention techniques and such -- but almost everything like that is somewhat visible to your more savvy customers. If I see annoying schemes, or things like rightclick prevention etc. I just click to disable JavaScript, and make sure I buy somewhere else.)

    Now, if someone is illegally using my images for commercial purposes. Yeah, I pursue that. :) (Use watermarking that can be tracked...and many people won't even bother to change your filename. Or if you find hotlinkers, you can always change the image on your site -- and replaced the hotlinked image with something very embarrassing to the hotlinker, or at least beneficial to you.)

    So, I say let the spiders run. I'm curious of some other's opinions of what cons could be worth blocking them though?
  • brettbrett FoxyCart Team
    I use Google's image search, but unlike tookings I haven't ever bought something as a result. Oddly enough gets a decent number of visitors coming in from Google image search. It's not an issue for us, since the more eyeballs we get to our site the better, but even with ecommerce sites I think the worst that can happen is you get an image taken. The best is you get a potential customer.

    I do think that hotlink prevention is a good idea, and while nothing's perfect, there are some decent methods to make it happen. I _hate_ the disabling of the right-click almost as much as I hate it when my browser window gets resized automatically.

    As far as skewing traffic data... I totally agree with you on that one. Depending on which analytics package you use you might be able to filter out certain visitors by referrer. If I did this I'd probably keep a separate profile that shows only the image searchers, just to know what's going on there. And I'd make sure that that other profile still tracked any sales that were referred by an image search.

    A small watermark might be a good idea. You could automatically add one using phpThumb or something similar, and I have to believe that anybody looking to lift an image from Google image search probably will see the watermark and move on to the next result, rather than copy it into Photoshop, remove the watermark, save and upload to their own server, etc. All you have to do is make it more attractive for them to move on to the next result than to grab your image and you'll be set.

    That's my thought, at least. Apparently I'm really long-winded today ;)
  • bushybushy Member
    edited May 2008
    Or if you find hotlinkers, you can always change the image on your site -- and replaced the hotlinked image with something very embarrassing to the hotlinker, or at least beneficial to you.

    I like the way you think, tookings. ;-)

    I guess what really got my thinking about it is not so much worries about hot links or image theft but this: I work for a web analytics company and to make the best use of analytics data you want to separate the "good" data from the "bad" (or, put another way, increase the ratio of good data to bad). Having a high ratio of quality data means the business decisions you make based on that data stand a better chance of being sound.

    So, using an extreme example here, suppose you sell a highly-specialized product that is only going to appeal to a select group of people, lets say prosthetic limbs. Lets also say that for some strange reason your site includes a picture of Carmen Electra in a skimpy bikini. Odds are that picture will drive a lot of people to your site, 99.99% of whom have zero interest in buying a prosthetic limb. In that case the traffic from these people is going to badly skew your site data.

    On the other hand, if you sell products that have a broad appeal (clothing, books, music) that picture of Carmen may indeed get you some visitors who came for the pic but hang around and buy once they're there.

    Added: Hey Brett, just saw your post. We must have been writing at the same time. Filtering on image referrers makes a lot of sense (although it'd take some time to set up and would require regular tuning). Another thing that just occurred to me that might help...keeping images you think might generate high traffic but few if any sales in a directory of their own that doesn't get spidered. So rather than an all or nothing thing, some images get indexed and some don't. Of course, if you did that you'd have to make good decisions about what goes where. And for sites that introduce a lot of new images on a regular basis that would be a lot of decisions to make--you'd probably have to set up some rules. It's a shame I don't sell pr0n cuz then it would be an easy choice--spider everything!
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