Image Link Building with Unsplash: An Untapped Opportunity For Brands

Link building is one of the hardest parts of SEO.

Scaling link building is even harder.

Gaining consistent links on autopilot is one of the dreams most brands looking to capitalise on the vast amounts of organic traffic out there.

This idea was inspired by Patrick Coddou of Supply – who showed just how powerful the platform could be from a branding point of view.

This got me thinking…

Could this also be leveraged for other channels outside of branding?

How It Works

The simple premise of this link building technique is:

  1. You distribute your photos
  2. People use your photos
  3. You reach out to people using your photos and ask for a link
  4. People add a link back to your site

It really is that simple.

Simple in concept, but in reality…

You need some seriously good photos. 

This is the single most important part of this tactic.

No matter how many photos you have and upload to Unsplash, if they aren’t any good, no one will use them. There are millions of photos on Unsplash so yours need to be the absolute best to stand out, get featured and get downloaded.


You need to understand your photos can be used by anyone. 

You cannot be precious about people using them and not giving credit. When you upload your images to Unsplash they become free reign for the internet with no obligation to credit you.

So now let’s take you through the process. 

I’m presuming you have the photos ready and waiting to go…

Time To Get Started

This will be a super quick guide on how to set yourself up on Unsplash and upload your photos.

Firstly, head over to Unsplash and press ‘Join free’.

Fill out your details, or you can join with your Facebook account for speed.

Once you’ve completed creating your account, it’s time to upload your photos.

Head back to the Unsplash home screen and press ‘Submit a photo’.

You can upload up to 10 photos at a time (I think this is per day too), so make sure you start with your strongest.

This restriction is unlocked after a time of consistent uploading of quality photos.

On the next screen, you’ll need to add tags and a description of the photos you have uploaded.

While these are optional, and ‘Unsplash SEO’ is not much of a thing just yet it is best to be as prepared as possible to add a clear description

Once you’ve added the tags and descriptions, press ‘Submit’.

Congratulations! You’re now on Unsplash.

You should be able to see your photos on your profile page. Unsplash will not have fully run their checks yet, this takes a few hours.

After a time, your stats will fill and you’ll see how many people are viewing and downloading your photos.

If you’re lucky enough to get featured by Unsplash, you’ll see a HUGE bump in visibility and downloads.

So now you’ve got your photos uploaded and in front of thousands of people who could use your images on their sites.

I’ve seen countless major publications, universities, bloggers, and pretty much everyone using Unsplash, so if you’ve got insanely good photos – you could get featured in some high profile places.

This is a time to wait a while for your photos to get picked up, and used across the internet.

In the meantime, feel free to check out some of my other posts:

Okay, so now you’ve read those, let’s see if anyone has used your images.

There are two ways you can approach searching for your images being used:

  • The manual way – Google Reverse Image Search
  • The automated way – Pixsy

The Manual Way

This is a great way to validate that your downloads have been turned into them being used online.

Head over to Google Images and click the camera icon to search by image.

You can then either use an image URL or upload the image – it works the same way whichever you do.

Once you’ve submitted the URL or upload the image it will automatically search for it.

You will see that Google’s AI considers the photo to be, it’s cool but no relevance to us.

Also, the first two results are usually just for that keyword rather than the image you’ve uploaded, so you can ignore them.

Further down the page, it features the pages where the image has actually been used.

This will likely also include your own site and any other marketplaces that you’ve listed your products. But most importantly, it will list where the image has been used.

The first in this list is from Culture Whisper which is a great target to try and get the link.

Want a outreach example? Check out the template I use at the end of the post.

The Automated Way

If you’ve validated that this tactic works for you, then you can set up an automated workflow to trigger alerts when your images are used.

Using a tool called Pixsy.

Pixsy is technically designed to be used by photographers who don’t want their images being used across the web without their permission or payment.

However, it functions to find uses of images you upload to it, so can be used for our purpose as well.

Uploading images to Pixsy

So quickly set up a free account with Pixsy and then let’s get uploading our photos.

Head to the ‘Images’ section and press ‘Import images’

You get the option of uploading images from a variety of sources, I’ve only used the feature of uploading from the computer which works seamlessly.

Once you upload the images you have on Unsplash to Pixsy, you will be able to see them in the images tab. If you need to add more images to the account, this is where you come back to. You can upload up to 500 images on the free plan.

Once you’ve verified your email, Pixsy will start scanning to find your images being used. This can often take a few hours – you’ll get an email once it’s complete.

While you wait, sign up for free content marketing course to scale your organic traffic to over 1 million visitors per year.

Once it’s finishing scanning, you’ll see the number of matches found on the matches overview page.

Click on the ‘matches unseen’ to see any matches we have not yet reviewed.

On the next screen click the first image on the left 

The next screen shows the original image that we have uploaded to Pixsy against the image Pixsy has found.

What is great about Pixsy is that it picks up images that have been cropped or edited too, like in this example below.

Click on the ‘page URL’ to see the page the image has been used on

Check the post and review whether:

  • They are definitely using the image on this page (sometimes the image will be seen in an advert or similar which triggers a false positive)
  • Does it look like we could potentially get a link from the post?
  • Essentially looking if it is a blog post rather than a landing page.
  • You can easily see the author of the post

The first example is a great target.

  • Definitely our image
  • It’s a blog post
  • Author name easily available
  • Also domain rating (via Ahrefs) of 78!

The next step is to record the details in a spreadsheet, my columns of choice are:

  • Image location link (the link where the image is)
  • Domain (I use this for deduping in future)
  • Topic (what the blog post was about – I use this to personalise the outreach email)
  • Original link (when getting started, you can put your homepage – but as you go you can use your product pages or your own blog posts where the image is used to drive deeper links)
  • First name, last name & email (for your outreach)
  • Sent (the date I send the email)
  • Got the link? (for when I get the links)

Back in Pixsy, click either the ‘Approve use’ or ‘Ignore’ and it will move you onto the next image and perform the same process again.

Once you’ve worked through your unseen matches it’s time to start the outreach.

Here’s the exact template that I use…

Hey Kelly

I noticed you used one of the images of our signature standing desk converter on one of your recent articles on upskilling employees who are shifting job roles.

Just wanted to say thank you for using our image and I was just wondering if you could include a link to our site as well as the original credit for the photo. No worries if not but thought I’d ask.

Here is the original source: https://deskmate.co/products/standingdesk-white

Once again, thanks for using the image. The post is awesome!

Best wishes,

The Results

I am currently getting around a 30% success rate from outreach email to link added using this technique.

The latest batch of outreach emails I sent (26) secured me 8 links.

Remember, the success of the campaign entirely depends on the quality of your images. But once you start this, your images will get used over and over again and this is a really scalable tactic.

There is no obligation for people to add the link credit as you’ve uploaded the images to Unsplash, so if you get a response saying no, just move on.

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