UPDATE: It’s no longer as easy as updating some settings in your cPanel to prevent hotlinking. You should now do a combination of installing a simple WordPress plugin and adding some changes to your .htaccess file. Ready on below to find out how!
Performing a backlink audit is important to maintain a healthy website. Having toxic links in your backlink profile can be harmful to your search engine rankings. That’s why you should use tools such as SEMRush to perform backlink audits and uncover any potential issues.
After performing a routine backlink audit, I started to wonder why there were more and more links pointing to images on my site. See redlined links in the image below to my photography site.
After doing some research I discovered that this practice is colloquially known as ‘hotlinking’ and is when another site basically uses your images while they are hosted on your server.
Is hotlinking bad for your site?
The problem is that the other site is using your bandwidth every time one of your photos is fetched in order to be displayed on their site.
So how do we setup hotlink protection?
Some hosting providers will offer direct hotlink protection in their cpanel.
Navigate to the security section of your cpanel and you should find the hotlink protection. It seems like some hosting providers are starting to phase this service out, however, and instead are guiding you to perform this task yourself through updating the htaccess file.
For example, Siteground guide us through the process on this page of their website.
UPDATE: This method of hotlink protection generally no longer works. The recommended solution is as follows:
- Install the WordPress plugin – No Right Click Images
- Add some code to your .htaccess file
No Right Click Images plugin blocks the right click function of the mouse on your site, so effectively preventing visitors from finding your file address and using this to hotlink. It also prevents any quick theft of text by copy pasting. A quick Google search will help you to find what code you should add to your site. Here is a link to the site I used – Hot Link Protection.
Once you have made the updates to your .htaccess file, make sure to use one of the free sites to test your hotlinking protection.