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Flickr *IS* Good for Search Marketing – Despite Naysayers!

I’ve seen a recent article or two claiming that Flickr can no longer be leveraged for SEO [1]purposes. As frequent readers here know, I’ve long been a proponent of using Flickr, both for its great Web 2.0 features, but also for its marketing/promotional value [2]. I’m sure I’m one of the people that article writer was thinking of when he mentioned hearing recommendations for use from other articles and search marketing conferences.

Flickr can still be a valuable source of internet promotion, and a great tool for the purposes of Image Search Optimization. Read on and I’ll explain.

It is true that Flickr has progressively enacted more and more policing and restrictions against people attempting to use their services for strictly business purposes. We reported last spring on how Flickr now Nofollows [3] most links from users’ pages, and there are lots of cases of people getting their accounts suspended or deleted for breaking the terms of use.

On the surface, it can be difficult to differentiate why Flickr may allow a fan of old advertisements to scan and publish reams of commercial material, while a contemporary company could get their account deleted for displaying similar materials from their current catalog. Both content is commercial, isn’t it?

It may be that the contemporary company’s use is more blatantly intended to push their product into recreational site users’ faces, though.

I would say that in many cases, companies attempting to promote themselves through Flickr are guilty of doing so in a far too heavy-handed manner, and are too aggressively pushing themselves and their products through the medium.

If Flickr is approached from the perspective of engaging with the community in a highly cooperative manner, there’s far less risk of penalization. Engaging with the community of users in an honest way, and in a meaningful way that provides value will not result in banning. There are some great examples of companies and institutions who are doing it right: Ford Motor Company [4]; General Electric [5]; Smithsonian Institution [6]; Concordia University [7]; MTV [8]; Whole Foods [9]; Sony Electronics [10]; Panasonic [11]; Lucasfilm Ltd. (Star Wars) [12]; Dell [13]; VH1 [14]; Yum! Brands [15]; NestlĂ© [16]; and more.

Lincoln 2010 MKT with Ecoboost - Example of Commercial Use of Flickr
(Example of Commercial Use of Flickr)

It’s not hard to do this right, but many people are just too heavy-handed to accomplish it.

As a number of people noticed, even Barack Obama [17] used Flickr effectively in his recent presidential campaign.

Sooooo, let’s just put it to bed: Flickr can still be used well for internet marketing purposes!

There’s undoubtedly some level of hypocrisy in Flickr’s (Yahoo!’s) interpretation and enforcement of their terms of use. Early on, my interpretation of their rules was that they intended to keep people from reselling their image-hosting services, primarily, and to keep them from using it as primary image hosting for large, commercial websites. However, they’ve later enforced a much broader interpretation, going after accounts which use Flickr primarily/only for SEO and marketing purposes.

Yet, Yahoo’s enforcement has been very inconsistent. Thousands upon thousands of people use Flickr for commercial promotion purposes, including: artists, photographers, real estate agents, universities, museums, models, and more. Even non-profit groups use it for marketing and promotion purposes — an identical type of use as that of commercial companies, even if it isn’t a for-profit use.

Further, a number of different parts of Yahoo! itself have leveraged Flickr for SEO and commercial reasons — a case of “do as I say, not as I do.”

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