As my reader will know, after a brief and entertaining flirt with Microstock, I now give all my photography away for free download. This post is to mark the milestone of passing 500,000 downloads across three sites, Morguefile, and, more recently, RGBStock. I did this post on 31st August 2008 to mark 250,000 downloads. That gives a fairly decent average of 327 downloads per day.

This post will obviously serve as a marker for when I reach new milestones but I also wanted to take a few sentences to describe the impact that given away free photos has on the search engine optimisation of this blog and my photography site.  Whilst I’m not claiming to be drowning in traffic (because I’m not) there is no doubt that the inbound links that some people who use my photos are kind enough to put on their site are making a difference.

Clearly, from the 500,000 downloads, I’ve only had emails from people for a fraction of those and only a further smaller fraction of this will add a link, but when the number gets that high, you still end up with quite a few. And when you get one on, it helps a lot.

If you’re a photographer and working on improving the SEO for your site, you could so a lot worse than give away some stock type photos for free, purely to secure a good set of inbound links. Remember, the most popular photos for stock aren’t your A-game anyway, have a look at the most popular downloads and you’ll see they are generally pictures of nothing at all, multi-purpose backgrounds or textures, the short of shot you can get by shooting the floor/sky/wall wherever you go ( as I describe here ).

I’m very relaxed about getting credits and links so I could perhaps have more ( that said, an image search for my name usually brings back a fair few ).

Another thing I’ve noticed is the number of hits to this blog that come from Google image searches. I’ve got a number of photo blog posts on here now (mainly coz they are very easy/lazy content) and they pick up quite a few hits. Also, small collections of photos are perfect StumbleUpon fodder and the photo blog posts are starting to pick up some Stumble traffic too.

I suppose what I’m saying is that if you’re a photographer searching for traffic, giving some stuff away (in whatever form) might be one route to getting traffic. Can’t be for everyone, I doubt my ‘brother’ Mark Liddell has such worries and if you’re a successful photographer already, given away stuff might not be the ideal marketing strategy but I’m sure there must be many photographers who would benefit from this sort of thing.

Bear in mind, a site such a Morguefile exists for a very genuine purpose and so supporting it with high quality photography is a good thing and could help you too.