How Flickr ranks so highly on Google

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is such a murky topic, I almost cringe when I hear the term. It can be used to describe legitimate techniques such as organising your website into a structure that is easy for Google to index and renaming pages to describe their contents, but also dubious methods such as paying for links from other websites and blog spam.

Flickr uses an interesting technique. Googled for “photo sharing” lately? Flickr ranks number one, above the king of search results – Wikipedia.

How did they do it? Well here’s some html code that was generated by Flickr and posted to my blog when I clicked the “Share This” link:

<div style=”float:right;margin-left:10px;margin-bottom:10px;”>
<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/al40/4241715457/” title=”photo sharing”><img src=”http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4045/4241715457_b72168688f_m.jpg” alt=”” style=”border:solid 2px #000000;” /></a>
<br />
<span style=”font-size:.9em;margin-top:0;”>
<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/al40/4241715457/”>Foxdown 13</a>
<br />
Originally uploaded by <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/people/al40/”>Al404</a>
</span>
</div>
test post
<br />

The interesting part – note the value of “title” inside the name tag. What possible reason, other than SEO, could Flickr have to make the title of every single shared photo titled “photo sharing”? Every time you use share a Flickr photo this way, you’re providing a link to Flickr and boosting their name against that term. While this is certainly not as dubious as other SEO techniques, it’s also not in the spirit of the title tag or the value Google is placing on it.

Unsurprisingly, a Yahoo search also shows Flickr as number one, but Bing clearly ranks pages a different way – Flickr doesn’t appear in the first page when searching for the phrase.

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