Hotlink Save: Challenges and Preventions

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HOTLINKING is one such technique where keyword stuffing, comment spam, and paid links are just a few internet sins committed by marketers. “As it’s a well-known fact many people aren’t at their best behavior on the internet.”
This includes marketers. Known as black hat SEO, these techniques seek to game search engine algorithms in order to rank higher on SERPs. Other techniques seek to game fellow site owners. Here’s a closer look at what hotlinking is, and how to prevent it.

What is Hotlinking?

Hotlinking is the act of linking to a file that is hosted on another site, instead of downloading the file, hosting it on your own server, and providing a proper citation. Images are most frequently hotlinked, but audio files, movies, flash animations, and other digital assets can also be hotlinked.



For instance- If you post a beautiful image or video on your WordPress site, there might be people who love it and want to put it on their website too. This appreciation might turn into a problem if they use your content without permission, especially if they also use your bandwidth.

This way, every time people visit a website that has hotlinks to your assets, it would use your bandwidth.

The more people access the content, the sooner you will run out of bandwidth. Most people hotlink out of laziness, avoiding proper linking practices, like asking permission and uploading their own web hosting content. Of course, at times it’s done purely out of a lack of knowledge.

In fact, many people still think that leaving the content on its original site is better rather than downloading and re-uploading it. Through this people try to avoid violating the copyrights. This is a misconception.

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Hotlinking is a bad practice because:

  • Unethical and illegal
  • Unless the content is free to use or labeled as creative commons
  • Increase in spending
  • It causes the excessive use of bandwidth for the original image holder
  • Overburdens the server
  • Accessing the image on another site exerts your resources
  • While simply stealing content is wrong in itself, hotlinking also impacts your site’s performance. As mentioned before, running out of bandwidth and experiencing site slowdowns are only a few of the potential consequences.
  • The worst-case scenario is your monthly bills increasing, or your hosting provider giving you a penalty fee. If you can’t pay it, you can no longer keep your website and all of the assets. That’s why preventing hotlinking is important.
  • Since hotlinking requires the website hosting the file to use its own bandwidth to load it on your site, it’s considered bad etiquette. Others go further and call it theft. That’s because it eats up the bandwidth of the site you took it from without giving them the benefit of increased traffic. In other words, you’re essentially making that website pay for part of your hosting bill.

Ways to Prevent:

As a website user, one should always try to avoid hotlinking assets from other websites. Doing so helps ensure that the original owner of the asset won’t incur unnecessary charges and that the asset that you link to won’t be inaccessible given that the owner implements hotlink protection or removes the asset. The following are a couple of solutions for avoiding hotlinking.

  • Use a CDN with hotlink protection.
  • Add code to your .htaccess file.
  • Disable right click functionality.
  • Add a watermark to your images and other assets.
  • Rename hotlinked files.
  • Issue a takedown request.
  • Block IP addresses.


If you’re a content aggregator and avid sharer, play nice and link to websites, don’t display images directly. If you’re truly a fan of what you’re showing you’ll be supporting the original author a lot more! If you’re a content creator, protect yourself against theft; hotlinking is one area that is not too difficult to prevent.

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