Using Amazon S3 Without SEO Issues

SEO friendly Amazon S3For high traffic web sites, hosting images and video files can be costly and server resource intensive. This is why companies like Amazon, RackSpace, Google and others designed scalable cloud computing environments to let you host files on servers that can scale in terms of bandwidth and resources. For most sites, this is not needed but for sites that have a lot of traffic or typically get unpredicted surges of traffic (i.e. news sites), this comes in handy.

The issue I always had with these services is that they didn't allow you to host the files on your own domain. That is until now. Amazon last week announced that you can host your entire web site on Amazon S3 on your own domain. I don't want my whole site on Amazon S3, at least not yet, but I do want my videos and images there. Why?

(1) I want the image traffic from Google Image Search and Google News (those image thumbnails)

(2) I don't want them on my main server due to bandwidth costs and server resources during a huge spike in traffic

Mike has just implemented this for me at the Search Engine Roundtable and I want to show you how you can set it up for yourself. But before I do that, you can see that now Google is showing images I host in images.seroundtable.com on Google News, as if it was on the same server (obviously, same domain) as the main site. Here is a screen shot of Google News:

Google News Images

How Do You Set This Up?

(1) Login to your Amazon S3 account

(2) Go to your AWS Management Console and click on the S3 tab

(3) Create a New Bucket and name it the domain you want, for example, images.seroundtable.com and click Create.

(4) Then right click on the bucket and select "properties"

(5) Click on the "Web site" tab, check off the "Enabled" check box and put index.html in the "Index Document" field.

(6) Copy and paste the URL give in the "Endpoint" field (you'll need this for your CNAME for the domain.

(7) Click Save.

(8) Go to your zone records for your domain name and add a new host domain name that matches the bucket name, i.e. images.seroundtable.com.

(9) Label it as a CNAME

(10) In the Target (Host name) paste the URL Amazon gave you from the "Endpoint" field. Note, drop off the http:// and ending backslash.

(11) Save the record and wait for the DNS to propagate

Feel free to upload images into those directories (make sure the images read permissions are set to "world." Then try going to your new URL with the proper file name. In my case, http://images.seroundtable.com/Google-Mobile.jpg.

Of course, once this is all configured, you can automate the upload process to Amazon S3. For more on how this works, see Amazon Web Services.

Questions or concerns?

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40 COMMENTS

posted by call center service on: Jan 19, 2012 02:15pm

This is because Amazon is using the latest 3.0 techniques in the site. There was some issues in the previous versions.

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posted by ZA on: Feb 22, 2012 09:54am

Hi, we currently do have an amazon s3 cloud space where we host our images, with a domain name that is similar to our actual site's domain name. In an attempt to make the requests faster to those images, we are considering to switch the name of the domain to something other than the one we are using now, to create a cookie-less domain, that way the cookies info will not get transferred with the request. For example: if our site is ourdomain.com, our cloud's images domain is: pics.ourdomain.com We would change that to pics.od.com so requests would be sent without any cookie information.  Does this impact SEO? what do you think of this practice as a whole?

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SEO is a long lasting process and therefore, if you are trying to get immediate exposure in some aggressive search phrases, you are just sleeping yourself.

posted by victor on: Aug 15, 2012 10:43pm

Has anyone figured out how to do this with https secure content? My understanding is that their is a certificate issue on secure pages that will generate security warnings.

posted by Tommy Griffith on: Sep 11, 2012 04:21am

Aah, didn't realize you needed the endpoint URL for the CNAME. Thanks for the walkthrough!

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Google AdWords is the market research tool that is used to determine the right chosen keywords and phrases to use to SEO a website.

posted by ashish shukla on: May 15, 2013 12:15pm

Barry, this is really very informative. Public image URLs with Amazon S3s are indexed by Google and after that it is searchable by Google. But, when we upload a file to Amazon S3, we also can provide custom metadata like author, description, etc. and these custom tags are available in file 's HTTP headers. So my question is, will google index these metadata as well? It means, if I will search an author name on google custom search, the files related to that author will be shown in the result?

posted by freelance seo on: Nov 8, 2012 01:00pm

So this enhances site operate by increasing picture loading time while protecting the Google picture search results?

posted by Davis Delaney on: Nov 8, 2012 02:38pm

I guess this blog has answered all my questions relating to how to effectively host a domain...

posted by William Vicary on: Feb 22, 2011 05:37pm

Barry I don't think hosting your images on Amazon S3 will affect your ability to rank in Google Image search? Google would link to the image but also link to the page that the image is on ie the frame would contain your website but the hovered image would be the link to the S3 hosted image - you don't lose any traffic. I guess Google might give you a higher weighting if you host the image yourself, but I really don't think using a CDN will affect your Google Image ranking ability.

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posted by Jacob A. Chak on: May 4, 2012 08:43pm

So this improves site function by increasing image load times while preserving the Google image search results? Seems brilliant. Bookmarked.  Please elaborate if my assumption is not correct.

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posted by Barry Schwartz on: Feb 22, 2011 05:38pm

It won't because the domain is my domain. Did you read what I wrote? Maybe I didn't say it clearly?

posted by Doug on: Feb 23, 2011 12:23am

Do you know of a way to do this for Rackspace's Cloud Files?

posted by Barry Schwartz on: Feb 23, 2011 12:25am

I dont.

posted by Doug on: Feb 23, 2011 12:36am

I filed a ticket so maybe they can implement it in the future. Thanks for the tip though!

posted by Barry Schwartz on: Feb 23, 2011 12:37am

cool, let me know.

posted by Roshan on: Feb 23, 2011 02:14pm

interesting way to use cloud hosting for your website. definitely could be the future..

posted by flemo on: Feb 25, 2011 01:50pm

Been doing this on voxel.net for years. Faster and cheaper than Amazon. I'm guessing they're the best kept SEO secret around after reading this post.

posted by Ryan B. on: Mar 5, 2011 06:03am

Have you had any experience in loss of rankings after this? It seems like a really good way to save space I'm just curious how the search engines will treat your site if you have 3rd parties hosting different parts of your site. If not, this is a very clever way to do it. Great post.

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posted by Tim Archambault on: Sep 23, 2011 03:57pm

Since google basically sees a subdomain as a separate website (pardon me if I've oversimplified), how much of a different really is there between using a subdomain vs. using Amazon's S3 (now CloudFront in my case) domain name for image hosting. Just curious.

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