If you’re struggling to find creative commons or free images with which to illustrate your blog, then give the Zemanta addon for Firefox a try. As you type your post it searches the web for photos and graphics pertinent to your text and displays them in your blog editing sidebar. Click a thumbnail you like and Zemanta automatically inserts the graphic into your blog post. More than that it adds any necessary credits and links to sources so you don’t have to worry about breaching copyright or licensing.
Zemanta does more than find images though. It also suggests posts from other blogs and news sites (a list of which you can customize). You can then select which external stories might help enhance your post. It also finds the best tags for your post to help boost your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, which can help you rank for keywords that web users are actually searching for.
I’ve used Zemanta regularly for exogenous inspiration on my blogs. To see it in action you can use their demo, just paste in any text and it will fire up the image gallery, related posts, and tag suggestions. Click the image at the top of this post to see it in action on this very post via their demo.
One of the really neat characteristics of Zemanta is that because it’s browser based rather than blog software based it works on all the popular platforms: WordPress (host and self-hosted), Google Blogspot Blogger, Typepad, Ning, MySpace, LiveJournal, Movable Type, Tumblr, and Drupal. As you may have spotted from that list it works on platforms that don’t support plugins, like Blogger.com, WordPress.com and LiveJournal.
Strictly speaking, Zemanta is available only for blogs publishing in English. But, even if you’re not blogging in English, chances are you will use some buzzwords or product names that will be picked up by the extension and give you some chance of finding pertinent images, links, and tags.
Zemanta indexes around 3000 media sources and various user blogs. You can also setup your own blogs and add your Flickr account in the preferences.
The “alpha” version of the extension supports Mozilla Firefox 2 and 3 (my browser recommendation), and Internet Explorer 6 and 7. There is also a browser plugin available for Safari 3 (4 beta just released) and Opera 9 users.
The extension adds a promotional footnote to your blog post, but that can be deleted (whether it is ethical to do so or moreover in breach of the Zemanta license is unclear. Check your moral code and your lawyer’s phone number before deleting the acknowledgments.