Stock images are found all over the web but do they impact on your search engine optimisation efforts? Not according to Matt Cutts in his latest Google Webmaster video. A picture is worth a thousand words and the images on a website are often key to encouraging to stay on your site for longer.
Stock images can be purchased for a relatively small cost from websites such as Shutterstock and Fotolia and are often more cost effective than hiring a photographer to capture the images that you need for your website. It is also a much quicker process to use these types of sites. The downside to this is that other people may have also bought the same images for use on their own site. The way that stock image websites work is that the images all have tags and the tags are searchable. If you are looking for images for an architect then you are likely to search for “architect” and below are the results that appeared for me when I searched Shutterstock:
The best images are likely to be the ones that are most often used by people and this can lead to the same image not only being used on another website but being used on a competitor’s site. This led to the question that Matt answered “Does using stock images on your page have a negative effect on rankings?”
Matt’s brief answer was “no”. The reason for this is that right now Google, and other search engines, would have a tough time trying to identify the content of an image to ascertain if it is a stock image or not. At the moment Google uses the name of the image and the alt tag to try to figure out what the image shows and then uses this in conjunction with other information on the page to try to decide where to rank a page.
In Google’s never ending quest to provide the highest quality websites at the top of their organic results it could be argued that the website of a company that uses their own images is of a higher quality than that of a company that uses stock images. Of course it is possible that the company that is using its own images shot them on a mobile phone while the stock images will be very professional, so how do you work out the overall quality of an image? This is the problem that Google faces. Matt did think that it would be a useful signal that they might use in the future, but for now stock images are fine to use on your website.
If you are wondering whether to use stock images or hire a photographer ask yourself which will provide the better experience for your users and be most cost effective? When you know the answer to this you will be on your way to providing a higher quality website for your users and improving your search engine rankings.