As long as there is search, there will be SEO.
Ye Olde Blog of SEO
Sep 12

Google will probably be annoyed if you use stock images

As an SEO, I try to make every pixel count.

That means I try to put thought into every character I type and every pixel I create or publish. Except for maybe some of the nonsense I say on Twitter.

I recently took the time to do a complete read of  Google’s Guide to Material Design, and found some great gems of information in there. One really interesting tidbit I found was their advice on using imagery within native app design:

Stay away from stock

Use imagery to express a distinctive voice and exemplify creative excellence.

For specific entities or branded content, use specific imagery. For more abstract content, be interpretive. Photographic stock and clipart is neither specific nor interpretive.

Yes, I know this was directed towards app UI designers and has nothing to do with search quality or the algorithm but it just makes sense.

do vs dont stock images

Google’s design guidelines does not recommend the use of stock images.

Google likes to see new things

Ok I am not saying you will get penalized or devalued if you use stock images.

I’m not even saying you will be devalued if you use stock images.

Calm down, I don’t claim to know any kind of secrets about Google.

I’m just talkin’ here, thinking out loud.

But just because you won’t get penalized or devalued for something, doesn’t mean you are going to get props from Google for doing it, right?

I recently read a very interesting comment from a Moz Whiteboard Friday on Panda Optimization from Michael Cottam:

Keep in mind, what Google is looking to do is to show sites on page 1 of the results that have something the user hasn’t seen before.  So, if 10 sites all have the same manufacturer’s photo of the product, that’s not a great user experience to show those 10 in the results.

If there’s a site that has some photos not found elsewhere, then that’s likely to be a good user experience…they’ll see the product from different angles, or different detail levels, etc.

That’s what Google is looking for.

Basically what he is saying is that if say 5 of your competitors use stock images and you use unique illustrations and images, who do you think is going to get preferential treatment from (excluding other factors such as backlinks, etc)?

My solution, kind of

I try to snap pics of things that I see everywhere that I go. Particularly the interesting stuff. Like everyone, I have a high quality HD camera phone, so the images come out looking really well.

For instance I took this photo of these ducks walking out in the parking lot the other day:

ducks waddling along

I added it to a Dropbox repository of home made imagery for future use.

If you are going to implement this type of system yourself just do yourself a favor and name / title your images correctly as you take them. It really sucks to have to go back and rename a bunch of images. I’m sure you have better things to do.

I also like to come up with quick illustrations using Photoshop and Illustrator. Its amazing what 5 minutes and a few layers can produce.

google panda penalty illustration by patrick coombe

Designing quick, simple, and relevant illustrations are a great way to separate yourself from your lowly competitors.

I ain’t no saint

Believe me, I’m guilty of using stock images and love sites like Unsplash that gives away high quality images for free.

I’m in the process of weeing off of stock images and only using home brew images, at least for our company blog and our client sites anyway.

;tldr I can haz stock image

About The Author

Patrick is an SEO blogger and the founder of Elite Strategies, an SEO and internet marketing agency located in Delray Beach, FL.