Should Google Penalize Content For Using Stock Images?

    June 23, 2013
    Chris Crum

Use stock images on your site? Soon, you may find that it is hurting your rankings in Google. Maybe.

Do you think rankings should suffer when content utilizes stock images? Share your thoughts.

Google’s Matt Cutts discussed stock photos as a ranking signal in a Webmaster Help video this week. Specifically, he responded to the following user-submitted question:

Does using stock photos on your pages have a negative effect on rankings? Do original photos help you in this regard?

“‘Does using stock photos on your pages have a negative effect on rankings?’ To the best of my knowledge, the answer is no,” says Cutts. “‘Do original photos help you?’ To the best of my knowledge, it doesn’t really make a difference whether it’s a stock photo versus an original photo.”

But he doesn’t leave it at that.

“But you know what?” he adds. “That’s a great suggestion for a future signal we could look at in terms of search quality. Who knows? Maybe original sites – original image sites might be higher quality, where sites that just repeat the same stock photos over and over again might not be nearly as high quality.”


“But to the best of my knowledge,” he reiterates, “we don’t use that directly in our algorithmic web ranking right now.”

Well, even if Google is not using this as a signal currently, it’s hard to imagine why Cutts would make comments like these if he’s not serious about this actually being something Google could add in the future. They are, as you know, making changes to the algorithm every day. Here, he’s pretty much saying that original images are a signal of quality, so that’s worth paying attention to.

Is this the case though? Should original images always be treated as a signal of quality? It raises some new questions that webmasters and SEOs haven’t necessarily needed to think about in the past.

Will original trump actual photo quality? Will an amateur photo in an amateur blog post gain get a boost over a “professional” post with a re-used image from Getty? Will stock photo providers lose business because people are afraid to use the images in their content? Surely webmasters would never overreact to a ranking change Google makes, right?

Do you think stock images hurt the quality of a piece of content? Should Google include this as a ranking signal? Let us know what you think in the comments.


Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.