Do Stock Images Affect SEO? No, Says Cutts
When you're choosing images to put up on your site, who are you mostly concerned with - search engines, or the people actually visiting and looking at your site? Although you might be inclined to place a lot of importance on the former, a new video from Google web spam head Matt Cutts may have you rethinking your strategy.
Specifically, user Greg M. from Vancouver, British Columbia asked "Does using stock photos on your pages have a negative effect on rankings? Do original photos help you in this regard?" In a word, according to Cutts - "no."
Images are for Users, not Search Engines
Although the short answer from Cutts is that the types of photos you use on your site don't affect your ranking, he goes into a bit more detail and says that it really makes no difference whether you use an original photo or a stock photo from a service like Shutterstock to illustrate your site.
So, if you've been paying a mint for original photography for the pages on your site when your point could be illustrated equally well using stock imagery, then by all means, save yourself some money.
But remember, we're only talking about search rankings here. It's entirely possible that you could add real value to your site and drum up a lot of repeat traffic by embedding original images rather than the same stock photos your audience has seen again and again. You might also convey to your viewers an extra sense of pride and passion in your work by using original photography, but depending on your specific niche, your mileage may vary.
Hinting at a Future Algorithm Update?
Cutts goes on to say that Greg's question is actually a great suggestion for a signal they could examine to determine the quality of a site. He says that it's entirely possible that sites with original imagery could be deemed quantifiably higher quality than sites that repeat the same stock photos over and over. But for now, it's clear that Google isn't giving you any sort of ranking bonus for featuring original images instead of stock images on your site. You can watch the video for yourself: