Jon Rhodes

I will be taking more pics of me – lucky you!

Can you suffer a penalty from using stock photos? Remember they are technically duplicate content.

Recently Google’s head of spam Matt Cutts was asked whether sites are penalised for using stock photos. If you are a website or blog owner who uses stock pictures, then you must see this video…



In the video Matt Cutts explained that there wasn’t currently a penalty for using stock photos. However he did go on to say that duplicate photos might be considered a factor in the future. A site using pictures that are found all over the web might be ranked down one day. This could obviously have repercussions…




The first thing that springs to mind is that people will have to get more involved in the content they are producing and take their own pictures. In my last post How To Make Your WordPress Blog Mobile Friendly, I decided to take a picture of me looking at a mobile phone. It’s nothing ground breaking, but it illustrates the post well enough. It is also a unique picture that cannot be found anywhere else on the internet.

Spammers may take stock photos and change them so that they appear unique in the search engines. They may mirror flip the image, or change its brightness, contrast and colour. Will Google be sophisticated enough to detect these alterations?

Websites will probably offer image spinning services that take a stock photo and automatically change them enough to be deemed original by the search engines – just like article spinners. Software will also become available.



Picture quality

This got me thinking about whether Google will detect the quality of pictures. Will a picture using a higher resolution signal a higher quality site? Will they be able to detect picture composition and correct use of brightness? This is a possibility since Google are focusing on quality content these days – and photos are content.

Another question that springs to mind is whether a well taken stock photo would be deemed better or worse than a poorly taken unique picture. Which would you prefer on your blog?



Image search

Whilst Matt says that “not to the best of my knowledge” are duplicate photos penalised, what about Google image search? I do get traffic from Google image search. It seems that duplicate pictures are omitted from image search results.

I have some of pictures of myself that I have put on numerous websites across the web. They have been repeated a lot. If I put my name ‘Jon Rhodes’ into Google image search, I notice that some pictures are repeated. However they only seem to be repeated when they are a different size. Apart from this, only one of each picture is shown. So it seems duplicate pictures are filtered out of Google image results.

This makes sense. You wouldn’t want to do a Google image search of a horse and get 20 identical horse pictures. So it is likely that your stock picture will never make it on to Google image search. This means you’re missing out on potential traffic.



What to do?

Jon Rhodes Don't Panic!

Don’t Panic!

The first thing NOT to do is panic. Photos may never be used as a tool for assessing the quality of a site. It was only suggested that they COULD be used. If/when it is, I can’t see it being a major ranking factor. The bigger and more well funded sites will buy the best quality exclusive pictures. Surely it will take more than this to rank high.

As you know I actively promote ethical affiliate marketing as I firmly believe in thinking long term for business. Thinking long term I have decided to take more pictures myself to use on my blog. I’m not going to go crazy, but if I get an idea for a picture I can take myself, then I might as well do it.

If Google do make this change in the future, I don’t want to suffer. Not every picture will be unique, but I will make more of an effort. There will probably be more pictures of me here in the future (lucky you eh?!). This will help people get to know me better. Also it’s more fun taking your own pictures.



Final thoughts

Like it or not, pictures DO play a part in the quality of a website or blog, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable for Google to start using this as a search metric. I don’t think it will be huge because some sites don’t have many pictures due to their subject nature.

Even if they never implement this, picture quality probably has an indirect effect on your ranking right now. With great unique pictures, more people are likely to link to your page and share it on social networks, which can help you rank better. Also it Google image search filters out duplicate pictures. You are already probably better off using unique pictures right now if you can. And this advantage may increase in the future.

Why not have a bit of fun and take a few pictures yourself every now and then? It could freshen up your site, plus add a unique touch of ‘you’ to the proceedings. You never know, you might have a flair, and be able to create some great unique pictures that encourage people to share and link to your content. Now wouldn’t that be nice?!


I would love to hear your thoughts on this in the comments bellow! Do you think Google will penalise duplicate photos in the future? Do you think it is a good or bad thing?



Jon Rhodes

Thanks for reading! I am a clinical hypnotherapist, musician, author, and internet marketer. I would love to stay in touch. Please sign up for instant delivery of my latest blog posts via email. UPDATE! For a limited time I will give you a free copy of my book (worth $29) Alternative Guide To Affilite Marketing - Please click here to sign up.

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6 Responses to Google To Penalise You For Using Stock Photos?

  1. Jai Catalano says:

    I rarely use stock photos. I change photos significantly enough to make them mine or I use my own stock. It’s more fun for me that way.

    • Jon Rhodes says:

      Thanks for your comment Jai. I have been relying on stock photos for quite a while. Now I’m going to put a bit more thought into the illustrations and make some for myself. You’re right, it is more fun taking your own pictures!

  2. Andrea Hypno says:

    It seems to me a possible way to beat again those solo-bloggers without big wallets as non-free pictures come for a price and multiplying a minimum of one picture per post at the end of the year it makes up a sound sum of money.

    Probably Google would really love a web made only by big wallets top dogs. Who can buy its ads.

    Or it’s simply a move to hit Pinterest.

    I just hope someone will come and throw Big G out of business, soon possibly. So we’ll have a better web not run just by and for money.

    Imho. :)

  3. Ethan Pepper says:

    I have never been a big fan of taking my own pictures, it is too time consuming and in the end they will probably be less interesting than a good stock photo. If you want to make the pictures more unique you can always find ones that allow you to edit them and add captions or other effects.

  4. John, seems like “much ado about nothing” but your points are well taken. It is something to be aware of and I guess we should think about using our own pictures. Finally, do you see a legal blog like a math site where pictures are not expected?

    • Jon Rhodes says:

      Hi John. Yes it’s not a crucial issue, but something worth considering for the future. A lot of bloggers, myself included, are committed to providing quality unique content. However we forget to do this with images as well.

      Think about it this way…In order to rank well you must impress the search engines. If you were a search engine, what would impress you more (all else being equal) – a site full of stock photos, or a site with unique images?

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