Google Says Original Images Are Better Than Stock Photography

Stock photography has its place, but original photography that shows your actual business, products and staff resonates more with users — and now Google says good website photography may help in search, too ... sort of.

woman working on computer

We all know that a strong, compelling header image on the home page can draw website visitors into your site, and a weak, blurry image that doesn’t load properly will turn users away. But poorly chosen stock photography — those images that you can purchase from photo stock sites — can also turn users off, especially when those images are so too generic. Memes like Women Laughing Alone with Salad and hashtags like #badstockphotosofmyjob make fun of sites that use so much stock photography on their websites that they lose any sense of the real business and the essential things that make that business special.

At Infomedia, we find stock photography to be an incredibly useful tool — but, like all tools, it’s not right for every job. We recommend that every business hire a professional photographer for as many images as they can afford. Sometimes, this means the photographer will take every image on the website, from header images to bio pictures. Other times, it means the photographer will take a few key images and our designers will supplement those with stock photos edited to be consistent with the same look and feel.

We’ve always known original photography made a better user experience, but recently Google hinted that original images might indirectly help in search results as well. Here’s how hiring a photographer just might get you better rankings and more business:

Get ahead in search

While it’s still true that text is doing the heavy lifting when it comes to search, unique images help push you forward in the pack, especially in areas that feature images like Google Knowledge Panels and Google Image Search. Late last year, Google’s John Mueller said in a Hangout that original photography is better than stock photography. Here’s a quote from that Hangout from Search Engine Roundtable:

“I think having a unique photo is definitely a good idea. Because if it’s the same photo that’s reused across a number of different articles, we’ll pick one of those articles for image search to show as the landing page for that. So you’re kind of in the same group with everyone else if it’s the same photo. Whereas if it’s a different photo, then we we can show it separately in image search but that’s specific to image search.”

To be clear, having original photography won’t boost your search page results on its own. Mueller also said, “It’s not the case that if you have good images that they will make your site rank better in web search.” But custom photography can make you a more attractive candidate to Google in those areas that do use images, and the boost in traffic you may get from those features might help your standard search results indirectly.

So if you’re a dentist office that’s neck-in-neck in search rankings with other dentist offices, choosing the same stock photo of a smiling family holding toothbrushes won’t help you; including an original photo of one of your employees caring for a patient would be a better choice.

Build trust with clients

Most website users have grown up in a world saturated by advertising. It’s easy for us to spot a fake, and photos and text that are too slick turn users off. To build trust with clients, authenticity is important, and using photos of your real offices and staff go a long way toward to doing that. When users trust you, they’ll use your products and services, and they’ll also utilize your website — and when users trust you, Google trusts you, too, since what they’re looking for is engagement and good user experience.

Get a better redesign with better UX

If you’re having your site designed or redesigned, good photographs give your designer the best foundation to build your site around. When you tailor your site to your business, your user experience (UX) is even better, and Google will usually reward you with better results in search.

Speak to visual learners

Yes, Google values words most highly when it comes to search; using critical terms, keywords and language that clearly communicates what you do is the best way to talk to Google. And there’s no denying that words help us all navigate the internet and give us the information that we’re looking for when we visit websites. But for users who are visual learners, photos can help navigate to key information in a way that text might not. Reach more people, including those who connect more with images, by choosing quality photographs that engage your users. Because Google responds to what users like about your website, this will help your search results, too.

Keep your brand consistent

Brand consistency helps communicate to your customers and to your employees who you are and what you do. If you’ve invested in a logo and branding, you know that being consistent with those is key to their success — but did you know that photography can support of fight against your branding? Photos can be bright and stark with lots of white. They can be muted and moody. They can be sleek and sophisticated. Your site’s photography tells a story about your brand, and when you have professional photos taken, you can be sure that story is consistent with your company branding.

At Infomedia, we have photographers (and videographers) on staff, and we have a team of professionals we love to work with as well. Whether you want to refresh the look and feel of your website with professional photography with new images for your home page or slider, you want more consistent bios pictures for your staff page, or you’re ready to invest in entirely new photography for your entire website, we’d love to help. Fill out our contact form and let us know you’re looking for photos, and we’ll be sure to get you what you need.


About Carrie

Carrie has been copyediting and writing for fifteen years. Her skills were forged in the newsroom at The Birmingham Post-Herald and she’s a huge book nerd (she moonlights as Southern Living’s book reviewer), but a love of paper and ink hasn’t stopped her from mastering the digital world as well: She’s had a blog pretty much since they existed, and she’s run social media for companies big and small. Carrie’s always ready to take on a new communication challenge, lecture us about the proper use of semicolons, or defend the fact that her Instagram account is filled with selfies.

See more articles from Carrie Rollwagen

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