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Google and The Use Of Stock Photography

15 phút
Written by
30 Oct 2022

On a recent episode of the Search Off the Record podcast, two Googlers discussed the use of stock photography. They explored the relative benefits and downsides of the practice, and there were many opinions for and against it.

Perhaps a point of agreement is that stock photography may be inappropriate in certain contexts, such as “our team” pages where a user might expect images of actual users. 

But how do the people responsible for developing and maintaining Google’s support documents feel about it? 

Googlers have the same concerns as anyone else who publishes content.

The Downsides of Stock Photography

Lizzi Sassman who curates Google Search Central documentation begins the discussion on stock photography by asking if there are any considerations against using it.

“Lizzi Sassman:

Well, it could be for fun. Sometimes we have like, “Oh, we want a fun cosmetic image for a blog post or something like that.”

John Mueller:

I mean…

Lizzi Sassman:

You would also say, “Okay?”

John Mueller:


Lizzi Sassman:

Or would there would be downsides to using stock photography?

John Mueller:

I think if you wanted to use them as a decorative element on a page, it’s perfectly fine.

It adds a little bit of flavor, and a little bit more color to the post, or to whatever content we have there.

So if it’s a, I don’t know, a Halloween-themed article, then adding… I don’t know… stock photography of a spider…

I guess spider, you wouldn’t want to have them too realistic.

That might be triggering for some people.

But some stock photography that’s Halloween-themed, and not too scary for our site, I guess… that would be perfectly fine.”

Mueller confirms that stock photography is an effective way to add some flair to textual content. He also suggests that the image should be appropriate for the audience. 

For example, don’t use excessively frightening images within the context of Google’s Search Central documentation, even if the context is Halloween.

This is common sense, right?

Source: Twitter

Stock Photography and Image Search

The next question Google’s Mueller addresses is how stock photography affects image search results. And it’s important to remember that Mueller is discussing this topic in the context of how stock images would function if they were used on Search Central.

“John Mueller:

But I think the aspect there is its stock photography.

And if people are searching for Halloween photos, it’s unlikely that we would show up in the search results for that.

We would have that image, but probably, I don’t know, 20, 30 other sites have the same image, and they all have a license for it, and showing it is fine.

And perhaps even the original stock photography site has that image in the search results.

And if you’re searching for something like a Halloween image, you probably want to go with the original site.

It’s not that Google’s documentation should rank for that query.

I guess the other aspect is also you wouldn’t rank for this in Image Search, but it doesn’t count against it either.

So you have other good images on the same page or the site… or if you’re talking about Web Search, that’s not going to harm your site.

It’s more, it’s like, well, it’s decorative, but it’s not what your site is about.

Therefore, you won’t rank for that specific stock photography.

But everything else will be fine.

It’s not that we say, “Oh, this is a generic site. We shouldn’t show it in Search.”

The Pros and Cons of Stock Photography 

The Search Off the Record podcast makes some interesting points about stock photography. While it’s true that stock photos shouldn’t have a negative impact on your website’s search performance, don’t expect them to rank highly in image searches. So if you’re considering using stock photos, there’s no need to worry about them hurting your web presence. 

Some people believe that stock photography can be a distraction to site visitors or project a lack of authenticity. However, this is only the case if the stock photography is in a context that requires authenticity, like on an “About Us” or “Our Team” webpage. If the stock photography is not in a context that requires authenticity, then it can actually be beneficial to use because it can help add visual interest and appeal to a page.

John Mueller reiterated the importance of authenticity in stock photography during an Office-Hours hangout in 2020 when he said:

“For image search, if it’s the same image as used in many places, it’ll be harder.

There’s also the potential impact on users, after the search happens, eg: does it affect conversions if your team photo is obvious stock photography?”

Did you know that structured data can be used for images on your website? This means that even if your featured image is a stock image, Google can still identify it as the featured image through structured data. This can be beneficial because images with structured data qualify for inclusion in any rich results.

According to Google’s documentation:

If you include structured data, Google Images can display your images as rich results, including a prominent badge, which gives users relevant information about your page and can drive better-targeted traffic to your site.


We hope you enjoyed reading this post about stock photography. We think it’s important to understand how to use stock photos in order to optimize your website for search. Just don’t expect them too much in terms of SEO. They don’t have any impact on your ranking.

So, if you have any questions about this topic please contact us anytime at EverRanks. We are always excited when one of our posts is able to provide useful information on a topic like this.


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