Does Google penalise websites that use stock photos?

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Over the past couple of years Google has been cracking down on websites that make use of duplicate content. With algorithm updates, such as Panda in 2011, seeking out and penalising sites that have little original content, website owners are becoming increasingly vigilant about what they publish.

As Image Source’s SEO Executive, I often receive questions from photographers and image buyers looking to improve their websites. One of the most common questions I am asked is “will Google penalise my site if I use stock photos?”

I can certainly appreciate the concern, especially with Google’s firm stance on duplicate content. After all, if you get on the wrong side of Google you could see your website plummet in the rankings and ultimately lose traffic and sales.

Matt Cutts, Google’s head of web spam, confirmed on Monday in his recent webmaster video (below) that using stock photos does not count as duplicate content and sites that use stock photos would not be penalised. This is obviously great news for stock photographers and image buyers. However, in the latter part of the video the question was raised as to whether original imagery would ever be treated differently to stock photos.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k15GpWfsxZU’]

I want to clarify that there are currently no known plans to treat websites that use stock photos any differently to websites that use original imagery. It is however an area we will be keeping a close eye on.

Logically, I can’t see how or why Google would ever penalise stock photos. From Google’s perspective, I appreciate that text content should be original so that search results are not diluted with lots of duplicate content. However duplicate images do not dilute search results, they can be used to illustrate different points and multiple uses can in fact be a signal that the image is good.

Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about SEO or website development and digital marketing in general and I’ll try to address them in future articles.

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About Author

Alex has worked in website development and SEO since 2006. With a keen interest in photography, he has been part of the Image Source team since early 2012 offering support and advice to photographers.

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