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Original VS Stock Images

The truth about images.

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Google has been telling us constantly to use unique content and that original content makes the internet a better place. It stands to reason that an original image would be worth more than a stock image that has been used on thousands of other pages. The question is, which would Google like more and reward more, pages with all original images or pages using stock photos?

For this test, we built identical pages. One page has a unique image and one uses a stock images. For the unique image, we simply drew some and then checked them in Google’s database to make sure that it does not come back as a known image.

Test Result

Surprisingly, the stock image won. 

We thought for sure that this one would be a no brainer and that of course, a unique image will beat a stock image. Google only wants to display unique content, we hear it over and over again. With Matt Cutt’s voice I the back of out mind, the results in this test are head scratching. It is almost like Google is terribly dishonest all the time. 

As of right now, the non-unique stock photo image pages outrank the pages with unique images. But we really feel like that is going to change or at least we hope so, considering all the trouble that we go through, just to create unique images for a page.

Note that we will continue to watch this test and we will report an update, as it might take Google some time to figure out that that photo is unique. 

Clint’s Feedback

In this video, Clint talks about this test and his insights on the use of original images and stock images.

This is Test 11 – Original vs. Stock Image.

The obvious thing, we went from nine to 11. I know what some of you are thinking -Clint can’t do math, what the heck happened to 10? 

Well, 10 was actually a busted test. And we talk a lot or we share a lot of those busted tests with our members. But really, it was not so much that the test was bad, it was that the write up was bad, and then the original test results in the test pages are all gone. So we can’t confirm it. Test was a bust. Honestly, we didn’t learn anything out of it. We thought we may have. But again, it’s just the way that the test was written. And then the test pages were all gone. You can’t confirm or deny. So why put out misinformation, right. 

So that is what it is, in case you want to know, it was we were testing the permanent link structure that has been default in the WordPress. In particular, when you integrate WordPress with WooCommerce and which one will beat out – the WooCommerce URL structure or change it and doing it yourself. 

We’re definitely gonna have to redo that one again. I think a lot of people, especially with COVID going on, have jumped really headlong into the e-commerce space again, and rightly so. So we’re looking at and scheduling that test probably as soon as possible. 

Test number 11 – Original versus stock image. I think it’s probably safe to say that 99% of the SEO courses and training out there or the helpful people in Facebook groups who offer you suggestions say that you should be using original images on your websites. And you should also be using original images on your maps and stock photos are bad and you don’t want to use them. 

As with anything, we wanted to test this out, and that myth has been going on since 2016, at least. And frankly, there may be some merit to it and then there may not be in so much as, let’s say you’re doing images for your Google Map and you want to rank your map. A user would much rather appreciate you having some pictures on there about your store, about your surroundings, things you’re doing within the community. They would actually appreciate it, your look real, you’re honest. And look, when I show up, I recognize this from the picture, I know I’m in the right place, right? So there’s the benefit of doing the original. 

But sometimes, you just don’t have the time or you can’t pay a photographer enough or maybe you just can’t afford the latest iPhone and you don’t have the best pictures that put your business’ best foot forward and you can get something that does the job and represents what you’re trying to say on your website in a stock image. 

The idea that an original versus a stock image and if you use stock images, you’re  hurting yourself, and you shouldn’t do it, and you should always use originals, and if you can’t use originals, then what’s wrong with you, you suck. Well that’s not true at all. You can use stock photos, completely fine. We tested it, the stock pages actually won over the unique original image representing our fake keyword in the single variable test. I don’t even know if we want to retest this because it’s just common sense. 

But if you do have original stuff. You might actually be helping yourself out a little bit in regards to the application of Google Lens. ie, let’s say you have a restaurant and you have this big old branding sign outside with your restaurant’s name on it, Google Lens uses OCR and it can actually read the words in your sign. If you are, let’s say you’re in front of your office building, you get your address there, Google Lens can take that and read that address because it can read the text through OCR. So there are some merits to that. 

But there’s nothing to say that you just can’t use Photoshop and take and put your address on the side of a building, because Google Lens can read OCR. So just remember, you’re balancing what users expect when they show up, you don’t want to have a $2 million building and then they show up and then you have the $4,000 shack from Home Depot. You don’t want that to be that crazy, especially in the local markets. But at the end of the day, you’re not hurting yourself by using stock images. To this day, I use stock images for everything.

Our image tests doesn’t stop at that. We have a lot more image tests in store for you to help you decide what images and what types to add to your page, to help you get ranked. Check out our test articles for more details on other image tests that we have done.

SIA Staff

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It takes a village to run a successful business. Several staff members contribute to the articles under this bio. You can read more about them here: full bio here.