As we all know, duplicate content is a HUGE no-no when it comes to SEO and website performance. However, with the rise of free stock image sites, could this algorithm also apply to images?

Stock images stick out like a sore thumb. Moreover, with the rise of visual media and everyone being on social networking platforms, the demand for decent stock images is at an all-time high.

It is no wonder then that businesses might be inclined to use images from a site such as Shutterstock or Unsplash if they don’t have the time, resources or budget to build a unique stock image library of their own.

Could these images get counted as duplicate content?

While search engines, at present, only crawl the code on a site, we don’t expect it to be long until they start to recognise images. However, there are ways that search engines can detect duplicate photos which include:

  • Image filename
  • Alt tags

When you download an image from a site, they have a file name. If this filename is not changed, search engines will identify where else it is used across the web. This also applies if the sites provide a descriptive text that uploads onto a website as an alt tag.

Both of these elements need to be changed in line with your page content.

So what can search engines detect when it comes to images

What Google, Yahoo, Bing and others can detect is if the same image is used many times across the site. So while a website will not, yet, be penalised for this in isolation, it can impact user experience, which is a core algorithm.

To avoid this, make sure that the file name and alt text explains what the image is to let the user and search engines know why it may be site-wide, i.e. Logos in headers, accreditation in footers.

Ecommerce sites and plague that is duplicate content

Online shops that buy-in stock suffer the most in these instances. With images supplied to them (and others) as well as wording, it becomes a duplicate content haven.

In these instances, we recommend adding your twist when it comes to the wording and ensuring that the image file name and alt tags are unique to you.

If you can afford a product photo shoot, you won’t regret it. Having your unique stock image library will boost not only the website but also your social media content.

Search engines and unique images

While there is no evidence that search engines are currently giving sites that overuse stock images a lower SEO score, it wouldn’t surprise us that if a competitor is rising above you and they do have unique images, that it is becoming a differentiation factor.

We all know that high quality, unique content that is relevant to your business and matches the intent of your visitors is a winner! So as you are planning your next round of marketing activities, make sure that unique images feature. Having your batch of photos can then limit any nasty algorithm changes, plus reinforce your business’s visual identity.


Our new micro shoot service is perfect for product shots. Get in touch today!


The Typeface Group

01256 614 921