Stock Photos: Yay or Nay?

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By Omnizant Team
Law Firm Marketing Agency

Stock photos are accessible, easy and pretty—what’s not to love?

We know team or office photos are powerful on your Google Business Profile. We know a good profile photo is powerful. But did you know that photos can help or harm your SEO, indirectly?

Here’s the spoiler alert: Above all else, Google cares about the user experience and making sure they serve up websites that are aligned with search intent. In some cases, stock photos can help with improving the user experience. In other cases, for example with an ecommerce site selling products, a stock photo in lieu of an actual product photo may hurt the user experience. Before you publish that stock photo, you need to understand how visitors and Google perceive stock photos.

Here are the SEO disadvantages and SEO advantages of stock photos, including stock photo best practices for lawyers.

SEO disadvantages of stock photos

Stock photos are not penalized by Google simply because they’re stock photos. It’s all about how you use them on your firm’s website.

Firstly, stock photos alone won’t contribute to your site’s ranking on Google. Search engines prioritize content relevance and quality, not the presence of stock imagery. 

If used incorrectly, stock photos can actually hinder your SEO efforts. Google values transparency and trustworthiness, and inaccurate or irrelevant images can compromise this perception. 

Relying heavily on stock imagery can degrade the user experience. Generic photos may give the impression of a low-quality or unoriginal website. This can lead to increased bounce rates and decreased dwell times, which Google interprets as indicators of poor relevance and may consequently decrease your website’s relevance. lower your site’s SEO ranking.

Thematic stock images may be suitable for certain pages, such as blog posts or landing pages. However, they fall short in conveying authenticity on critical pages like “About us” or “Our team.” In these contexts, genuine and accurate visuals are key to establish trust with visitors.

Additional issues like copyright infringement can arise if you don’t understand licensing and permissions for stock photos.

SEO advantages of stock photos

The good news is that stock photos can benefit your site’s SEO.

Use stock photos to improve readability by breaking up big blocks of text. This strategy can help improve the user experience of your site, which can help Google to rank you higher, says John Mueller of Google. 

Stock photos with structured data can help you with rich snippets. These are additional elements—like a featured photo—that appear in search results along with the key content Google selects to display. Structured data can help you achieve this and “drive better targeted traffic to your site,” according to Google’s documentation on images.

Stock photo best practices to support SEO 

Don’t be afraid of using stock images—but do follow these best practices to ensure that your stock images are actually appropriate and helpful.

1. Are the stock images accurate? Your photos should accurately depict the topic of your content. Metaphoric meanings can be effective in some instances, but it’s wise to use literal imagery when possible to avoid confusion and misinterpretation. On pages where people expect authentic photos (like your attorney profiles and About pages), use real images that show your real faces and office spaces.

2. Are the stock images representative? Your target clients should be able to see themselves in your stock photos. This means racial and gender representation, as well as lifestyle. Photos are powerful. Show people from a variety of backgrounds, and select images that show people participating in behaviors that are relevant to your practice area. 

3. Are the stock images supporting my conversion and engagement goals? Think about the goal of the content that includes the stock photo. There is usually an emotional goal and an action-oriented goal. Consider whether the image is the best possible choice for that situation. A given photo might not be “wrong” but it might not be the best choice, either. Choose a photo that inspires interaction and resonates emotionally.

4. Are the stock images appropriate for featured snippets? Original, clear, and relevant images are best—and stock images can work here, especially for pillar content. Check out the images that your competitors are using to rank for featured snippets in your niche. 

5. Are the stock images supported with alt text? Alt text provides descriptions for low-vision users. This not only improves accessibility but it also helps Google understand the relevance of the image to your content—which can boost SEO. Be careful not to use alt text as an opportunity to stuff keywords. Alt text should be descriptive.

Before you decide to use stock photos, think carefully about whether your firm can commit to implementing these best practices. 

Stock photos can be generic and misaligned with your brand, which may result in low consumer trust. However, smart use of stock photos can improve readability and user experience.

Ultimately, using stock photography won’t necessarily harm your rankings. However the strategic use of stock images can improve a page’s relevance related to its subject matter.

Review and next steps

Designing and maintaining a law firm website is a lot of work. It’s tempting to use shortcuts like stock imagery to shorten the on-ramp to success. But be wise about your choices, as some shortcuts could undercut your rankings. 

Get an effective website that will rank in Google and deliver leads with help from Omnizant. It starts with a consultation.

About the Author
Since 2006, Omnizant's team of digital marketing experts, designers, developers and writers has helped over 2,000 law firms develop powerful websites that drive business growth.