Why quality images matter for search and where to find them

You’ve done all the hard work in setting up your online shop and you’ve even made your first sale (congratulations!). Now, you’re looking to take things one step further and you’ve started a blog.  Great choice – that means you’re on the road to unlocking all the potential that comes with content marketing.

Then you realise that you need to add images to your blog post. Or do you?

Quick answer: you absolutely need to add images to your blog posts.

But do not panic. You don’t have to spend money on hiring a photographer. In fact, you don’t need to spend any money at all if you don’t have that in your budget.

First, let’s explain why high-quality images matter for search. 

Google Discover and high-quality images

If you want your content to be in the running to feature on the Google Discover feed, you need to use great images.

The Discover shows users a mix of content based on their interactions with Google products or content that they choose to follow directly. It's not restricted to content published today - the feed will pick evergreen content, too if it thinks a user might find it interesting. It isn’t just restricted to news publishers either. the algorithm will pick out a host of interesting cards from all over the web – and across a range of content – from blogs to videos.

The feed is visible on most mobile phones when swiping to search and it can be a real windfall if your content is featured there.

For the Discover feed, images are important. Google recommends using large and high-quality images that are at least 1200 px wide if you want your content to be eligible for the Google Discover feed.

Articles have a five per cent increase in clickthrough rate and a three per cent increase in time spent on the page when the content features high-quality images.

Google also said that there is a three per cent increase in user satisfaction when Discover cards feature large images instead of thumbnail images.

That’s quite a difference.

And remember what we said about how user experience is a vital part of ranking well? If your images are engaging and relevant, your users will naturally have a better experience, which in turn could result in increasing your rankings.

Users are also increasingly flicking over to use image search as a way to answer their queries and discover new content. It is estimated that almost 30 per cent of web searches are image related.

Optimising images for SEO will be as important as using good quality images, and we’ll discuss these methods in another blog post in future.

For now, let’s talk about where you can find good quality images your users and Google will love.

Free images = duplicate content?

Firstly, let’s talk about a myth that sometimes gets bandied about. You have probably heard all about how bad duplicate content is for SEO. So you but wonder: aren’t free images likely to be bad because of the potential of duplicate content?

The answer is no – provided the images are optimised correctly and matched to each article and your primary focus is content not image SEO. It should go without saying that using unique images will make a huge difference if the product you are selling or the service you are promoting relates to… well, images.

For standard web search, though, there’s a bit more leeway. Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller responded to a question about that very subject on Twitter saying :

"It doesn't matter for web-search directly."

He added

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







Where to find free stock images to use with your content

There are a few stock libraries out there worth paying for, but if you are just starting out with creating content and you do not have a budget for images just yet, there are several free resources you can use to make your content pop. Some of these sites will require you to register while others have a daily limit on the number of images you can download or restrict the size of the image you can download for free.

All of these sites will have their own sets of terms and conditions – in some cases, attribution is required when you use a photograph. Make sure you read these carefully before using one of the free images from these sites.

Unsplash

A great resource for lifestyle photos. There’s no limit on how many images you can download and you do not have to register to use the service.

Unsplash basic Ts&Cs

  • All photos can be downloaded and used for free
  • Commercial and non-commercial purposes
  • No permission needed (though attribution is appreciated)

Website: Unsplash.com

Raw Pixel

An underrated source for images as well as useful graphic design assets like templates and mock-ups.  You are limited to ten images per day from a select collection and you have to register to use the service.

Website: rawpixel.com

Pexels

No need to register and no limit on the number of images you can download each day. No attribution is required, however, it is appreciated.

Website: pexels.com

Pixabay

No need to register, unless you want to download full high-resolution images. There’s no limit on the number of images you can download from here each day.

Website: pixabay.com

Flickr

It’s not always the first place people think of when it comes to finding images for blog content, but it can be a great resource for anyone looking for really specific images of places or specific things. In fact, it is the go-to source for many journalists since it is often used by government organizations to distribute images and retain a library for easy access.

Flickr's images can be sorted by pictures available under a creative commons licence. Whether you need to provide attribution will depend on the photographer.

Website: flickr.com 

Wikipedia

Well, not Wikipedia exactly, but its sister project, Wikimedia Commons. Most of the images used on Wikipedia come from here. This vast library has millions of images available for use. Conditions of republications differ and will have to be checked on an image-by-image basis.

Website: wikimedia.org

Considering just how important images are to search, there’s no reason to neglect it with the glut of free resources available to use.  

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