International SEO and Impact of Stock Images

A great question by a Webmaster asked to Matt Cutts from Google, “does using stock photos on your pages have a negative effect on rankings?”

Interestingly, Matt states that using stock images has no affect on your Google ranking.

He also states that original photography does not influence ranking either. Effectively, for now, Google treats all images the same. He suggests that maybe this is an area that they could certainly look at in the future.

Original imagery can certainly make your product or site stand out. Using good SEO practices such as using describing your images using the alt tag will certainly make your site more compelling and indexable. In a small way, this may have an impact on your rankings.

When in comes to international websites, you do have be to a bit careful in what images you use on your site. Flags often cause some concerns. A lot of people use flags to signify the language of a website – this is not actually correct. Flags represent political boundaries and should be used in that context. We recommend, for language websites, that you use text to define the language. For example, instead of a Union Jack (UK flag) “English” should be displayed. If you use an American flag, customers in the UK may not be happy to click on it!

When to use flags

If your website has a web page for a particular country, then use a flag. The website targeting the United States of America should use a US flag and not just text; and a UK flag for a site serving British customers.

However, if you just have a multilingual site, then it’s best to just use text.

Look at the our site, as another example. We translated it to show we can translate and therefore use text. This is also good for SEO as it’s indexable content. The phone numbers on the language pages all lead to our Irish office. This tells foreign visitors that we are an Irish operation, but we translate to their language to help them communicate with us.

Sites like Amazon have stores in every country; they have a website dedicated to that country making it appropriate for them to use flags.

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