Stock photos could be turning away 35% or more of the visitors to your website. They could also be harming your website’s SEO, thus causing less people to see your website in the first place.
I often look at the websites of attorneys, dentists, real estate agents and more. I’m struck with how often I see stock photos used rather than real photos of the people I will be doing business with if I contact them. Everyone visiting the site knows they’re stock photos too. The people are too perfect, the smiles too white and some of the poses are just too overdone (think of the happy couple on the beach where the man is giving the woman a piggy back ride with the perfect white teeth.) I’m betting you’ve seen it. If not you’ve seen the smiling woman with the headset, right?
They look beautiful but your website visitors know they aren’t getting the real deal. It’s fake and they know it. This lowers their trust. Reversely, the photo above was taken of a dentist with a couple that have been clients of his for years. The bond between them is real and highly visible. They are genuinely happy to see him. The photo inspires trust.
Marketing Experiments, an internet research lab, did A/B testing on a web page where half of the visitors were shown a stock photo and the other half a professional headshot of the CEO of the company. The page with the authentic photo saw a 35% higher conversion rate than the one with the stock photo. The findings were supported by web design company that did their own testing of stock photos vs original photography on their client’s website and found a similar increase in conversions when original photography was used.
Adding insult to injury, several marketing companies have found that websites using stock photos do not rank as well on search results as ones with original photography. Google has long rewarded original content and penalized duplicate content. At one time it wasn’t really possible to do that with images, but this is no longer the case. Google is officially evasive on this, but in the highly competitive landscape for internet ranking, you need every boost you can get!
Stock photos also come with a certain legal liability. Not all of the photographers contributing photos to stock photo agencies actually took the photos themselves! And in today’s crowd sourced world of the stock photo agencies the agencies actually don’t even know who their contributors are! There have been too many instances of businesses learning the stock photos they licensed were not legally provided to the stock photo agencies in the first place to count. Web designers too are fond of using “free” images where they can find them only to have their clients later learn they weren’t actually free at all!
This doesn’t mean you should never use a stock photo in your marketing. If you are a travel agency located in Minneapolis and need photos of the beach in Cancun, it makes sense to license a stock photo instead of paying to fly a photographer out there.
It’s a matter of judgement. Your prospects are counting on the photos in your marketing to visually communicate who you are and what you’re about. Stock photos don’t often do that. Original professional photography is your best sales tool. Get creative. Show the doctors interacting with real patients, show off your office, show your staff, show how a procedure works. Get more clients!