Google’s Duplicate Image Penalty

Is Google penalizing your site because you have duplicate images or images Google feels are not relevant to your niche?

Google Duplicate Content Online Video – 7:08
Google Duplicate Content PDF

Google Hates Duplicate Content

I’m sure that you have heard of Google’s duplicate content penalty in regard to the written content on your website. However, did you also know that having images on your site that also appear on other sites could negatively impact your rankings?

Google Also Hates Affiliate Websites

If you have read Google’s Quality Control Guidelines Policies dated back in March of 2011, you will also know that Google has a certain amount of disdain toward affiliate websites.

Duplicate Images = Affiliate Website = Google Penalty?

Doesn’t it make sense that if Google finds a lot of images that are duplicated on other websites, that it may suspect that you are an affiliate?

How to Check For Duplicate Images

The color profiles of images are the DNA of that image.

1. To demonstrate in our first example we will use a Google Places image that we modified for a webinar:

2. We will then go to Google Image search and click on the camera icon

Google Image Search

3. We will then paste in the URL of our image

Google Images search string

4. Notice in the image search results that Google’s best guess for what this image represented was “Google favorite place”

Googles Favorite Place

5. Also, note that Google found “Visually similar images”

Screen Shot 2013-01-13 at 11.45.37 AM Visually Simular Image

6. Note that even though I slightly modified the image by resizing it and adding text of our webinar, Google lists pages that include matching images:

Matching Images

Unique Written Content + Relevant Image = Good

In the example I just demonstrated Google did not penalize this page and in fact it is ranking very well for a number of very competitive keyword phrases.

The reason for this is because the content on this page is unique and because the image was relevant to the content on that page.

Duplicate Written Content + Duplicate Product Image = Bad

If you are an affiliate or if you sell other people’s stuff on your website, you can get into deep trouble with duplicate content.

1. For this example I’ve gone to the product page of the Redline radar detector on the Escort Radar website and I’m going to copy the text that introduces this product to my clipboard.

Duplicate Content

2. After I paste this into Google’s search box, we see that Google returns over 3,430 other pages.

Duplicat Content Google

3: In reviewing most of these sites, we see that not only are they using 100% of the written content from the Escort website, they are also using the exact same image from the product page.

Duplicate content and image

Unique Written Content + Unique Images = Good

Now lets look at the content on my affiliate website for the Escort Redline radar detector:


1. You will see that all the written content for this page is 100% unique.

2. The product image of the Redline was modified with Photoshop and it was optimized for SEO purposes.

3. Two videos were created, optimized and uploaded to YouTube.

4. Following are the results for a competitive keyword term used when searching for information about the Redline:

Google SEO Results

Unique Content + Irrelevant Image = Bad

Finally lets discuss stock images and discuss why they can be bad business for your website.

1. In this example lets use an stock image I’m sure you’ve seen many times from Shutterstock’s website.

Shutter Stock Images

2. Using Google’s Image search we can see that Google’s best guess for this image is “customer service”

Customer Service

3. In Google, we can also see that this matching image was found on 537 sites.

4. Now lets consider that you used this same stock image that Google feels is relevant to customer service on a page that was not relevant to this topic at all.

(We pay very close attention to customer service here at SEO Training SW so this example is relevant <grin>)

Wouldn’t you think that this may confuse Google?

Not All Duplicate Images are Bad!

Please do not assume that all duplicate images on your website are bad; some can actually help you with your rankings.

If you’re an ecommerce website (or you want your affiliate website to appear as an ecommerce website) consider adding some of these images/logos to your site:

1. Consider joining the Better Business Bureau so you can add their BBB logo to your site.

2. Add a “Shopping Cart” logo to the top of all your pages with a link to your shopping cart.

3. If you take credit cards add the Visa, Mastercard logo’s to your site.

Google Duplicate Images Take Aways

To review, let’s highlight a few of the major issues I hope you can take away from this article:

  1. Google’s “Search by Image” is based upon the COLOR PROFILE of the image. Thus, you can change the DNA of the image by changing the color, adding other elements to the image or reversing the landscape.
  2. If you do use a duplicate image (or slightly modified image), make sure that all your other content is unique AND still relevant to that image.
  3. To avoid the duplicate image penalty totally, use unique images or photos of your products, brand and employees. You also avoid the perception that you are being untruthful to your audience by using images which they know are stock photos.
  4. Some duplicate or similar images may be beneficial to your site.  For example, having an image or photo of a coffee cup that Google feels is similar to coffee on a website for a coffee shop is helpful.
  5. Optimize all your images and other multimedia on your site.
  6. Other duplicate or similar images on your site that represent branding or trust are good, such as having Visa, Mastercard or the Better Business Bureau images.

Comments and/or Questions?

Do you have any comments and/or questions on this article about Google’s Duplicate Image penalty?

If so please use the comment area(s) below:

Certified Master SEO Instructor by the Search Engine Academy and CEO and founder of SEO Training SW.
Roy Reyer
Roy Reyer
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14th January 2013 11 Comments

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