You know the adage, “a picture is worth a thousand words?” The sentiment still rings true. 

Images aren’t just pretty things to look at. When used correctly, images can help convey a message more effectively, no matter what industry you’re in. 

Remember this when you’re creating SEO content for your website: images are important. You should conduct an advanced image search for every piece of content you write.

The Importance of Images for SEO

We can’t stress enough the importance images have when optimizing your text. Not only do images make your content look better, but they also add value to your SEO by increasing user engagement and accessibility. 

This doesn’t mean you should slap any old image in your blog post or on a service page and call it a day. You should put as much thought behind your images as you would any other piece of content. 

Image optimization is creating and utilizing high-quality images in the right size, format, and resolution and accurately labeling them with metadata. 

Your images and your content should be related and relevant to each other. When done correctly, your text will help tell Google information about the image(s) and vice versa. 

A SERP analysis can help you determine what types of visual content will be most beneficial for your work. Search for your keyword(s) and see what SERP features appear and their position on the page. 

Let’s say you want to write a blog post about the best yoga poses for back pain. A quick Google search of that keyword shows that image results appear before most organic search results. 

Google image search results for best yoga poses for back pain

We can discern that a blog about this topic would benefit from images of people performing those specific yoga poses. An infographic would also be a good idea. 

The next step would be to conduct an advanced image search to find useable visuals for your content.

Advanced Image Search Engines for Optimizing Content 

Now, when it comes to image optimization, using your own unique photos is best, but it’s not always possible.

When you don’t have access to your own photos, you can find or create images to support your written content. 

Keep in mind that not all search engines are created equal; when it comes to finding content for your business, make sure you are using the best image search engines available to you.

Our word of advice when it comes to using stock photos is to try and find images that don’t scream that they’re stock photos. You know the ones – think about the Women Laughing Alone at Salad meme. 

If the photos seem too fake, cheesy, or make you uncomfortable in that uncanny valley kind of way, it’s best to avoid them. 

For example, you might be writing about how healthy eating habits can improve your mood, but if the stock photos seem too silly (like someone laughing alone at a salad – who does that?), it might detract from your overall message. 

Remember: images shouldn’t take anything away from your post; they should enhance it. Stick to using images that increase your authority. 

LSEO's best SEO image tips with a bonus cat picture

Now that you know a bit more about why you need to find images and what you should avoid, where do you find them? 

At LSEO, we use image search engines every day. Image search engines will help you find useful images by searching for keywords pertinent to your content. 

We’ve compiled a list of our 11 favorite stock photo sites broken down by free and paid image sources. Keep reading to learn more about where you can find high-quality photos for your image optimization efforts! 

The 6 Best Free Stock Photo Sites

If you’re just starting or have a limited budget, you can find free images to use from some reliable sources. Finding free stock photos for commercial use isn’t difficult, but finding high-quality images can be another story. 

One thing to remember when looking for free images is that licenses will vary. Some images are free for personal use only and not approved for commercial use. 

When choosing the best free stock photo websites, we only include sites that have images free for commercial use. In some cases, images may need attribution. Always check the photo license before publishing. 

1.) Unsplash

Unsplash homepage

Unsplash is a popular source for free, high-quality images with no-strings-attached.

All images fall under their Unsplash License, which means photos can be freely downloaded for commercial and non-commercial use without attribution. 

The Unsplash photo library is created through the contribution of various photographers, and images tend to have a more artsy feel compared to other stock photo sites. 

At this time, Unsplash only has photo content available for download. Content is categorized under basic collections, such as Architecture & Interiors, Nature, and Food & Drink. 

Note: while most of Unsplash’s content is free for use, they have recently launched Unsplash+, which offers paying subscribers access to exclusive content.

2.) Burst

Burst website homepage

Burst offers users free stock photos for any purpose and with no attribution required.

Powered by Shopify, Burst is geared towards entrepreneurs who need free stock photos for their website, ads, client work, and beyond. 

Burst’s image library has thousands of high-resolution, royalty-free images that were shot by a global community of photographers. 

You can search for photos via the search bar or browse their wide selection of collections, including Work From Home, Business, Retail, Food, Medical, and more. 

At this time, Burst only offers photos and images in their collections. 

3.) Pixabay

Pixabay homepage

Pixabay offers users more than just free stock photography images: they also offer illustrations, vector images, videos, sound effects, and music. 

All content downloaded from Pixabay can be used for personal and commercial use in line with the creative commons license. No attribution is required.

You can search images by type, orientation, size, and color, although the content is not broken down into collections like Unsplash and Burst. 

Note: Pixabay is sponsored by iStock and contains some sponsored images which are not free. 

4.) Pexels

Pexels homepage

Pexels offers free stock photos and videos under a Pexels License. Under their license, content is free to use/download without attribution required. 

Pexel’s high-quality photos are tagged, searchable, and easily discoverable through their discover pages. You can also search by popular collections, including Hygge, Cute Cats, and Healthy Lifestyle. 

When you make an account, you can follow photographers whose work you enjoy. 

Pexels also has apps for Android and iOS, a Chrome extension, a Photoshop plugin, a Microsoft Office add-in, and a WordPress plugin.

5.) Flickr 

Flickr homepage

Flickr is a little different from the other free image sites we’ve shared so far. For one, it is predominantly a photo-sharing social networking site for professional and amateur photographers. 

That said, it’s important to note that you will not be able to use every image on Flickr for free, especially for commercial purposes. However, it is easy to find which photos you can use. 

When you search for images, you can filter by license – make sure you select commercial use allowed.

Please note that, unlike the previous image sites, many of these images will likely require attribution under their respective creative commons licenses. 

In some instances, you may find historic photos with no known copyright restrictions, such as photos from the Library of Congress. 

6.) Canva

Canva homepage

Canva is another slightly different option if you’re looking to step-up your image optimization. This web-based graphic design tool allows you to modify images easily. 

You can quickly add text overlays or enhance your photos, as well as create brand-new images from their collection of templates.

While you can’t directly download their stock photos to your computer, you can easily use them directly in your design.

Remember that when it comes to SEO, images are meant to support your written content. When a stock photo is not enough, you can try your hand at making an infographic or graph to enhance your post. 

Note: Canva has two options: Canva Free and Canva Pro. With the free version, you can access most features, including 250,000 free templates and 1 million free photos and graphics. Canva Pro offers even more options and is a great option if you plan on making a lot of content yourself. 

The 5 Best Paid Stock Photo Sites

For some businesses, using free stock image sites is enough. However, if you don’t feel as though you’re finding the right images on free sites, you might want to consider paid stock image sources. 

Paid stock photo sites are a great way to get high-quality, sometimes niche images if you don’t have an in-house photographer or the budget to hire one.

Here are 5 of the best stock photo sites to buy images. 

1.) Shutterstock

Shutterstock homepage

Shutterstock is one of the first companies to offer public domain photo subscriptions, and they remain one of the best.

If you’re looking for a large collection of royalty-free content, you can’t go wrong here – they have over 300 million images from 1 million+ global contributors. 

In addition to stock photos, Shutterstock also has vectors, illustrations, videos, music, sound effects, templates, and other features.

Shutterstock brands include Bigstock for stock media, Shutterstock Custom for custom content creation, Offset for high-end photos, PremiumBeat for royalty-free music, and Shutterstock Editorial for editorial imagery. 

In addition to browser access, you can also download images from Shutterstock’s iOS and Android apps. 

Shutterstock pricing structure

Shutterstock offers subscription plans and on-demand options for single users and subscriptions for teams and enterprises. You will need separate packages if you’re interested in video, music, or other content. 

2.) Adobe Stock

Adobe Stock homepage

As the name suggests, Adobe Stock falls under the Adobe umbrella along with Photoshop, Lightroom, and Illustrator.

It hosts a collection of stock photos, illustrations, vectors, videos, templates, and 3D assets to meet the needs of all your creative needs. 

In addition to its website, Adobe Stock is also integrated into their Creative Cloud platform, which gives you direct access to its content from within any Adobe software.

If you already pay for Adobe CC, this might be your most convenient option for stock photos. 

Adobe Stock pricing structure

Adobe Stock offers subscription plans for individuals, teams, and businesses. You can also buy credit packs if you only need a few assets at a time. 

3.) Getty Images 

Getty Images homepage

Getty Images is home to the largest privately‑owned archive, so if you’ve been struggling to find the right visual content, you might have better luck here. 

In addition to an extensive collection of images, they also have vectors, illustrations, videos, and music.

Their archive includes creative, editorial, current, and vintage photos. They also have free backgrounds for zoom calls. 

Getty also owns iStock, the original stock content website, which also offers royalty-free photos, illustrations, videos, and music. 

Keep in mind that access to one of the world’s largest archives comes with a price – a hefty one. 

Getty Images pricing structure

While they are among the most expensive stock image sites, the images are of higher quality than the free sites listed above.

Keep in mind that Getty’s professional photographers can access exclusive content for their content, such as private events with celebrities. This is the luxury equivalent of stock image websites.

iStock plans, on the other hand, are significantly more affordable:

iStock pricing structure

If you need more editorial content and you have a big budget, you can’t beat Getty for quality assets. Otherwise, Stock has a great selection of content.

4.) 123RF

123RF website homepage

123RF is a step up from the free stock photo sites in that it offers more variety at affordable prices. This budget stock photography website gives you access to photos, vector graphics, music, and video clips. 

Choose photos from over 100 categories and then further narrow down your search using several filters. They are one of the largest stock agencies with over 200 million pieces of content. 

You can choose from a subscription plan, download packs, or on-demand credits, depending on what your asset needs are. If you need a lot of images, you can pay as little as $0.29 per image. 

123RF pricing structure

In addition to their paid media, 123RF also has free stock photos that you can download. 

5.) Depositphotos

Depositphotos homepage

Depositphotos is another budget-friendly, royalty-free stock photo website with photos, vectors, and videos for download. 

They currently have over 230 million files in their catalog, with a large thematic collection of stock photography. Whether you’re looking for photos of art deco, supermodels, or Twin Peaks Aesthetics, you can find what you’re looking for. 

Depositphotos has a simple pricing structure. You can opt for a subscription or pay for images on demand if you only need a few assets. 

Depositphotos pricing structure

Optimize Your Content with the Best Image Search Engines

If you’re not including image optimization as part of your SEO strategy, you’re missing out. 

You’re already taking the time to write compelling content for your website, so why not make it more compelling with relevant images? 

As humans, we tend to judge things by how they look visually. We judge books by their cover, we associate feelings and actions with certain colors, and we judge a food’s palatability by its plating. 

Content marketing is no different. 

And if you need some help with your content marketing strategy, you know where to find us. The content marketing professionals at LSEO live and breathe content optimization.