Why AI Images Are Really Bad for SEO

If you think ChatGPT can take care of every single aspect of SEO, you need to have a serious rethink.

In fairness, AI does an excellent job when it comes to written content, which is arguably the most important part of getting a website to rank. Images also play a crucial role, but it turns out AI images are a total dud for SEO.

I don’t expect you to just take my word for it, so let’s go through the main points, and hopefully you will come away with a desire to pick up a camera as opposed to relying on image generators.

AI images have a bad reputation

Even before text-to-image models like DALL-E were released to the masses, there were warnings that some people would use them for nefarious purposes, and that’s exactly what happened.

Taylor Swift can attest to this after graphic AI-generated images of her circulated on social media like wildfire, but there are far worse kinds of images you can make using these models, which we won’t go into.

You may be thinking “So what? My AI images are perfectly benign”. The problem with this line of thought is that big tech companies including Google and Meta are not taking any risks, which is why they have invested in software to detect AI images and some platforms are going so far as labelling AI images as such.

If search engines are less inclined to trust AI images, you can see how this would affect their rankability, or the rankability of pages containing them.

AI images are not compatible with Google Lens

Writing accurate descriptions is a basic principle of image SEO, which is why you should never publish an image without alt text, unless of course it’s purely decorative.

Obviously you don’t need to identify everything in the image—you’re simply providing an overview of what the image conveys, so Google understands how it relates to the written content.

Another reason why you don’t have to identify all the objects in an image is because Google already knows what those objects are!

If you upload a photo of a living room to Google Lens, it will find exact matches for the sofa, table lamp, and wall art. But if you upload an AI image of a living room, it won’t find any exact matches because the contents are entirely fabricated!

Why does this matter for SEO? Real-life photos have a chance to feature in the Google Lens results, providing an additional traffic source for your website.

AI images do not satisfy Google E-E-A-T 

Let me remind you that search engines know when a picture was created by AI. This has huge consequences for content that can potentially impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety (YMYL).

If your website is YMYL, then Google puts your content under additional scrutiny to make sure you demonstrate E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness).

Now imagine you write an article on how to build a house and you use an AI image for each stage of the process… That’s an immediate red flag, because it means you’re unlikely to be drawing from personal experience if you can’t even provide real photos.

AI images are not photorealistic (yet)

Perhaps the biggest reason to steer clear of AI-generated images is the fact that the trained eye can spot them a mile off.

They don’t quite hit the threshold for realism, which is probably why they are embraced more as an art form i.e. ‘AI art’—a genre that favors looking at the world from an abstract perspective.

We already established that big tech companies can easily detect AI images, but they are so obviously inferior to real-life photographs that your readers can probably detect them too, which could mean you lose their trust.

Conclusion

At best, using AI images in your content won’t have any impact on SEO at all.

At worst, websites with AI images could really suffer in the rankings because it signals to search engines that you don’t have first-hand experience with the subject matter.

Real-life photos are considerably better for strengthening your SEO as they are favored by both search engines and readers.